FA BARCLAYS PREMIERSHIP
SATURDAY 7TH APRIL, 2007
CHELSEA 1 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0)
Attendance: - 41, 864
Referee: - Rob Styles
Chelsea (4-4-2):- Cech; Ferreira, Carvalho, Terry (Capt.), Bridge; Wright-Philips (sub Ballack, 70), Makelele, Lampard, Mikel (sub J. Cole, 83); Drogba, Kalou (sub Shevchenko, 73)
Subs not used: - Hilario; Diarra
Booked: - Cole, Drogba
Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson (Capt.); Stalteri, Dawson, Rocha, Chimbonda; Ghaly, Jenas (sub Zokora, 80), Malbranque, Tainio (sub Taarabt, 63); Mido (sub Berbatov, 68), Defoe
Subs not used: - Cerny; Ifil
Booked: - Ghaly
Martin Jol’s patched up Spurs side gave a good account of themselves at Stamford Bridge today, and in the end were only beaten by a goal of a somewhat freakish nature. In the 52nd minute, Carvalho was 35 yards out and received a ball from his left. Carvalho advanced, and Teemu Tainio, no doubt tiring after his exertions this week, failed to close the defender down. Carvalho fired a hopeful shot, and Ricardo Rocha on the edge of the area actually moved out of the way of the ball, presumably thinking that it would either go wide or be covered by Paul Robinson. Unfortunately, it seems that Rocha had left Robinson unsighted and the keeper was beaten in his right corner. Thus Chelsea won their 8th consecutive Premiership game, with an 8th consecutive clean sheet, to maintain their challenge against Manchester United.
Both managers had forthcoming midweek European games on their mind. Martin Jol made 5 changes, with Rocha’s insertion the most predictable of those adjustments. Perhaps surprisingly, Stalteri stayed at right back, and Pascal Chimbonda was asked to cover at left back. Spurs matched the Chelsea diamond midfield shape, with Jenas in the holding role, and Malbranque at the head. Ghaly played on the right and left respectively, but of course, both would be expected to play more defensive roles themselves. Lennon and Keane were rested completely, and we had to wait patiently till the 69th minute for Mido to be replaced by Dimitar Berbatov.
Jose Mourinho paid Spurs full respect, as they fought hard for an equaliser, with Ballack, Shevchenko and Joe Cole replacing Sean Wright-Philips, Kalou, and Mikel for the latter stages.
Wright-Philips was a threat from the kick off, making his way down the Chelsea right flank, away from the Shed End, which housed the strong Spurs support. Wright-Philips’ cross was just out of the reach of Drogba, and Spurs were able to breathe easily. It took a little while for Spurs to make any headway, but Ghaly did well on the right to battle for the ball against the strong Chelsea defence, and at least force his way into the area. After 8 minutes, following another Chelsea corner, Wright-Philips’ deep cross was pulled back by Terry at the bye-line. Kalou skied his shot.
Wayne Bridge was causing Spurs some problems with high crosses, and Ghaly got a yellow off our friend Rob Styles after 16 minutes for a challenge on the Blues’ left back. Carvalho had a header on target after 21 minutes, following a corner, but Paul Robinson did well to reach his right corner and pluck out the ball. With Spurs having failed to threaten goal, it was Wright-Philips again who tried a shot, this time from a central position, as he made space for the effort which missed the left post comfortably, from a Spurs point of view.
Spurs were getting some possession in the Chelsea half, but needed too much time in the build up, and sadly Mido does not have the control and hold-up skills of Berbatov. Ghaly got into the box again after 35 minutes, but he and Tainio could not quite get a shot on goal. Mido conceded a free kick near the half way line, from which Drogba headed down for Lampard, whose shot was blocked by Spurs player of the year candidate Michael Dawson, playing his 50th game of our 52 game season. (Dawson was a playing substitute in one of the only two games he did not start) Carvalho had also been up for the free kick, and in the following attack the centre back advanced on Spurs from the left side, and hit a low shot which was well saved by Paul Robinson.
Spurs had a great chance to score after 49 minutes, when Malbranque passed to Chimbonda, whose deep cross was met by Ghaly, headed back across the area to Mido, who unfortunately headed the ball more or less straight at Cech, for whom the save was routine. Anywhere else and a bit more power, and Spurs would surely have been one up. It wasn’t long before Carvalho scored his goal, and Chelsea maintained the pressure, with a ball to Drogba, who had a good chance to score himself, but chose to pass sideways to Kalou, whose shot (with a troublesome touch by Dawson) was saved by Robinson’s outstretched foot, then picked up by the keeper.
Tainio’s ball to Ghaly was weak on the hour, and Ghaly struggled to collect. The ball ran to the powerful Drogba, who fired hard from the left side of the box, giving Robinson another save to make. Defoe had an effort two minutes later that Cech could only parry, but no-one followed up.
Tainio was replaced by Taarabt, who made another excellent impression in the half hour he was on the pitch. Taarabt nearly scored within a minute of coming on, as he received a short pass from Mido, then hit a good low shot to Cech’s right, which the keeper was happy to push round for a corner. Taarabt likes to hold the ball a bit too long sometimes (at reserve level), but in this game he showed a lot of maturity, and to the best of my knowledge was only caught in possession twice. Remember, Taarabt is not yet 18, and he displayed a lot of confidence in the midst of seasoned Internationals such as Ballack, Lampard, and Makelele.
Spurs battled hard, and their best chance fell to Berbatov, from a Zokora free kick. Berbatov’s header was aimed high in the centre of goal, and was tipped over by Petr Cech. Chelsea used all the delaying tactics at their disposal, as the game wore into 4 added minutes, and Cole and Drogba got booked for some late petulance, but the Chelsea goal remained intact.
In the best of circumstances, anything from this game would have been a bonus for Spurs, and whilst I think a draw was achievable, I am happy that Martin Jol has been able to preserve the team for next Thursday night’s crucial UEFA Cup tie at White Hart Lane. I also still think that Spurs are well placed for a challenge on League qualification for Europe.
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