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Chelsea v Spurs, 19.12.98

FA PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 19TH DECEMBER, 1998
CHELSEA 2 (0) - TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0)

Poyet 80
Flo 90

Attendance:- 34,881

Referee:- Graham Poll

Teams:-

Chelsea:- ( 4-4-2 ) De Goey; Ferrer, Duberry, Leboeuf, Lambourde ( sub Goldbaek, 89 ); Petrescu, Morris, Poyet, Babayaro; Zola ( sub Flo, 72 ), Vialli

Subs not used:- Hitchcock (GK); Nicholls, Terry

Booked:- Duberry, Babayaro, Vialli

Spurs:- ( 4-4-2 ) Walker; Carr, Young, Campbell, Sinton ( sub Edinburgh, 75 ); Fox ( sub Allen, 86 ), Anderton, Nielsen, Ginola ( sub Clemence, 65 ); Armstrong, Ferdinand

Subs not used:- Baardsen (GK); Calderwood

Booked:- Ferdinand, Carr - Armstrong sent off after second bookable offence.

Referee Graham Poll had as much influence over the result of this game as anybody else, when he sent Chris Armstrong off, with half an hour left in the game. Armstrong earnt his booking in the first half for a stupid bit of behaviour, when he threw the ball away over a decision which didn't go his way. His tackle on Ferrer which got him booked for the second time was pretty innocuous, and most pundits feel he was unlucky to go. The only criticism George Graham had to offer after the game, was of his own player, and the Chelsea players who ran 25 yards to ensure the referee carried out what they though was his duty. This is one of the unsavoury parts of the game these days. Until that point, Spurs had been holding their own, and a draw looked very much on the cards. It was not even beyond the bounds of possibility that Spurs might have grabbed their first victory over Chelsea since the beginning of the decade. However, that particular target remains, and there is little time to achieve it !

After the sending off, it was a backs to the wall job for Spurs, and sadly Chelsea pierced the stalwart defence twice in the closing stages. Chelsea were a formidable unit, even without the likes of Le Saux, Desailly, Wise, Di Matteo, and the long term absentee Casiraghi. I found it quite amazing that they still did not start with Flo, who I feared would exploit our weakness at left back, where he likes to operate. He did of course enter the arena, and capped the victory for Chelsea, but Vialli chose to play the full 90 minutes, and whilst he made the first goal, and had a couple of good opportunities, he looked a bit winded to me from the early stages.

The rumoured introduction of Edinburgh for Sinton did not take place until the second half, and Spurs started with an unchanged team. The first half was a very gritty, stop-go affair. Spurs had some early territorial gains, winning several free kicks. Anderton was the supplier, but there were no conversions. Apart from one early piece of trickery ( highlighted on MOTD ), and a decent run, Ginola was subdued and had to be replaced when we were reduced to 10 men. Zola came deeper as the game progressed, and had a lot of the ball, and controlled the game in mid-field. Spurs generally held their own throughout the first half, but had difficulty penetrating, and failed to exploit the wings to good effect.

Walker was the first keeper called into action, and had to save a Poyet shot set up by Zola in the 6th minute. After some strong Chelsea play midway through the first half, Carr forced a saving catch with a dangerous cross-shot. This was followed by some pretty build up play from the home side, concluding with a dangerous low cross by Ferrer, which thankfully was in front of his strikers.

Les Ferdinand had the ball in the net after 35 minutes, but the referee had already blown the whistle for a foul against Leboeuf, who seemed to be falling down a lot under strong pressure from Les on several occasions. Spurs enjoyed the better of the game towards the half time whistle. Nielsen gave Armstrong a half chance, which led to a low shot on target. Nielsen and Fox cleverly took the ball through midfield, and almost set up Les Ferdinand, but a possible foul by Leboeuf went unpunished. Spurs won a number of corners, and a powerful goalward header by Ferdinand was cleared by Leboeuf.

Early in the second half, Poyet set up Zola on the edge of the area, but Luke Young again showed coolness in depriving the Italian star of the chance on goal. Sol Campbell nearly did his usual job of heading home an Anderton corner, but the chance was just wide.

For me the main difference in quality of our team and other, is our lack of ability to pass in a controlled and measured way out of defence. So often, the opposition seem to find their men with ease. In our case, too many clearances are panicky, and surrendered to the opposing side, giving little relief. Unfortunately, I feel this is the one great area for improvement in our Sol's game. We were nearly punished for such a misdemeanour in the 56th minute, when Sol made a bad pass, and the ball quickly reached Petrescu who forced an important save from Walker.

The game began to open out, and Armstrong had another good shot on goal shortly before his sending off. Then came the onslaught. It took quite a while for Spurs to buckle, but in the 80th minute a cross from the left reached Vialli on the edge of the area. He passed to Poyet who managed to squeeze a shot between two defenders, and which Ian Walker got a hand to. The ball hit the post, and trickled agonisingly over the line. Spurs had sufficient defenders on the edge of the area, and to their credit were preventing the attack form getting through. Some will say that Walker should have saved the shot, but I suspect the did not have an early sight of the ball, due to the number of players lined across the area.

To their credit, Spurs responded by trying desperately for an equaliser. They had one or two moments, but no real threats, and inevitably there were gaps at the back. Chelsea exploited this in the dying moments of the game, when Petrescu was allowed a free run down the right, and Flo easily headed his cross down, and past Walker.

The score line was somewhat flattering in my view, and despite the result, I feel optimistic about the next few games, and the future.

Brian Judson's match preview

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