Chelsea spurned a marvellous opportunity to close the gap at the top of the table, by crashing to a 1-0 defeat at White Hart Lane. Manchester United’s earlier 2-0 loss at Fulham had created the chance for Chelsea to snatch points back, but a neat Luka Modric finish and some inspired goalkeeping from the erratic Heurelho Gomes, saw Tottenham hold on for a valuable home win.
John Obi Mikel was suspiciously absent from the Chelsea midfield, as Ballack once again played in the holding role. Carvalho had picked up another injury and was replaced by Alex, whilst Juliano Belletti started wide on the right, in place of Deco.
Michael Essien threatened first, sending a rasping low strike towards the Tottenham goal, only for Gomes to make the save, albeit at the second attempt. Belletti was flying through, attempting to add to his impressive scoring record against our North London rivals.
Petr Cech was then called into action, making a sharp save from a left footed Robbie Keane volley, the Irishman profiting from some poor defending by Alex. Then, the Spurs striker shot straight at Cech from the edge of the box, after Vedran Corluka shrugged off allcomers as he strode towards the penalty area, before cutting back for his captain.
Keane was in the thick of things, and was wasteful as another chance presented itself. Palacios released him down the left, where he took advantage of the space left by the attack minded Bosingwa. With Darren Bent and Aaron Lennon racing into the box, Keane’s low cross was deflected off Alex and into the arms of the grateful Cech. The Chelsea keeper was showing his hallmark safe handling and lightning quick reactions, as Spurs had the better of the first half.
However, just five minutes into the second half, Tottenham took the lead. Aaron Lennon had possession wide on the right, but rather than take on Ashley Cole, he dragged a cross low into the penalty area. Coming in from the left, Modric hit a sweet first time strike into the bottom corner, leaving Cech with no chance. It was a deserved lead for Tottenham, in a match where Chelsea hadn’t created decent chances.
The goal prompted the quick thinking Hiddink to make a change, replacing the industrious Belletti with the loan signing Ricardo Quaresma. His first act of influence was to deliver a swirling cross to the back post, where Lampard was denied by a combination of Corluka and Gomes, with a bit of the near post thrown in for good measure.
Lampard, enduring a rare off match, smashed a free kick into the wall, before Drogba showed remarkable control and dexterity to control a long ball from Terry in the box. Unfortunately, the resultant volley flew wide.
With fourteen minutes to go and getting desperate, Hiddink replaced Essien with Malouda, as Chelsea looked to stretch the match. Just a few minutes later came the defining point of the match.
A free kick was lobbed forward by Lampard, where it was met by John Terry. The Chelsea captain powered a header towards the bottom corner, only for Gomes to show remarkable agility and reaction time to dive to his right and palm the ball clear for a corner. It wasn’t to be Chelsea’s day, but this was just the beginning of it!
Ballack was next to try from a set piece, curling a 25 yard free kick over. O’Hara replaced Modric as Tottenham tried to hang on, but the last few minutes saw a flurry of Chelsea chances, each somehow denied by Spurs.
Drogba firstly headed over a free kick, before Anelka was denied by a rushing Gomes, after being played in by Lampard. Then, from the resulting corner, Alex headed against the bar, with Gomes for once beaten. Yet, there was more drama, as a late, late Lampard corner was smashed goalwards by Ballack, only for a combination of Tottenham players to clear. Chelsea appealed by handball, but the only whistle blown was that of full time, as Tottenham condemned Chelsea to another poor London derby result, potentially the most damaging of the lot.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Gomes; Corluka, Woodgate, King, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon (Zokora 94), Jenas, Palacios; Modric (O’Hara 87); Bent, Keane (c).
Manager: Harry Redknapp
Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Bosingwa, Alex, Terry (c), A Cole; Essien (Malouda 76), Ballack, Lampard; Belletti (Quaresma 61), Drogba, Anelka.
Manager: Guus Hiddink
Referee: Mike Dean