LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 24: Rafael van der Vaart of Tottenham Hotspur takes the ball past Frank Lampard of Chelsea during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on March 24, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
And then, there were nineteen. There are just nineteen points left for Tottenham to find to send Chelsea on a tour of Europe's lesser lights. Whether those nineteen points come as a result of Spurs wins or Chelsea draws and losses, the point remains. We're in a deep, deep hole, and we're running out of time to dig our way out. In the next eight matches, we need to find five points and several goals more than Tottenham to assure another season on club football's biggest stage.
Unless, of course, by some miracle we win the Champions League this season and mega-troll Tottenham back to Spursday nights. Then again, it's probably prudent to ignore that scenario until we're safely landed in Munich. Though we almost all feel fourth place has finally been put beyond our reach, remember this: We're not out until we're mathematically out, and we didn't let Spurs extend their lead to eight points today. We got out of a match with a point when our opponents probably deserved three. I never thought I'd say it, but thank goodness for 0-0 draws!What can I really say after that match? It sucked, both in terms of the football on show and in terms of our European adventure next season. There's no getting around that. We weren't good enough, and can hardly make a reasonable claim to fourth place now.
The opening stages of the match, somewhat unsurprisingly for one so important to both teams, took the form of a chess match, with neither side showing sign of producing much of anything of importance. In fact, the first moment of interest came just before halfway through the half, as Frank Lampard appeared to be fouled in the box by a combination of William Gallas and Younes Kaboul. Though there were, and undoubtedly still are, those who thought otherwise, it was probably a good no-call. It's the sort of thing that gets a call every now and again, with players on both sides of the ball suffering momentary lapses in physical coordination. To be honest, though, Chelsea would have felt a bot lucky had it been given and Spurs more-than-a-little cheesed off.
Spurs really should have opened the scoring five minutes later when Emanuel Adebayor put Jose Bosingwa somewhere behind Dr. Eva on Chelsea's right back depth chart with a bit of trickery. Fortunately for us, Adebayor made an absolute hash of his cross, which sailed over the head of an unmarked Kyle Walker at the far post, and was cleared. Shortly after, Didier Drogba found himself on the ground suffering from one of his special two-minute injuries, though he was able to continue.
The biggest chance of the first arrived at its death, as Spurs mobbed Petr Cech's goal, and somehow contrived to miss from close range on several occasions within the space of seconds, drawing great saves from our Czech keeper before Adebayor headed over to clear the danger and end the half. Outside the few moments of action, the first half played out as a loving tribute to painter Bob Ross, with both teams cancelling each other out, and producing very little in attack. This failure to build an attack was the result of an astonishing lack of finesse by both teams, which saw attacks broken down early, and creating a half few will want to remember. In fact, reviewing the first has nearly put me to sleep twice already.
At the half, it was an evenly-poised game, with Chelsea looking the more dominant team, but Spurs the more dangerous. Fortunately for football fans, but unfortunately for insomniacs, the match did indeed pick up after the break, with Didier Drogba setting up Daniel Sturridge, whose shot was desperately poor and well wide, and Gareth Bale finding Kyle Walker, who likewise shot wide, though into the side-netting. Moments later, the Bosingwa-on-Bale Battle Royale came to an end as Roberto di Matteo decided to replace the Portuguese with adorable Brazilian crazy-man David Luiz.
His introduction initially gave Chelsea a boost, allowing them to exert a bit more pressure, culminating in birthday-boy Ramires seemingly being fouled in the box by fellow birthday-buy Benoit Assou-Ekotto, only to get no call. While it was hardly a clear-cut penalty, it was easily more a foul than the Lampard appeal earlier in the match, and wouldn't have been a lucky call at all. Didier Drogba did his best to rectify the matter by sending a bullet free kick into the face of Tottenham captain Scott Parker.
With just under twenty minutes remaining, Juan Mata had Chelsea's best chance of the match, thundering his free kick against the post with Brad Friedel utterly stranded. Unfortunately, David Luiz couldn't control the ball as it came out to him, and Tottenham were able to clear. Moments later, Michael Essien made way for Fernando Torres, as RDM went after the much-needed win. As with the earlier substitution, the game opened even more, with chances coming thick and fast in the final fifteen minutes.
First, William Gallas was left free in the area, but only managed to head over the bar. Second, a minute later, Didier Drogba turned amazingly in the area, but his shot was disappointingly low on power, trickling tamely into Friedel's arms. Next, Louis Saha joined the club of players who slipped in unfortunate circumstances, allowing Chelsea to clear the chance. Spurs quickly recovered, and Adebayor received the ball just onside, and timed his run perfectly, rounding Cech. Fortunately for Chelsea, Gary Cahil was able to get back to block the Togolese striker's shot on an empty net and prevent Spurs claiming a late winner.
As the game wore on, and Chelsea began to tire, Spurs completely took the upper hand, with the best chance coming as Gareth Bale rattled the crossbar with a powerful header. Chelsea did manage to earn another chance as Sturridge looked to find Torres free with a pass, but the English striker desperately overhit his pass, and the move broke down. It proved to be the final serious Chelsea attack of the match, whose second half ended much the same as its first, with Spurs nearly scoring on a flurry of late chances on the Chelsea goal, which required Petr Cech to come to the rescue.
All in all, both teams suffered a distinct lack of quality, both in the final third and elsewhere. The game should have produced goals, but both Spurs and Chelsea failed to convert their chances, of which Tottenham had many more. Though we have to be disappointed with this match, given what it means for our chances of achieving our goals for this season, we also have to admit that Spurs were simply the stronger team in the second half. We were lucky to withstand to onslaught to earn our point, even if, as we've all said, it was definitely not enough.
We sucked, and have sucked all year. Fifth was maybe all we were ever good for, and we have to accept that. After all, we've never been to Albania before, have we? As I said in the beginning, we shouldn't give up until it's mathematically certain, but it's probably time to get used to the idea, understand it's not really the end of the world, and, above all, keep the blue flag flying high!
Who was Chelsea's Man of the Match against Tottenham?
Petr Cech (66 votes)
Gary Cahill (218 votes)
Dr. Eva (180 votes)
464 total votes