The 1-1 score line at White Hart Lane doesn’t really tell the whole story. It is a result that most of us would probably have taken before the match, and in reality is a good point to gain at a tough place to visit. But once the dust had settled, there is a thought of what might have been. A shocking bit of Refereeing from Mike Dean resulting in a red card for Fernando Torres for what was nothing more than an aerial challenge for the ball, but deemed by him to be an elbow left us with ten men at a stage when we were on top, and looking like turning the match our way.
The second half performance was arguably the best we have produced this season. An outstanding performance from Lampard and Ramires, dispossessing any Tottenham player that came near them and starting our attacks in turn. Juan Mata, a half time addition in place of Mikel, was brilliant, helping to add to the higher tempo of the team in the second half, moving the ball quicker, and piercing the Tottenham backline with visionary through balls. Tottenham could not live with us anywhere on the pitch in the second 45. When Lamps or Ramires didn’t win the ball back, our well-marshalled back four did. Ramires turned defence into attack on numerous occasions, winning the ball from the Tottenham midfield and carrying forward at pace as we advanced onto their defence. Fernando Torres followed up Wednesday nights high class effort with another great performance, giving Tottenham’s backline a torrid time, winning balls in the air, running in behind and into channels, and dropping off to link with Oscar and Hazard.
The first half had started reasonably well, the early knockings were cagey from both sides, but we had the better of the first twenty minutes, without creating any real chances. It became evident that Mourinho wanted diagonal balls over the top used when we won the ball at the back, or deep in midfield. A clever tactic to exploit the renowned high back line that Andre Villas Boas continues to deploy. This was working to some extent, Torres getting in a couple of times, but we couldn’t capitalise. Tottenham struck the first blow though, Ericcson drifting wide to pick the ball up, playing it in to Soldado with his back to goal, who laid into the path of Sigurdsson, who was initially thwarted by a great Terry tackle, but the ball bounced back of his knee, putting him through, and he slotted past Cech.
Tottenham now took the upper hand, Ivanovic with a great Intervention to send a low cross over his own bar with Soldado in close attention. Our best chances of the half summed up our lack of cutting edge, an Oscar volley after the ball fell to him from a Dawson header, a Hazard shot blocked as Torres laid it back to him, and a Terry header wide from a corner. The second half, as has been touched on, was a different story.
Mourinho wanted a higher tempo, this was clear. It seemed he wanted more fight as well. The way this was transmitted to the pitch is clear evidence of just how great a manager he is. Ramires was now deployed centrally rather than the right side as Mata entered the stage for act 2. Oscar moved wide and Mata played behind Torres, although all three attacking midfielders would interchange. Tottenham couldn’t get the ball, when they did they were dispossessed straight away. Winning the ball in the middle was key to our resurgence, as this opened the pitch up as in the transition from attack to defence, Tottenham lacked cover in the middle and this was exploited.
As well as changing some of the player’s roles, Mourinho altered the style slightly as well. Long diagonals were shelved, now when the ball was won, Mata would be the outlet through the middle, and from there Torres could be put through, or wide options were used, occasionally supplanted by cavalry charges forward from Ramires or Lampard. Now clear-cut chances came. Torres released by Mata, beat two defenders, breaking into the area from the left, his shot was saved by the advancing Lloris. Ramires found one touch by Mata steamed into the high Tottenham backline, Vertonghen bringing him down, a case for a straight red, Dean produced a yellow.
Terry deservedly levelled the score, heading in an in swinging free kick. Classic. Captain, Leader, Legend. He was today, as he always is, and has been his rock solid best all season so far.
Schurrle, on for Hazard was put in behind, again Lloris saved. Chelsea were all over Tottenham at White hart lane, we’ve heard that before, and what came next has been seen before on multiple occasions by Chelsea supporters; refereeing injustice. Torres jumped for a header with Vertonghen, both players went down after contact. The contact was not, as Mike Dean thought, an elbow from the Spaniard. Neither player had done anymore than attempt to head the ball. Torres had perhaps got of lightly in the eyes of some for an of the ball incident earlier when after accidentally tripping Vertonghen, the two squared up, and Torres stupidly appeared to scrape the side of Vertonghen’s face. He got a yellow for that, he had seen red now. Torres had been brilliant, so had Chelsea in the second half, but this signalled the end of our hunt for three points. Oscar was withdrawn for Azpilicuta as we kept the same shape, just with no striker, and played out for a draw.
The spirit and belief of a typical Mourinho side is there, and the performances are coming along quite nicely as well.
Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 Chelsea
Lloris; Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Naughton;
Dembele, Paulinho; Townsend, Ericsson, (Holtby) Sigurdsson; Soldado, (Defoe)
Cech; Ivanovic, Luiz, Terry©, Cole;
Mikel, (Mata 45), Lampard; Ramires, Oscar, (Azpilicueta 80), Hazard, (Schurrle 70); Torres.