FA BARCLAYS PREMIERSHIP
SUNDAY 19TH SEPTEMBER, 2004
CHELSEA 0 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0)
Referee:- Mike Riley
Attendance:- 42, 246
Chelsea (4-4-2):- Cech; Ferreira, Carvalho, Terry (Capt.), Bridge (sub Smertin, 84); Tiago (sub Kezman, 65), Makalele, Lampard, Cole (sub Duff, 65); Drogba, Gudjohnsen
Subs not used:- Pidgeley; Gallas
Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Pamarot, Naybet, King, Edman; Davies, Redknapp (Capt.), Mendes, Atouba (sub Brown, 73); Keane, Defoe (sub Kanoute, 86)
Subs not used:- Keller; Gardner; Mabizela
Booked:- King, Redknapp
Jacques Santini's so solid Spurs crew gained a fantastic point at Stamford Bridge today to frustrate Premiership hopefuls Chelsea, and to maintain their unbeaten run this season. Chelsea of course are also unbeaten, but Spurs, who won the last two games of last season, are now in fact unbeaten for 8 Premiership games. Spurs demonstrated as good defending as I can remember seeing for a long, long time from a team in the Lilywhite and Blue. Every one of the back four deserves plaudits, and whilst I understand Ledley King was Sky's man of the match, I thought both the full backs were particularly impressive too.
I've said before that this is a team that can hold out against even pressurised attack, and that is certainly what they got today from the first till the last minute. It isn't always pretty, and it is often scary, tense and frustrating for Spurs fans, but isn't it great when such a prestigious coach as Jose Mourinho has to harp on about how Spurs had put their bus in front of goal. For the third time this season, Spurs defence faced a barrage of efforts from a three-pronged attack, as we had to hold back Drogba, Gudjohnsen and Kezman for the last 25 minutes. Despite the sometimes desperate clearances, saves and escapes, Spurs arguably had the best chance of the game, when a Robbie Keane header was saved by Petr Cech on the line with a great reaction effort.
Spurs fans might suffer some maligning due to confusion over the announcement of a minute's silence for the victims of Beslan in Russia, but I can assure you that the PA system was not working properly in our part of the ground when the silence was announced, and the event was not discernibly different from the now-standard line-up of players before a Premiership game. To those who criticise, please remember that Spurs fans honoured the silence for Matthew Harding immaculately, and also honoured the remembrance of the late David Rocastle at Highbury in 2001. Had the players lined the centre circle, and Chelsea made use of their big-screens to make it clear to the fans what was happening, then there could have been no upset.
To the football, then, and Spurs were on the back foot from minute one, as Gudjohnsen headed a Lampard corner across the goal and on target, but Ledley rose to clear for another corner, from which Carvalho glanced an attempt through the sea of legs but was blocked. Jose Mourinho is a man who knows his best team, and has stuck to it so far. Not for him the antics of the tinkerman, who fielded a somewhat weakened side when beating Spurs 4-2 last year. But this is a different Spurs team, and realistically minded Chelsea fans on the way to the game knew they were in for a tough fight to secure three points that would have put them level with Arsenal at the head of the table.
The diamond-formation Chelsea midfield was very fluid, with Makalele at the back, and Lampard at the head, whilst Tiago and Cole would switch flanks at times. Spurs badly missed Sean Davis in the middle and too much space was being conceded to Mourinho's weavers who threaded balls for the strikers with great regularity. Mendes could not do it all alone, and Simon Davies and Jamie Redknapp looked off the pace for much of the game. Thimothee Atouba was as tough as always, and got booed by the home support for having the audacity to get crocked in the second half.
With only three minutes on the clock, Paul Robinson came to Spurs rescue with a brave dive at the feet of Drogba, who had got through the defence. The ball ran to Tiago who fired way over the bar. With no Kanoute in the starting line-up, Spurs lacked any height to collect many of the long clearances made, and a structured build-up for Spurs was at a premium. Spurs wasted a free kick situation near the half way line and Drogba harried Edman down the right flank, before hitting a left foot shot over the bar.
Five minutes later, Cole pierced the defence with a ball for Gudjohnsen, and Ledley made a great saving tackle, winning a goal kick as well! Ferreira got the better of Atouba and raced down the line. Cole crossed and Gudjohnsen headed wide. At last Spurs started to take a bit of pressure off themselves with sporadic attacks. Atouba combined well with Keane before Atouba got to the bye line and crossed into the danger zone, where the ball was cleared by the very competent Chelsea defence that now has no room for such a talent as Gallas! Robinson made a great point blank save from Drogba, put through by Lampard, and Spurs survived till the break with a clean sheet.
There was early pressure for Chelsea after the break, after a short pass from Davies meant for Keane. This period culminated in a spectacular overhead kick from Drogba that rocketed across the 6 yard box, and fortunately out of danger. Ledley King, who until today had not even committed a Premiership foul, got a yellow card for an alleged offence upon Drogba near the half way line. Perhaps Mike Riley does not realise what an honest professional Ledley is. The Spurs fans came up with a witty chant for Drogba, every time he missed, baiting him with "Are you Heskey in disguise?!!"
That Spurs chance came after 54 minutes, when Redknapp and Davies combined on the right, and Davies sent a cross over the defence and found Robbie Keane in space. Keane got power on his header directed towards the inside of the far post, but Cech was in the right place at the right time to make a great reaction save.
From there on in, it was more or less Chelsea on the attack, and there was great defending by Pamarot and Robinson against Drogba to concede a corner from which Terry glanced a header wide. Drogba did get past Pamarot and then had Naybet confronting him. Naybet took the striker away from goal, but Drogba still hit a dangerous ball back across the defence. Spurs actually did have a period of pressure after Kezman and Duff came on. This ended with a Redknapp shot parried by Cech, and then cleared. Michael Brown replaced Atouba, and his pace and energy kept Duff at bay, by and large. Davies shifted to the left flank.
Robinson made a desperate save from a Lampard free kick, and then in the 84th minute Ledley only half headed clear, when Gudjohnsen hit a shot that rattled the bottom of Robinson's right post. Spurs had earnt this piece of luck, and after all, were thwarted by a post last week. Jermain Defoe had been fighting a one-man cause for much of this half, as Robbie Keane assisted in the midfield. Defoe had a great chance when Mendes put him through with five minutes of normal time left, and Defoe went down on the edge of the area, which failed to impress the referee. I don't think it was a penalty, but a free kick outside the box may have been justified. Spurs and their fans had to suffer 5 minutes of stoppage time, but the team did manage to hold the ball for a good deal of that time, clinching a most prestigious point.
Never mind that Premiership record against Chelsea. Their fans know their run has to end sometime, and this could be the Spurs team to do it soon. Today they kept the best team Chelsea can offer at bay, and deserved their share of the spoils. Right now it really IS good to be a Spur!
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