BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 8TH MARCH, 2014
CHELSEA 4(0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0(0)
Hazard (pen), 60
Ba, 88, 89
Referee:- Michael Oliver
Assistants:- Mr. J. Brooks & Mr. A. Garratt
Fourth official:- Mr. C. Foy
Chelsea (4-2-3-1):- Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (Capt.), Azpilicueta; Matic, Lampard (sub Oscar, 46); Hazard, Ramires, Schurrle (sub Willian, 66); Eto'o(sub Ba, 76)
Subs not used:- Schwarzer; Mikel, Salah, Kalas
Booked:- Lampard (foul on Sandro), Azpilicueta (foul on Lennon)
Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Lloris; Naughton, Dawson (Capt.) (sub Fryers, 72), Kaboul, Vertonghen; Sandro, Bentaleb; Walker, Lennon, Sigurdsson (sub Paulinho, 61); Adebayor
Subs not used:- Friedel; Chadli, Townsend; Soldado, Kane
Booked:- Bentaleb (foul on Ramires), Naughton (foul on Hazard), Sandro (foul on Ivanovic)
Sent off (58), Kaboul ( foul on Eto'o - last man)
Subsequently rescinded on appeal
There was no need for comedy.
Spurs held their own in the first half, and possibly even had the better of the possession, with maybe less chances than Chelsea. Tim Sherwood's special game plan, and Spurs' hopes fell part after Jan Vertonghen's simply horrible error after 55 minutes, when the left back gifted an attempted back pass under pressure to Eto'o, who gleefully finished off, and celebrated in the corner of the Matthew Harding stand, doing his best imitation of an old man, as a riposte to recent Mourinho comments on his age.
Within minutes, the game was over as a competition, when Younes Kaboul was adjudged to have fouled Eto'o, and moreover decreed to have prevented a goal-scoring opportunity. Referee Michael Oliver showed occasional Spurs player Kaboul a red card, and Eden Hazard coolly slotted home the spot kick.
Two late gifts to substitute Demba Ba completed another Chelsea rout against Spurs, who will have to wait till next season for another crack at defeating a hoodoo of no away wins here for what will be 25 years in 2015. Quite frankly, that little factoid is a disgrace, and whatever you say about our first half performance, another big defeat to a top four side has truly put us in our place, with Champions League football surely beyond us now.
In the pre-match press conference, Sherwood had declared that he had a plan for this game, but was not going to share it. That's fair enough of course, and the plan worked for almost two thirds of the game, but ultimately failed dismally.
Younes Kaboul returned and played beside Dawson. Naughton was at right back, and Jan Vertonghen played on the left. Vertonghen's error for the first goal is such a shame, because until then, I felt he had been our best player, with great effort and success at the back, and going forward. The early Spurs Odyssey voters have been quite scathing in their grading of Vertonghen, no doubt primarily because of his error which led to the first goal.
My interpretation of the Spurs formation was a 4-2-3-1, with Sandro playing ahead of Bentaleb, who did little wrong in that first half.
Walker played in front of Naughton, with Sigurdsson on the left, and Aaron Lennon either in the middle of the three, or perhaps playing off Adebayor. In the second half, especially when we were a man down, I'm not sure Walker knew where he was supposed to be playing. Our formation might even have been a 4-1-4-1. It's all down to interpretation.
With Paulinho, Chadli and Soldado on the bench then, and Capoue, Eriksen, Lamela and Chiriches injured, it is a fact that Sherwood started with none of our seven high profile summer signings.
Within a minute of the start, Spurs had a scare when Eto'o was called offside (arguably incorrectly), and got clattered for good measure by the advance of Lloris. Eto'o was looking for more from the referee, but to no avail.
Three minutes later Eto'o nearly turned provider for Hazard, but the Belgian fired over the left corner of Lloris's goal.
Bentaleb took an early yellow card for a foul on Ramires, but the youngster had a great chance a few minutes later, collecting an Adebayor header, hitting a shot from the left side, which passed wide.
After Bentaleb's early punishment, it came as a surprise when Mr.
Oliver chose not to card Matic for a foul on Walker. Dawson hit a good free kick to Vertonghen down the left side, and his ball inside led to a good shot by Sandro, which was well saved by Cech.
Dawson's diagonal balls were working a treat every time during this spell.
Matic had a header go wide, before Eto'o side-stepped a short-handed Spurs defence, putting his shot wide from the right of the area.
Naughton and Walker combined on the right to steal the ball off Hazard, and Walker took the ball forward, hitting a cross, which Cech collected. Lampard took a yellow (one for the team) for stopping Sandro's advance in its tracks, and that was the last action for the England midfielder, who was replaced by Oscar at the interval.
Oscar played a more advanced role than had Lampard, with Ramires withdrawing to a more defensive role. Spurs had a great early move from the back though, with Lloris sending Vertonghen away with a throw. Vertonghen advanced into the Chelsea half, and exchanged with Adebayor, before trying a chipped shot, which went too high.
Aaron Lennon won a Spurs corner, taken by Sigurdsson and headed goalward by Kaboul. Cech saved on his line.
Schurrle had a half-chance in front of goal, but got no strength on his effort. Naughton was put under pressure by a poor Dawson pass and took a yellow for a foul on Hazard. Then Sandro also saw yellow for a foul on Ivanovic. Sandro had had an earlier warning from the referee.
Then came Spurs' capitulation. Vertonghen slipped under pressure and in his effort to pass back to Lloris, simply gave the ball to Eto'o, who was always going to come first against Dawson and Lloris.
The penalty incident arose after a Spurs attack broke down, and Naughton was caught too far forward. He couldn't prevent the ball being crossed from the left, which put Kaboul under pressure and led to the penalty. Lloris committed to the right, and Hazard simply finished down the middle.
There was worse news to come for Spurs, when Michael Dawson hobbled off, after 71 minutes, apparently with a hamstring injury. He had to be replaced by Fryers. Sandro had already fallen back to replace Kaboul, and now Vertonghen moved inside.
Demba Ba replaced Eto'o. Paulinho had already replaced Sigurdsson, and sent Lennon away with a nice ball down the right channel. Lennon attempted to cut the ball back for Adebayor, but put it behind the striker. A goal here might have given 10-man Spurs a sniff at recovery, but Demba Ba's two late goals put paid to any such idea.
Ba's first goal was created by a cross from the right by Oscar, and assisted by Sandro's slip in front of goal. His second came after some Spurs comedy, when Walker inexplicably tried to head back to Lloris from too far out, and simply presented the former Newcastle man with a second goal, and Chelsea's fourth.
By this time, I was well on my way to Fulham Broadway to escape the horrible mass of gloating blue-shirted Chelsea fans as soon as possible.
I hoped for a positive result in memory of Darren Alexander, but that was not to be. March does not look too promising for Spurs from my perspective.
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