Chelsea took a step rather than a leap towards Champions League qualification with a decent result against Tottenham. This game was always going to be about “Not losing” rather than winning from the Blues perspective. Four points from the away game at United and tonight’s home tie should be considered a fair haul and puts us in a favored position with 2 games to play.
The fact that we twice gave up the lead leaves a slightly disappointing aftertaste but in the end Arsenal were the only real losers on the night. The Gooners had hoped at least one of their rivals would have been disadvantaged by tonight’s score.
Rafa chose Chelsea’s more attacking formation, adopting the Mata/Hazared/Oscar triumvirate with Torres spearheading.
David Luis moved up to his midfield slot, with Ramires occupying the holding position. Cahill partnered Ivanovich in central defense, Terry again firmly stuck to the bench. At least he had Super Frank for company as Benitez gave Cech the armband. We certainly create goals with this starting eleven, but seem to struggle to hold a lead/close out a game when we don’t have either of our stalwarts on the pitch to provide the required leadership. The game against Liverpool and tonight’s match are just recent examples.
The kick off was slightly delayed as the Tottenham team were late onto the Stamford Bridge turf. The crowd assumed gamesmanship from a returning AVB but actually there was only one hair dryer put in the “Away” dressing room, this meant Assou-Ekotto, Huddlestone, Kyle Walker and Gareth Bale all had to share. This is what caused the delay.
The game was a very open one. Chelsea successfully foiled Gareth Bale for pretty much the whole game. Ivanovich should be patted on the back for his shadowing performance. AVB decided to give Adebayour the nod over Defoe, which turned out to be an inspirational call, as the Togoan had his best game this season.
There was something missing as far as intensity level in this game. It is probably just that we are near to season end and there are a lot of tired minds and bodies, but it was noticeable for a game of this magnitude. Chelsea certainly had the better of the first half, they were battling a little harder and also got the rub of the green in the 50/50 situations.
Mata had a couple of chances to put the home side ahead, but failed to convert the possessional advantage into something tangible. Although we didn’t have to wait too long for Chelsea to break the deadlock.
In the 10th minute Cahill jumped well from a Mata corner teeing up Oscar for a tap in header on the far post. A good headstart in such a crucial game.
Chelsea wisely decided to press in an effort to get a second. They certainly had the territorial advantage for the next part of the game but failed to increase the lead. In the 25th minute Adebayour made them pay the price. Scoring a fantastic solo effort . He picked the ball up on the half way line and with only two or three Gulliver like strides he found himself within shooting range. Cech had lost his bearings slightly and the Togoan spotted him off the line.
A 25 yard curling chip/shot beat the Chelsea keeper all ends up . Although in fairness to our Captain it was more about the striker’s effort than any error on his part.
The Blues regained the lead on 38 minutes. Torres provided an inch perfect pass to Ramires , although he may have been trying to pick out Hazard but who cares. The Brazilian finished superbly giving Lloris no chance. Ramires continues to score big goals when needed, a great habit.
The second half had a similar feel to the first. Chelsea in search of a goal which would have made the game safe, but failing to convert the pressure they put Tottenham under.
AVB to the rescue again. He has certainly a Mourinho-like ability when it comes to switching it up in the latter stages. He took Aaron Lennon and Lewis Holtby out for Sigurdsson (62 mins) and Clint Dempsey (69 mins). Sigurdsson had the desired impact on 79 mins when Adebayour set him free in the box to shoot low to Cech’s left tying the game.
Chelsea fan’s now hoped for the final whistle and would have taken a point there and then.
There were a couple more chances on both sides but the score ended 2-2. So Arsenal probably the bigger losers of tonight’s game. This result certainly puts the Blues in a strong position albeit still with some work to do in closing out the situation. As discussed, not something that this team has been noted for this season.
We must mention SAF on this the day he announced his retirement. 26 years at the helm of the World’s largest sports franchise, an incredible unrepeatable feat. Now that his tenure is over he will officially be handed the title “Greatest Manager of all time”. The ultimate victory as he takes Liverpool’s last bragging rights away from the previous holder Bill Shankly. Pure irony.
ps…. Happy 100 birthday to Sid James…. Carry on Smiling.