BELLETTI CONTINUES UNBEATEN RUN
Chelsea helped themselves to their regular serving of three points against Tottenham, the vital incredients being the scintillating strikes from Juliano Belletti and Shaun Wright-Phillips. It was Chelsea’s fifth consecutive win and our 74th consecutive unbeaten match in the Premiership at Stamford Bridge.
Petr Čech made a timely comeback from injury in goal, as did Claudé Makelélé in the position that is now named after him. Ashley Cole was preferred to Wayne Bridge at left back, whilst Wright-Phillips was again chosen in midfield. Pizarro was the centre forward; however Anelka was on the bench despite not having trained with the team.
For Tottenham, Juande Ramos stuck with Radek Cerny in place of the demoted Paul Robinson; however Jermain Jenas was out due to suspension. All eyes would be on their strike force, consisting of the crafty Robbie Keane and the deadly Dimitar Berbatov. Former Chelsea legend Gus Poyet was on the Tottenham bench, as their assistant coach.
Aaron Lennon looked lively and had a few successful attempts at getting past Ashley Cole early on in the first half. One such burst was cleared by a sliding Makelélé, the Frenchman showing that despite half a dozen games out, he can still compete with the very best.
The midfield was keenly contested, as Ballack strode around looking every inch the master playmaker with Spurs Jamie O’Hara looking to upstage him.
Joe Cole won a corner in the 18th minute and it was this that led to the opening goal of the match. It was well cleared by Tottenham, as far as Ashley Cole lurking just outside the center circle. He played the ball across to Belletti, who saw white shirts backing off to mark the Chelsea threats in the box. Unfazed, the Brazilian took a few touches before hitting a screamer with the outside of his right boot, the strike giving a flying Cerny no chance in the Tottenham goal. Our right back now has two goal of the season contenders and we’re only just into 2008.
Boateng was booked for a foul on Joe Cole, before Tottenham had their only clear cut chance of the half. Again, Lennon caused problems down their right hand side and once in space, he stood up a beautiful cross that was met by Malbranque with a sweet volley at the back post, but Čech was equal to the task, making a superb save.
Joe Cole failed to properly test Cerny at the start of the second half; the Czech keeper easily dropping low to save the England midfielder’s left footed effort. Makelélé was booked for a foul on Malbranque as the half continued, although replays showed that no contact had been made.
Pizarro, having another unproductive afternoon, signaled to the bench that he was unable to continue, which resulted in a début for £150 signing, Nicolas Anelka. Avram Grant had planned not to use our new number 39, but the circumstances called for the Frenchman’s introduction.
It was almost the dream start for Anelka, as he forced a fine save from Cerny with just his second touch. Wright-Phillips’ improvisation on the edge of the box saw the ball fall to our new striker, who in one motion turned and struck a left footed shot at goal, but the Tottenham goalkeeper flew to his right to keep it out.
Ballack was booked for a foul on Lennon, but with Stamford Bridge hushed as Berbatov lined up the free kick, the Bulgarian curled the shot over the bar.
With ten minutes to go, Chelsea wrapped the game up, thanks to a brilliant finish from the in-form Shaun Wright-Phillips. Joe Cole carried the ball towards goal and after a shimmy or two, laid the ball back into the path of Wright-Phillips. The lively midfielder smashed the shot low and hard past Cerny, to make the score
2-0 and send Spurs home, as is now custom, empty handed.
There was still time for Chelsea to flex their attacking muscles, as once more Cole played in Wright-Phillips, only for him to shoot wide. Then, in stoppage time, Belletti’s long ball caused plenty of problems for King and Dawson as Wright-Phillips looked to capitalise. As the ball dropped in the box, Dawson slipped attempting to clear, but Anelka’s snap shot smashed into the bar and into the arms of the grateful Cerny.
The full time whistle saw Chelsea close the gap to just four points at the top of the table, as well as opening a gap of eight points to the four teams behind us. It also consigned Tottenham to their 17th year in a row without a win at Stamford Bridge. Anelka’s début was more than promising, as was the return of Čech and Makelélé. Chelsea are looking strong and our form early in the year bodes well for the imminent title chase.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Čech; Belletti, Alex, Carvalho, A Cole; Wright-Phillips (Sidwell 90+3), Makelélé, Ballack (c); Malouda (Bridge 84), Pizarro (Anelka 57), J Cole.
Tottenham (4-4-2): Cerny; Chimbonda, Dawson, King (c), Lee; Lennon, Boateng (Kaboul 83), O’Hara (Defoe 76), Malbranque (Taarabt 58); Berbatov, Keane.
Referee Alan Wiley.