ONLY ONE POINT, BUT WHAT A GAME!
Chelsea were involved in their second 4-4 draw of the Premiership season, this time against Juande Ramos’ cunning Tottenham side, at White Hart Lane. Drogba, Essien and Joe Cole twice were on target for the visitors’, Woodgate, Berbatov, Huddlestone and a stunner from Keane for the home side. It took two pieces of stunning goalkeeping from Carlo Cudicini to prevent Tottenham taking all three points.
Claudé Makelélé and Michael Essien were recalled in the midfield at the expense of John Obi Mikel and Michael Ballack. Ricardo Carvalho was preferred to Alex at the back, whilst a minor injury kept Nicolas Anelka out of the squad altogether, Andriy Shevchenko providing the striking reinforcement on the bench.
Not only did Spurs show highlights of the Carling Cup Final prior to the match taking place, but Juande Ramos also elected to start with the same team that defeated Chelsea 2-1 in extra time.
Within three minutes of kickoff, Chelsea had already taken the lead. Drogba’s free kick hit the wall and bounced out to John Terry, who had found himself wide left. He hit a hopeful cross towards the back post, where Drogba had ghosted in unmarked, to head his first goal since the Cup Final.
In the fifth minute, Joe Cole had the ball in the back of the net after Robinson could only parry Drogba’s shot, but the goal was correctly ruled out for offside. The early attacking play was certainly a sign of things to come.
With eleven minutes gone, the Wembley déjà vu continued, as Woodgate scored an altogether more convincing header than that from the Cup Final. Jenas’ free kick was dangerously swung in and the would-be England defender rose high above Drogba to tower a header past the stranded Cudicini.
Eight minutes later, the Blues were at it again, the recalled Essien coolly poking home his first goal of 2008. Joe Cole was again excellent in the lead up, beating two Spurs’ players, before looking to feed Drogba’s diagonal run. The ball was half blocked and fell nicely for the advanced Essien, who used the outside of his right boot to dink the ball past Robinson.
The pace of the game was frenetic, although the tackles were flying in. However, no excuse can be made for Ashley Cole’s horrific challenge on Alan Hutton. The Chelsea left back flew in with a raised leg and studs showing, getting nowhere near the ball. He was very, very lucky to escape with just a caution from the referee.
Ramos’ first tactical change took place during the break, Tom Huddlestone replaying Jermaine Jenas in central midfield. Nonetheless, Chelsea made it 3-1 just six minutes into the second half.
Joe Cole was the goalscorer, taking Kalou’s pass and beating the idle Chimbonda, before finishing past the onrushing Robinson. But once more, Tottenham were able to hit back within minutes. Keane’s corner was floated into the box, where Dimitar Berbatov looped a header into the far corner.
Four minutes later, Cudicini made a brilliant one on one save to deny Keane, after Berbatov found him with a chipped ball into the box. The Italian was later to be Chelsea’s true hero.
Essien struck the base of the post after being played in by Cole, before Darren Bent replaced Ledley King for Spurs. This was the catalyst for Avram Grant to make a much criticised substitution of his own, Alex replacing Kalou.
With sixteen minutes remaining, Tottenham were level. This time, it was a brilliantly instinctive left footed strike from Huddlestone, after Keane’s corner made its way through to him unmarked at the back post. The midfielder crashed the shot past Cudicini to drag Tottenham back into the game.
The drama was far from over though, as five minutes later, a top quality Joe Cole goal, his second of the match, gave Chelsea the lead again. His crafty touch from Drogba’s ball completely embarrassed Chimbonda, before he curled a wonderful finish past Robinson into the top corner. Almost immediately, Cole was replaced by Ballack as Chelsea looked to shut up shop.
With three minutes to go, Robbie Keane stunned everyone watching with a sublime finish to level at 4-4. A hopeful long ball forward inadvertently hit Carvalho’s back, before dropping nicely for Keane 25 yards out. The Tottenham skipper curled a scorcher past the flying Cudicini, to send the home fans into raptures.
Alas, there was more late, late drama. Aaron Lennon’s jinking run in stoppage time looked to have been fruitless when his opportunistic back heel was half cleared. However, the ball was fed back into the box, where Berbatov was lurking. The Bulgarian dummied past Alex to set himself up with a clear chance at grabbing a miraculous 5-4 win, only to be denied by a save of truly epic proportions by the magnificent Carlo Cudicini. The crowd favourite somehow reacted quickly enough to stretch out his right hand and divert the stinging shot out for a corner, as the referee blew full time.
If it wasn’t for the heroics of the Italian goalkeeper, Tottenham could well have signed off Chelsea’s title aspirations for this season, however, as Joe Cole said, we could well end up thanking Carlo for saving us a point, as the race reaches its climax.
Tottenham (4-4-2): Robinson; Hutton, King (c) (Bent 68) Woodgate, Chimbonda; Lennon, Jenas (Huddlestone h-t), Zokora, Malbranque; Keane, Berbatov.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Cudicini; Ferreira (Shevchenko 89), Carvalho, Terry (c), A Cole; Essien, Makelélé, Lampard; J Cole (Ballack 82), Drogba, Kalou (Alex 71).
Referee Mike Riley.