BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 20th OCTOBER, 2012
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2(0) CHELSEA 4(1)
Mata, 66, 69
Referee:- Mike Dean
Assistants:- Mr. S. Ledger & Mr. J. Brooks
Fourth Official:- Mr. l. Mason
Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Friedel; Walker, Gallas (Capt.), Caulker, Vertonghen; Huddlestone ( sub Livermore, 67), Sandro; Lennon, Dempsey (sub Adebayor, 74), Sigurdsson; Defoe
Subs not used:- Lloris; Dawson, Naughton; Falque, Townsend
Booked:- Huddlestone, Gallas, Walker
Chelsea (4-2-3-1):- Cech (Capt.); Ivanovic, Cahill, David Luiz, Cole; Mikel, Ramires; Mata, Oscar (sub Sturridge, 83), Hazard (sub Lampard, 90); Torres
Subs not used:- Turnbull; Azpilicueta, Bertrand; Romeu; Moses
Booked:- Ivanovic (simulation), Ramires (foul on Lennon)
Defensive errors cost Spurs dearly
Confusion reigned before the game, when Gareth Bale was included in the early team announcement, before it emerged that his partner had gone into labour (don't they know there's a close season?), and he was withdrawn. The original team news had placed Sigurdsson next to Sandro, in place of Mousa Dembele, who clearly had come back from International duty injured after all. In the end, Tom Huddlestone, who had not even been announced on the bench originally played beside Sandro, and Sigurdsson took up duties on the left side of midfield.
Why Andre Villas-Boas could not replace Bale with a left winger - Andros Townsend - must remain a mystery. Sigurdsson looked better when he did take a central role, after the departure of Dempsey, and he also had some good touches when Spurs upped the tempo and looked better in the second half, when they gave the home fans hope with a spirited come-back to take a 2-1 lead.
The Spurs equaliser, early in that second half, had come through Captain William Gallas, scoring his first Spurs goal, celebrating a goal against one of his former teams with great gusto.
Unfortunately, Gallas will have to bear the negative comment of being responsible for two of Chelsea's goals, but the weakest of Spurs defenders was Kyle Walker.
Walker had been given a full England outing against San Marino, and had not impressed then. There have always been reservations about his defensive abilities, and in a game where he was being asked not to over-commit, these frailties were very much in evidence. His major error was with Chelsea's fourth goal, which came when the game was lost really, but he was also left lacking for the third goal.
There is no doubt that the major summer acquisitions of Oscar and Hazard have strengthened the Chelsea squad, and they are clear title contenders. Despite missing two key players in Bale and Dembele, for a while in the second half, Spurs fans had hope of a remarkable come-back and victory.
In the end, the gloating rights went once again to the Chelsea fans, who taunted us with "We know who we are, Champions of Europe, we know who we are", along with "You'll never sing that song", and other irritating ditties. Spurs fans never truly found their voice until roused by the start to the second half. Perhaps, like me, they felt that the team news was truly depressing.
As reported in the press, Brad Friedel made a return in favour of Hugo Lloris.
Gallas had a great chance within three minutes, when Sigurdsson swung a free kick over the Chelsea defence, towards Cech's right post. Gallas was there, but perhaps even he was surprised by the success of the ball.
Spurs were not looking comfortable at the back, with players being pulled out of position at times by the Chelsea attack. One half-clearance, which should have been the goal-keeper's ball fell to Oscar, who thankfully fired over. A run by Ramires from deep caught the Spurs defence on the hop, but Sandro swept up, with a well-timed interception.
Chelsea's goal, when it came, was no surprise, but could have been avoided. Gallas had headed out for a corner, but when it was taken, he headed as far as Cahill (who could have been a Spurs man in August 2011 for a few dollars more). Cahill hooked home a volley that left Friedel with no chance.
Jermain Defoe made a break for Spurs and fed the ball to Dempsey to his left. Cech saved and conceded a corner. Then came a nice one-touch move from Defoe, Huddlestone and finally Sigurdsson, who tried his luck, but fired wide. Sigurdsson had another great chance after another Defoe break, and really should have scored inside Cech's right post, but pulled his effort wide.
Lennon made a great run from his own half, gaining some 30 yards, but then Dempsey frustrated when receiving the ball, taking a 360 degree spin, conceding any initiative.
Friedel made a good save from Mata, before Walker did make a rare trip into deep opposition territory, delivering a cross from which Dempsey shot, and Cech saved well. There was a bit of a scramble from the corner, but Chelsea cleared.
Dempsey did well to control a ball in the middle, before taking it forward, then feeding Defoe, whose cross/shot curled and was cleared at the back post.
Spurs had taken a couple of bookings, but Ramires went into Mr. Dean's book for the most cynical halting of Aaron Lennon on a break.
We had a great start to the second half, when David Luiz fouled Dempsey, and Tom Huddlestone floated in the free kick from the right. Vertonghen turned the ball back from the back post, and up popped Gallas in front of the opposite post to head home to fire up the home crowd.
Sigurdsson's shot from a Lennon cross brought another corner, and he had another effort saved after good approach work from Sandro and Defoe. Vertonghen tried his luck from distance, but Cech held.
Spurs took the lead after more great work from the ever-exciting Aaron Lennon, who took on a couple of players on the right, then put through a ball which was turned in to the net by Jermain Defoe. It was one of those moments when 'being there' was so, so special.
Spurs had by now switched to a 4-4-2, with Dempsey beside Defoe. Dempsey fed Lennon, who passed back to Sandro. His low shot was well held by Cech.
Chelsea drew level in the 66th minute, after another failed Gallas clearance fell to the feet of Juan Mata, who was able to place his shot inside Friedel's left post with ease.
Tom Huddlestone was then replaced by Jake Livermore, which mystified some fans, but perhaps AVB knew more about fitness levels than we did. The insertion of Townsend would surely have brought more reward.
Defoe tried a shot from 30 yards which caught Cech unawares, when he was happy to concede a corner. Torres got goal-side of Jan Vertonghen, and Steven Caulker made a great clearing tackle.
Chelsea regained the lead within three minutes of equalising, after a move starting on Walker's flank. Mata scored again after a through ball from centre beat Gallas. Their lead might have been increased when Mata tried to chip Friedel for a hat-trick, but failed.
Adebayor replaced Dempsey, but Spurs had lost structure, whereas Chelsea remained composed. Friedel made another good save from Oscar, and at the other end Adebayor headed the ball on to Sigurdsson, who fired over.
Walker was getting forward more now, and his cross reached Lennon, whose shot was held by Cech. Mata fed Torres who had the goal at his mercy but fired wide across the goalmouth from left to right.
Adebayor and Defoe on the left teed up Sandro, but his right footed effort passed wide. Lennon made a break, moving towards the left, passing to Defoe, whose shot was parried by Cech. Adebayor could not quite finish it off. Walker had a low drive, similar to his brilliant goal against Arsenal last year, but Cech pushed it out for a corner.
Just as we entered added time, Chelsea sealed the game, when Walker tried a back-heel near the touch line, but simply gifted the ball to Mata, who crossed low and hard from the bye-line for substitute Daniel Sturridge to finish easily.
Chelsea have a 4 point lead at the top of the table ahead of Man Utd and Man City. Spurs are already 8 points behind them. As I write, we are still in fifth place, but it looks to me like we'll be joining in the scramble for fourth place, and hoping for some Cup success. The next step in that quest is in Slovenia next Thursday.
Hopefully Gareth Bale won't be taking paternity leave!
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