LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 30: Heurelho Gomes of Spurs attempts to save the shot from Frank Lampard of Chelsea during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on April 30, 2011 in London, England. The Goal was not awarded by the Referee until he was overruled by the Lines man. (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
It's a good thing they don't award points for style in football, because this win was the equivalent of wearing gigantic glasses with no lenses just to make yourself look uglier. With the title race absolutely requiring three points from the match at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea somehow grabbed them with a phantom goal scored by Frank Lampard and an offside winner notched in the 89th minute by Salomon Kalou. Tottenham Hotspur were desperately unfortunate to leave the Bridge with a loss, and it would take amazingly blue-tinted glasses to claim otherwise.
Chelsea opted to start both Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres in what they claimed was a 4-4-2 but was realistically more of a lopsided 4-3-3, with Florent Malouda (the left forward) dropping back into midfield far more often than Didier Drogba on the right. Tottenham ran with their now-typical 4-4-1-1, but injury problems meant that they were without Tom Huddlestone and more or less all of their fullbacks, forcing them into playing Younes Kaboul at right back, which was at least mildly entertaining.
Chelsea had the better of the early exchanges, weaving together pretty passes with Torres particularly sharp - only some last ditch tackling on Spurs' parts prevented the suddenly in-form Spaniard from getting some dangerous shots away. The best chance of the early stages, however, fell to Drogba, who hammered a 35 yard free kick against Heurelho Gomes' crossbar, with the Brazilian just getting a fingertip on the ball to keep it from going in.
Another Brazilian would be involved for Spurs shortly thereafter, much to Chelsea's annoyance. Tottenham had the ball in the Chelsea half for the first time more or less all game when Rafael van der Vaart flicked on a long throw from Gareth Bale into the path of Sandro, who had been spending the last few minutes being yelled at to hold his defensive position by Harry Redknapp. Bollocks to that, said the midfield, taking a touch before wellying the ball past Petr Cech from a full thirty yards out. He ran over to Redknapp to celebrate only to be shouted at some more. No pleasing some people, eh?
Chelsea nearly mounted an immediate response when Gomes was forced into another good save, this time from a close-range Michael Essien header. From the following corner Drogba flicked on a ball for Torres at the far post, but the pass was just behind the striker and he couldn't put his header anywhere near the goal. After a frenetic first half hour, however, the game had started to die down and it seemed inevitable that Chelsea would go into the interval 1-0 down.
Thanks to a pair of horrendous errors in the 44th minute, however, they would not. The first came from Gomes, who allowed a beyond-speculative effort from all of 40 yards from Frank Lampard to squirm through his grasp and between his legs. He scrambled back to claw the ball away before it had quite finished crossing the goal-line, but the linesman (in mistake #2) ignored that little fact and gave the goal anyway.
Obviously, said goal had major rammifications in both the title race and the chase for fourth place and the final Champions League berth, and as such there's almost certainly going to be a new round of calls for goal-line technology. Personally, I think FIFA will just call an emergency meeting and ban Frank Lampard. That man is clearly more trouble than he's worth.
Anyway, 1-1 at half time looked a lot better than 1-0 down, and Chelsea continued to press in the second half. Tottenham were defending fairly well, though, and the Blues were mostly restricted to long-range efforts that Gomes dealt with with varying levels of confidence. They also seemed to become impossible to foul - Spurs were getting away with a lot in the midfield, facilitating several dangerous-looking fast breaks, and Kaboul managed to bring down Florent Malouda in the box without penalty. I'm going to go ahead and assume that Andres Marriner was trying to make up for Chelsea's ridiculous opener with that one, although replays suggest that it miiiight have been a fair tackle.
Anyway, Chelsea eventually made some changes, replacing Torres with Salomon Kalou, Essien with Ramires, and Malouda with Nicolas Anelka. Kalou might have scored almost as soon as he came in after a long range free kick from Drogba was parried into the Ivorian's path, but he fired the difficult chance well high. Captain John Terry also wasted an excellent chance late in the match when a free kick found him totally unmarked less than ten yards out, but he failed to strike the ball cleanly and Gomes could collect.
At the time, that felt like Chelsea's last big chance, but Salomon Kalou had the last laugh, poking home from a marginally offside position after a goalmouth scramble involving Anelka and Drogba in the 89th minute. It was another huge error from the linesman who for some reason seemed intent on gving Chelsea a win, but as Chelsea fan I'll sure take it. We weren't 'due' luck and we sure didn't deserve those goals, but at the end of the day that's three points in the bag and the gap between the Blues and Manchester United is down to three points. Things are getting interesting.
Chelsea's man of the match?
John Obi Mikel (21 votes)
Didier Drogba (18 votes)
Salomon Kalou (7 votes)
Frank Lampard (6 votes)
Linesmen (51 votes)
Other (2 votes)
105 total votes