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Friday, December 23, 2011
Tottenham 1 Chelsea 1
Spurs remain in third place, two points above Chelsea, after their draw at White Hart Lane. Tottenham started the better and took an early lead but a loss of concentration defensively gifted the visitors a goal which revitalised them and Spurs could never regain the control and momentum with which they had started the match.
Tottenham Hotspur 1 Chelsea 1
Scorers: Adebayor Sturridge
Team: Friedel; Walker, Gallas, King, Assou-Ekotto; Van der Vaart (Pavlyuchenko),Sandro, Parker, Modric, Bale; Adebayor Subs (unused): Gomes, Bassong, Kaboul, Livermore, Rose, Kranjcar
Harry Redknapp had Gareth Bale and Ledley King available to start but Aaron Lennon and Jermain Defoe were out through injury. Younes Kaboul returned to the substitutes bench following his one match suspension.
Tottenham started the brighter with a good pace and touch to their passing and movement while Chelsea sat deep trying to stifle Spurs' game. Spurs had the early control and took the lead when a burst of pace from Bale on the left gave him the space to put in a dangerous cross which Emmanuel Adebayor met ahead of John Terry and Petr Cech to put Spurs ahead after 8 minutes.
Tottenham continued to play the better football but almost immediately had a warning of how dangerous Chelsea could be. When Brad Friedel failed to hold a long range shot from Juan Mata, Daniel Sturridge's shot was deflected over an empty net.
After twenty three minutes Tottenham conceded a free-kick near halfway but were caught out when the visitors took it quickly. That lack of concentration cost them dearly as Ashley Cole, having been given the benefit of a handball decision in the build up, put in a cross which Sturridge accepted to level the scores. Assou-Ekotto was badly out of position, having failed to track back to mark Sturridge as the move developed and generally Spurs had been caught out by a lack of awareness of what was happening following the award of the free-kick and were slow to respond defensively to the situation with players querying the initial decision and then appealing for the handball offence.
The goal lifted Chelsea who could have gone ahead within five minutes when a Didier Drogba shot came off the post. Tottenham had now lost their early control and impetus and were finding it difficult to make inroads through Chelsea's well organised defence. Chelsea were preventing Spurs from playing out from the back as players were closed down quickly which prevented Spurs from picking the pass to set Bale, Rafael Van der Vaart and Modric free.
At half-time, Roman Pavlyuchenko replaced Van der Vaart who was injured but the Russian was unable to contribute anything to the game. Through the second half Chelsea managed to keep control and on occasions looked dangerous but only in flashes were Spurs able to create a really threatening move. From one Adebayor had the ball in the net but was ruled offside, another dubious decision from the officials. Later Matu scored for Chelsea but was clearly offside and Cech saved well from a deflected shot from Sandro who had worked tirelessly both in defence and going forward in an effort to lift Spurs.
In the closing minutes Ramires was left unmarked at a free-kick but headed wide. Tottenham put in a final drive to take the three points but Cech saved from Adebayor, Cole blocked a King shot and with almost the last kick of added time, Bale went on a run and fed the ball to Adebayor whose shot beat Cech but Terry sliding in at the back post prevented the shot from crossing the line.
For Tottenham it was disappointing to take only a point after the way they started the game but it was all they deserved - while Chelsea celebrated the point as if it was a win - changed days for the 'Blues' at White Hart Lane.
The injury to Lennon meant that Tottenham had to change their style of play from the system which has been so effective this season. In the first half Van der Vaart had had little influence in the game while Modric and Bale were closed down quickly at every opportunity. Sandro had a growing influence on the match with his tireless running and endeavour.
Tottenham are beginning to encounter difficulties with injuries as Van der Vaart is to be out for a period at what is a very busy time in the football calendar. With two away games at the promoted sides leading up to 2012, Spurs will be looking for good points at Norwich and Swansea in the week ahead to retain their hold on third place going into the new year.