BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
THURSDAY 22ND DECEMBER, 2011
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (1) CHELSEA 1 (1)
Referee:- Mr. Howard Webb
Assistants:- Mr. D. Cann & Mr. M. Mullarkey
Fourth official:- Mr. Chris Foy
Spurs (4-1-4-1):- Friedel; Walker, Gallas, King (Capt.), Ekotto; Sandro; Van der Vaart (sub Pavlyuchenko, 46), Parker, Modric, Bale; Adebayor
Subs not used:- Gomes; Kaboul, Bassong; Kranjcar, Livermore, Rose
Booked:- Adebayor (foul on Meireles), Bale (foul on Ashley Cole)
Chelsea (4-1-4-1):- Cech; Boswinga, Ivanovic (sub Ferreira, 34), Terry (Capt.), Cole; Mikel (sub Romeu, 45); Sturridge, Ramires, Meireles, Mata; Drogba (sub Torres, 77)
Subs not used:- Turnbull; Lampard, Malouda, Kalou
Booked:- Ivanovic (foul on Bale), Ramires (foul on Bale)
Spurs third for Christmas
Spurs were held, but still hold the upper hand, staying at third for Christmas, two points above Chelsea, three above Arsenal, and five above Liverpool, still with that home game in hand, to be played on January 11th. Catching the Manchester teams above us does not look attainable, but another Champions League qualification is very much on the cards.
On the plus side last night, as well as holding onto third place, Spurs started really well, scoring an early goal, and looked likely to beat Chelsea hands down. There were some heroics on the pitch, particularly I thought from Sandro, who I swear at one stage in the second half used his nose to keep the ball in play near the touch line, when on the floor. On the down side, by mid-way through the first half, Chelsea imposed themselves in the middle of the park, despite the presence of Sandro, Parker and Modric. The visitors found space for themselves and created more chances than Spurs, with better chances to score.
Spurs might feel aggrieved at the nature of the equaliser, and a disallowed goal by Adebayor, and frustrated by a late, late line clearance by Terry from the same player, but we didn’t test Cech enough, and a draw was a fair result. Another factor in my view was referee Howard Webb, who seemed to punish Spurs more than Chelsea, and then showed lenience against players who had been booked, when further cynical fouls were committed. The match was entertaining pre-Christmas fare though.
I heard a little bit of a discussion on the radio on the way home about Harry Redknapp matching the opponents’ formation. I have seen this before in matches against the big teams, and I feel he did do this last night, with Sandro playing behind Van der Vaart, Parker, Modric and Bale, whilst Chelsea had Mikel behind Sturridge, Ramires, Meireles and Mata. Both the midfields had fluidity though, and Redknapp described the Chelsea set-up as a 4-3-3, whilst I would never say that Spurs moved to that style. There was an enforced half-time change as Van der Vaart had to be replaced due to more hamstring problems. Pavlyuchenko joined Adebayor up front, but perhaps the Russian’s one good touch in the game came when being involved in the move, which led to Adebayor’s shot, and Terry’s clearance.
Spurs missed the width of Lennon, and they will continue to miss him, with no like for like replacement available. Walker did his best and always looks his best when going forward, but he had plenty of defensive work on his plate. There was no place in the starting line-up for Younes Kaboul, back from his one-match suspension, as William Gallas held his place beside Ledley King. Ledley’s run of consecutive 90 minute games when Spurs have won has come to an end, but he’s still unbeaten. There was a moment in the second half when he managed to deprive Chelsea’s goal-scoring Daniel Sturridge of the ball somehow, despite starting behind the younger player in the race for goal.
There was of course a full house, and there was of course plenty of abuse for Chelsea captain John Terry, who now faces a summons for racially abusive behaviour. Terry at one time looked as if he was crocked, but he stayed and performed that late save for his team. He was needed to, as Chelsea had lost centre back Ivanovic to injury after 34 minutes, and Mikel at half-time.
Bale made a welcome return, and after only a minute made a good run from left to right across the outside of the box, before hitting a shot that came off a defender for a Spurs corner. Spurs dominated in those early stages, keeping good possession and playing at lightning speed. They were rewarded with an early goal too. The move started with a great winning tackle by Sandro, good ball retention, then a pass down the line to Bale, who crossed hard and low, where Adebayor beat Cech from close range with the keeper perhaps bottling his attempt to reach the ball.
Chelsea nearly made an immediate scoring response, with Friedel only able to parry Mata’s shot, and Sturridge hitting his follow-up shot well over the bar. Spurs played well out of defence through Ekotto, releasing Bale, who made ground and exchanged passes with Van der Vaart, before being cruelly brought down by Ivanovic just outside the box. Ivanovic took an early booking off Mr. Webb. Spurs were unable to make use of the free kick, but did win a corner. It wasn’t long before Adebayor took a booking and therefore remained under pressure from the referee for the rest of the game. He committed several fouls which were no more fierce than that for which he was booked really, but Mr. Webb was lenient. The referee also showed such leniency particularly towards Ramires after he got booked later in the game.
Mr. Webb had started sympathetically towards Spurs, but now he seemed to turn. Firstly he gave a harsh free kick against Modric in the middle and from the free kick, it looked as if Ashley Cole had used his arm to control the ball, as he crossed from the left, for Sturridge to score from close range. The Spurs defence had been caught off their guard, but we never did get a replay in the stadium of this goal, presumably due to the controversial nature of it.
Friedel plucked a long range effort by Meireles from above his head, and then Drogba got a chance at the back post after a cross from the left. His shot rebounded off the post. In added time, Ledley King sent a great ball to Ekotto, whose cross was collected by Adebayor, who turned and shot, but saw Cech make the save.
Pavlyuchenko started the second half, and another harsh foul was given against Sandro. Drogba took the free kick, which was deflected over the target for a corner. A good shout for a foul on Pavlyuchenko at the other end went un-punished. Ramires hit a right foot shot from 25 yards, which passed wide. Sturridge also had a shot go wide from distance, but the visitors were dominating at this point in the game. A Chelsea cross from the left reached the back post, where Sturridge headed wide.
Ramires got goal-side of Ledley down the right channel, and hit a shot which brought a great save from Friedel and another Chelsea corner. Terry’s effort on goal was also saved, thanks to Friedel’s excellent positioning. Ramires halted Bale in his counter-attacking tracks but got no second yellow card. From the Spurs free kick, Gallas headed on and Adebayor put the ball in the net, but the flag was already up, presumably for offside, but perhaps for an infringement spotted by the assistant referee.
There had been so much action and entertainment, but there was still half an hour to go. Spurs moved the ball well from the back through Bale, Modric and Walker, who crossed for Adebayor to head wide from the back post. Another Walker cross gave Modric a shot on goal, but this was blocked and from the corner taken by Modric, Sandro headed wide across the goal. Spurs shad plenty more defending to do, but when Drogba was replaced by Torres, Chelsea used all the time in the world, as if they wanted to play out for a draw, with Drogba having retreated as far away from the technical area as he could before a long slow walk off the pitch.
Spurs best chance of the half came with 7 minutes of normal time remaining, after a throw n the right by Kyle Walker. Modric and Pavlyuchenko exchanged passes, before Modric teed up Gareth Bale, who had the goal at his mercy but fired over the target. Sandro’s deflected looping shot had Cech struggling to make his ground and he was happy to concede a corner. In the play following that corner, Bale crossed from the left and Gallas had a great chance at the near post, which he pushed wide.
Chelsea had a free kick at the other end, which Ramires somehow headed wide from in front of goal. Terry seemed to get away with an outrageous block on Adebayor outside the Chelsea area, and the visitors broke out of defence, with Torres getting to the bye-line on the right of the area, crossing for a shot to be blocked and cleared. Spurs might have grabbed a late, late winner with another move to the right and Pavlyuchenko’s best contribution to the game after a long pass from Modric, Pav's chest control and pass to Bale, who fed Adebayor for that shot across the goalmouth, which had Cech beaten, but not John Terry, who remains Chelsea’s hero, despite being the equivalent of a pantomime villain for Spurs fans.
We still haven’t been beaten by Chelsea at White Hart Lane since August 2005 in Premier League action. We are the top team in London going into Christmas. The respect shown to Tottenham Hotspur by the Chelsea team and some genuine concern on the part of their fans before this game only goes to confirm our true Champions League contender status. Long may that continue.
I wish all readers a truly Happy Christmas!
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