LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 22: Manager of Chelsea Andre Villas-Boas helps up Didier Drogba of Chelsea during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea at White Hart Lane on December 22, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Chelsea showed some character in overcoming a terrible start and multiple injuries at White Hart Lane, putting in a great team performance against Tottenham Hotspur but only coming away with a 1-1 draw. Before the match, much of the focus was on John Terry, who'll be facing criminal charges for the racially-charged incident involving Anton Ferndinand, but a 100mph game soon put any thoughts about events outside the pitch onto the back burner.
As has been their wont for much of the season, the Blues started dismally, with barely a single touch of the ball for the first ten minutes of the match. It was a pretty pathetic showing, with the midfield in particular to blame for the complete inability to string two passes together. It was only a matter of time before Tottenham, who had a scarcely-believable 84% possession seven minutes in, would find the back of the net.
The goal came when Sandro obliterated Danny Sturridge with a strong challenge just inside the Spurs half. The ball broke kindly to Gareth Bale, who was able to work his way around Jose Bosingwa and Branislav Ivanovic to send in a pretty weak cross that neither John Terry nor Petr Cech was able to cut out, leaving Emmanuel Adebayor with an easy tap in and giving Tottenham the 1-0 lead.
Going behind seemed to wake Chelsea from their stupor, and they began to start playing some proper football. They should have leveled pretty much instantly, and it's still shocking that Daniel Sturridge missed an empty net after Juan Mata's long-range effort had been spilled by Brad Freidel only for Danny to blast over the crossbar, but a goal would come soon enough.
Ashley Cole saw an attempted Kyle Walker clearance bounce off his arm and straight into his path, allowing him to square for Sturridge whilst the entire Spurs back line was appealing for handball. They didn't get it, Sturridge sidefooted home from two yards, and Chelsea were right back in the match.
Didier Drogba had a quiet night, but very nearly game the Blues a lead when Walker, miscast as a right back, allowed the Ivorian to get under the ball, ultimately getting bailed out by the woodwork. Spurs, who had been a dominant force until their goal, were barely in the game, and although Chelsea would suffer setbacks in the first half in the form of injuries to Branislav Ivanovic and John Obi Mikel.
While Mikel is replaceable with Oriol Romeu hanging around, Ivanovic isn't - David Luiz is injured and Alex is basically dead to the club, and that meant that Paulo Ferreira came on as right back with Jose Bosingwa shifting to the middle. Franky, it was a terrifying decision for Andre Villas-Boas to take, but it worked out beautifully and both had great games in their new position.
Harry Redknapp made a tactical switch at half time, withdrawing the ineffective Rafael van der Vaart for Roman Pavlyuchenko, presumably hoping to throw more strikers at the Bosingwa-Terry central pairing. It backfired pretty spectacularly, because with Luka Modric thrown out to the right Spurs had no hope of controlling the midfield area, which was dominated by Romeu and Raul Meireles.
Ramires had two gilt-edged chances to give the Blues the lead when he was put clean through by a sublime pass from Drogba and then presented with a free header from a Juan Mata free kick, but the Brazilian's finishing was typcially lacking and he failed to make the most of his opportunities. At the other end of the pitch, the should-probably-have-been-sent off Emmanuel Adebayor had a goal disallowed for offside despite being not offside*, and the impressive Sandro nearly saw a deflected effort go in only to be denied by Cech.
*But there having been at least one foul committed in the buildup.
There was drama at the very end of the match, and it was the hosts who'd get the last clear chance after Adebayor was played in on the left. The Togo striker's shot beat Cech, but it failed to beat Terry's bottom and the ball ended up trickling just wide of the post. That was to be the last clear-cut chance, and the game would finish at 1-1. Chelsea and Spurs both played very good football, and although Chelsea were better a point was probably fair. At the very least, the match was a reality check for anyone writing the Blues off...
Chelsea's man of the match?
John Terry (165 votes)
Ashley Cole (20 votes)
Danny Sturridge (31 votes)
Ramires (9 votes)
Other (17 votes)
242 total votes