BLUES STUTTER AGAINST SOLID SPURS

By Stuart Wilson
Sep 1st, 2008

Chelsea were denied by a resolute Tottenham Hotspur side in a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League.

Juliano Belletti struck Chelsea’s opener against Juande Ramos’ side, before the visitors responded through Darren Bent’s strike on half-time.

It was a frustrating afternoon for the hosts who lacked sufficient penetration and width against an organised Spurs side, who gained their first point of the season in the Premier League.

Despite Chelsea’s superior possession for long periods, Tottenham remained defensively astute, with centre-half pairing Ledley King and Jonathan Woodgate repelling Chelsea attacks.

Michael Ballack had been ruled out through injury for Chelsea, whilst Belletti filled an unorthodox anchorman berth, despite constant speculation his future lies elsewhere, with Bosingwa filling the right-back role, behind Michael Essien’s right-wing position.

Tottenham had not beaten Chelsea since February 1990 in the league at West London and it appeared likely to continue early on for the north Londoners.

Chelsea’s Frank Lampard provided an early scare for the visitors when he struck a tantalising chip after spotting ‘keeper Heurelho Gomes off his line, with Gomes responding by acrobatically tipping his shot over the bar.

However, despite Chelsea’s initial attacking aspirations, Spurs responded well when Giovanni Dos Santos’ run and pass found Darren Bent inside the area, who scuffed a shot wide via a deflection.

Though gradually Chelsea upped their play through Deco, Essien and Lampard and on 20 minutes Anelka’s shot on the turn from a corner was deflected vitally clear by King on the six-yard line.

Shortly afterwards Frenchman, Anelka, profited from a sublime through-ball by Belletti and after exquisite control, drove over wastefully after moving between King and Woodgate.

But Chelsea’s spell of dominance finally rewarded them with a goal as after Essien’s pile-driver smashed the crossbar from 25 yards, the resultant corner squeezed in after Bent’s clearance struck Belletti and in to the net to give the Blues the lead.

Spurs became uneased after going behind and some dangerous Chelsea probes on the wings from Jose Bosingwa and Ashley Cole almost provided Chelsea further opportunities.

Although, Chelsea failed to profit from their superiority and Tottenham scored against the run of play after Luka Modric’s pass struck Lampard and fell kindly to Bent who paid dividends for his earlier mistake in Chelsea’s goal, as he tucked the ball through the legs of the onrushing Petr Cech.

If Spurs thought they had a psychological advantage after their equaliser, so it proved as Ramos’ team improved after the break.

Chelsea’s passing continued to exude fluidity, but lacked an end product, despite Ashley Cole’s fizzing drive across the area on 47 minutes.

With the hosts struggling against humidity, Ramos seized the chance to snatch the game by introducing Aaron Lennon, Tom Huddlestone and Jamie O’Hara in the second period, with the latter causing problems.

And despite Ricardo Carvalho’s free header over from a Lampard corner on 65 minutes, Chelsea’s substitution Florent Malouda, signalled Scolari’s intention to add greater firepower up front.

But with Anelka increasingly isolated and Deco appearing frustrated in possession, their sterile attacking in the final third was soaked up easily by Spurs’ defence, with the visitors dangerously counter-attacking.

Though neither side threatened the opposition goal until the final 15 minutes, when firstly Modric’s run was obstructed by Chelsea captain John Terry, with the England defender lucky not to give away a free-kick on the edge of the box. As Spurs probed for an opening, Chelsea retaliated in a rare opportunity after Anelka’s potent flick in the area fell for substitute Salomon Kalou, who scuffed his shot twice under pressure, striking poorly wide on 78 minutes.

Although Chelsea continued to string intricate passes together, with them dominating the final 10 minutes, Spurs held firm and despite a possible penalty shout after a collision between King and Lampard in the area, they recorded their first league point at the Bridge since 2004.

With two defeats in their opening league matches before this encounter, Spurs will be impressed with their disciplined display against Chelsea, despite striker Dimitar Berbatov’s omission further suggesting his move to Manchester United is near completion.

Chelsea meanwhile will be looking to add width through Robinho who today hit out at current employers Real Madrid that he wishes to move to SW6, despite Madrid chairman Roman Calderon affirming the Brazilian will be staying at the Bernabeu.

But with Chelsea missing an opportunity to comfortably extend their lead at the top of the Premier League, the incentive has returned for title rivals Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United to intensify the pressure on Scolari’s side in the coming weeks.

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