BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SUNDAY 20TH SEPTEMBER, 2009
CHELSEA 3 (1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0)
A. Cole, 32
Attendance: - 41,623
Referee: - Howard Webb
Chelsea (4-3-3):- Cech; Bosingwa, Carvalho, Terry (Capt.), A. Cole; Ballack (sub Mikel, 62), Essien, Lampard; Anelka (sub Borini, 89), Drogba (sub Kalou, 85), Malouda
Subs not used: - Hilario; Ivanovic, Belletti; Hutchinson
Spurs (4-3-3):- Cudicini; Corluka, King (sub Hutton, 48), Bassong (sub Kranjcar, 82), Ekotto; Jenas, Huddlestone, Palacios; Defoe (sub Crouch, 67), Lennon, Keane (Capt.)
Subs not used: - Gomes; Naughton; Bentley, Giovani
Booked: - Bassong, Jenas
Spurs (and Harry) fail the litmus test
After losing to two top four sides in quick succession, Spurs, Harry Redknapp, and their fans must re-assess their ambitions for the season, and aim to keep sixth place they now occupy. In my view yesterday’s game can be simply summarised as follows: - Chelsea played to their strengths. Spurs did not play to their strengths. Spurs tried to match Chelsea’s formation and style but ultimately failed, despite a bright start to the game, with three excellent chances.
One of Spurs main strengths is surely the speed of Aaron Lennon down the right wing. His place in Harry’s 4-3-3 line-up remained a mystery to me for much of the game. Aaron was certainly rarely seen down the right wing, and if anything operated more down the left side. A couple of years ago, when we went 3-1 up in an FA Cup game, Martin Jol had sprung a surprise with Lennon having the free role behind the front two, but it was not like that yesterday. At times, Lennon was central whilst Defoe and Keane operated either side of him.
Another of our strengths is surely Wilson Palacios in the middle, but he was on the left side of Huddlestone with Jenas on the right. Both Wilson and Jermaine were creative in Spurs’ early spells, but perhaps a bigger part of their role was to neutralise Ballack and Lampard on the opposite side. I just feel that over the course of the game, if we had played our own game, perhaps we could have made Chelsea adjust, rather than letting them dictate the style of the game from kick-off.
I am only a layman anyway, so my views do not count for much, but I do know that one big effect of Spurs strategy was to allow Chelsea’s right back Jose Bosingwa loads of room down the right flank, with no-one other than Ekotto challenging him on too many occasions. The other full-back found his way to the end of Drogba’s 32nd minute cross to give the home side the lead too! I don’t remember our full-backs getting too far forward.
Chelsea were doing their best to keep Spurs fans out with their hopeless computerised admission system, and some fans didn’t get in till 20 minutes after kick-off. They missed some good action. Bassong had to clear an early dangerous ball by Bosingwa for a corner, as Spurs defended stoutly in front of their highly vocal fans. Huddlestone’s attempted pass to Lennon was intercepted by Carvalho, and a long ball was sent to Bosingwa, who hit a measured spot from loads of space, which hit the corner of the bar and post. Cudicini had it covered anyway! Incidentally, Cudicini was greeted warmly by his former fans, especially after he had let in three goals.
Spurs had a great, great chance to take the lead after 10 minutes. Huddlestone passed from the back to Palacios who sent a great ball to Jermain Defoe, who really should have scored but saw his shot somehow blocked by Cech. Two minutes later, after some good ground football, Jenas flicked the ball to Lennon who was on the right at this point, and passed inside to Huddlestone, whose low shot was well saved for a Spurs corner. Spurs had a third chance after 15 minutes, when Anelka lost the ball and this time Lennon ran away with the ball down the left side, passed inside to Jenas who hit a great curling shot that passed just outside Cech’s right post. At this stage, no-one would question that Spurs were a match for Chelsea, and no-one was questioning Harry Redknapp’s tactics. Sadly, it just didn’t last – that’s all.
Chelsea had been sparked into a higher gear, and when Sebastien Bassong was a little undecided about how to deal with Malouda’s cross, Anelka nearly took advantage, hitting the side netting from an angle. It wasn’t long before the goal came – out of the blue. It was Drogba’s ball that beat the Spurs defence all ends up, with Ashley Cole sneaking in and diving at the back post to head a goal, celebrated with gusto, of course.
By this time, Spurs fans were understandably getting upset with referee Howard Webb, who saw nothing wrong with so many challenges on Spurs runners. Defoe seemed to be tripped either inside or on the edge of the penalty area, and Lennon seemed to be cynically fouled as he flew goalward outside the box. I got most upset though when the great actor that is Drogba collapsed dramatically and Spurs were hesitant in their attack. Firstly Jenas seemed unsure whether to play on, then when he gave the ball to Keane, the Spurs Captain did put the ball out, when I thought Spurs should have taken advantage. Needless to say, Drogba stood up without needing attention.
Too quickly after the break, Spurs lost Ledley King to injury, as he went to ground as Drogba ran away from him. The threat was cleared, but Ledley had to go off, apparently with a hamstring injury. Can a side seeking Champions League football continue with the weekly gamble over Ledley’s fitness? At least it seems the bet will be off now for a few weeks. Ledley was replaced by Hutton, with Corluka taking up Ledley’s post.
After 53 minutes, Spurs had what looked a stone-bonker penalty appeal denied, as Lennon sent Keane away on a run into the box, where he was tripped on the back foot by Carvalho. Mr. Webb waved away the appeals, and ignored Keane too as Robbie suggested that perhaps he should have been booked if the referee thought it was a dive. Spurs had another chance after a Hutton cross, which was met by Defoe, but saved for a corner.
Suddenly, Chelsea were two up. Drogba had hit a shot that Cudicini had saved well, low to his right, and it looked as if it was going for a corner. Lampard hadn’t given up on the ball though and quickly returned it for Ballack to finish from close range. Ballack was soon replaced by Mikel, and Chelsea went three up in the 63rd minute. Corluka and Drogba battled for a long overhead ball, and whilst Corluka got a touch the ball ran for Drogba, who then only had Cudicini to beat in front of the baying blue-shirted fans.
There was no way back for Spurs now, despite their efforts, with Crouch replacing Defoe. Immediately Crouch had an effect heading on Keane’s cross, for Palacios, whose shot passed just outside the far post. Cudicini was busy at the other end, thanks to Drogba, and then there was a long delay after an injury to Bassong, who had to be stretchered off. Spurs must hope that Woodgate and Dawson will be fit enough for Wednesday’s night’s Carling Cup game, and perhaps for the next few weeks too. Kranjcar came on and Huddlestone fell back to defend. Now Drogba was really injured and he had to be replaced by Kalou, who forced a good save from Cudicini within minutes.
There were 8 minutes of added time, during which Cudicini again saved from Kalou. Spurs did get the ball in the net when Crouch converted a Lennon ball, but he had been flagged offside.
Spurs failed that litmus test badly in the end, and we were surrounded by too much deep blue in and around the stadium. We have a run of winnable games now to keep us on track for the Europa league placings, but we can only dream about the day when we will again beat a top four side away from home.
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