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Spurs v Chelsea, 12.12.10

4 P.M.

Spurs scorer:-
Pavlyuchenko, 15

Chelsea scorer:-
Drogba, 70

Attendance:- 35, 787

Referee:- Mike Dean
Assistants:- Mr. S. Child & Mr. D. Richardson
Fourth Official:- Mr. P. Walton

Spurs (4-4-2):- Gomes; Hutton, Dawson (Capt.), Bassong, Ekotto; Lennon, Modric, Palacios (sub Sandro, 89), Bale; Pavlyuchenko (sub Keane, 78), Defoe (sub Crouch, 60)

Subs not used;- Cudicini; Corluka; Bentley, Giovani

Booked:- Ekotto, Gomes

Chelsea (4-3-2-1):- Cech; Ferreira, Ivanovic, Terry (Capt.), Cole; Ramires, Mikel (sub Drogba, 46), Essien; Kalou (sub Sturridge, 68), Malouda (sub Lampard, 77); Anelka

Subs not used:- Turnbull; Van Aanholt, Bruma, McEachran

Booked:- Essien, Drogba

Saint and Sinner Gomes

Inevitably, goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes dominated the headlines after this match with a typically enigmatic performance. Whilst he made several important saves, and of course as we entered added time, preserved our point with that save from Drogba’s penalty, Gomes has to be regarded as more than a sinner on yesterday’s performance for conceding the penalty in the first place, but primarily for failing to hold Drogba’s 70th minute equaliser, after Spurs had held on to a precious one goal lead thanks to Roman Pavlyuchenko’s 15th minute strike. Spurs had been under more and more pressure from the visitors, and a goal was coming, with a draw in the end a fair result.

The injuries keep coming for Spurs, with William Gallas having injured a hamstring in Friday’s training. This enabled the return to first team action for Michael Dawson, who also took over as Captain. Hutton was recalled at right back, with Lennon on the right wing, and Pavlyuchenko given the nod to partner Defoe. Harry Redknapp’s desire was clearly for more mobility against the Chelsea defence, rather than Crouch’s aerial potential. Similarly, Carlo Ancelotti left Drogba on the bench, and the returning Lampard was also held back, as Chelsea also seemed to prefer the younger faster and more mobile players such as Kalou and Malouda, with the Brazilian Ramires on the right side of midfield.

The two captains were given contrasting welcomes by Spurs fans. Dawson was the hero of course, was Terry was regaled with the most obscene chant at various times in the game.

Indeed, Michael Dawson did give a heroic performance, with perhaps the only flaw when Drogba out-muscled him (unfairly with the se of an arm) in the run-up to the equaliser. Dawson won all his headers in the first half, and his defensive partners were also spot on with their tackles, interceptions and cool control. Both full backs were particularly impressive, with Hutton failing occasionally with his distribution. Ekotto was my man of the match for his defensive skills, but also his great passes down the line and the left channel, one of which led to the Spurs goal.

Spurs played with discipline and rarely committed more than four players to the last third of the pitch. Chelsea did dominate possession overall, and gained the benefit of more manpower in the midfield, where despite the presence of the in-form Wilson Palacios, Spurs did not do enough ball-winning. Thus, it was the Spurs goal that was under more pressure, although the defence did keep Chelsea at bay to the degree that they were largely limited to distance shots. For example, Anelka hit an early 25 yarder wide, and after only a partial clearance by Gareth Bale, Ashley Cole hit a long range shot on target, which Gomes saved comfortably. Gomes then held another shot on target by Michael Essien.

At last after 13 minutes we saw the first glimpse of Bale in flow as he cruised past the defence and sent over a deep cross which was retrieved by Lennon. When Lennon returned the ball, Bale had made a central position and hit a decent shot just wide. On the back of little attacking action, Spurs took a welcome 15th minute lead. It was an Ekotto ball down that left channel that was reached by Defoe with a run from centre to left. Defoe passed inside and Pavlyuchenko’s touch took the ball to his left outside the defence, where he seized upon the ball with a great low left foot shot inside Cech’s right post in front of the South Stand. Now we just had to hold onto the lead for 75 minutes to be within one point of the Premier League Champions!

Ramires did get the better of Ekotto after 22 minutes and sent in a cross to the near post, where at close range Kalou got a touch, but flicked the ball over the target. Gomes then had to make a good save from Kalou with a header from a cross from the right at fairly close range. Chelsea were getting the benefit of some lenient refereeing by Mike Dean, who was happy to allow or ignore some quite heavy tackles, particularly on the Spurs flair players. After a foul by Malouda, Bale took a free kick on the half hour and from deep beyond the far post, Pavlyuchenko met the ball but placed his effort wide. For all the Chelsea physicality, it was Ekotto whose name was first in the book. Kalou headed wide after a Malouda free kick, and at the other end after a skilful exchange between Palacios and Lennon, it was Lennon’s fin al ball that gave Cech some exercise at his near post. Chelsea did have the ball in the net before the interval, but only after the offside flag had clearly been raised.

Drogba replaced Mikel at the interval, but Spurs so nearly struck again within a minute of the re-start. Modric had been playing a more withdrawn role in the first half, but came forward more and more, and he started this move with a ball to Lennon who passed inside to Defoe, whose shot curled just outside the post. Hutton hit a cross which Bale headed back into the mix, where Modric hit a shot wide.

After 54 minutes, a loose ball fell to the feet of Drogba, and Gomes did well diving to the left to make the save for a corner. Gomes’ best save of the game was from his own player, as Palacios’s header threatened to go in just under the bar after a corner. Defoe was perhaps surprisingly replaced by Crouch, whose best effort might have been to assist the defence down the right touchline, rather than create any problem up front.

Spurs broke out of defence after 63 minutes through Modric and Palacios, who gave Pavlyuchenko a decent pass, but the Russian could not control the ball. A goal here would have been quite sensational! Ancelotti tried to bump up his attack with Daniel Sturridge replacing Kalou, and within minutes, Chelsea did equalise. It came from long ball football though, as Drogba out-muscled Dawson to take forward Cech’s clearance. It was Drogba versus Gomes, and Drogba drilled a powerful low shot from the left of the area, which was straight at the keeper, who just could not hold the ball. Gomes had to take the blame in the eyes of most fans here, but should Dawson have been stronger?

Gomes was then down to an Anelka shot which was easy for him really, and not enough to redeem his error. Chelsea were now pressing hard for more return from the game, and won three successive corners, which Spurs defended well. Lampard came on for Malouda, and Robbie Keane replaced the tiring Pavlyuchenko. After a Bale free kick and a Crouch header the ball fell to Lennon, who hit his shot wide.

As we neared full time, Wilson Palacios was the victim of an un-punished foul in the Spurs area, and had to be replaced by Sandro. The Spurs catalogue of injuries becomes more and more of a concern, and we must hope for some returnees for the Christmas period. Then as added time was imminent, Gomes raced to the feet of Ramires. Gomes seemed to touch the ball first, but his momentum barged Ramires for six, and Mr. Dean pointed straight to the spot. It wasn’t the best of penalty kicks by Drogba, but Gomes did redeem himself here with his dive and save to the left which actually led to an exciting last minute Spurs break in search of a winner, when we had been staring down the barrel of defeat. In the circumstances, I’ll take the point, but it does leave us 4 points adrift of the top four.

We are though, in for an exciting Christmas period, as Arsenal, Chelsea and Man Utd play each other, and we could catch up with the right results against more moderate opposition. However, those games are all potential banana skins for Spurs, aren’t they?

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