After Sundays brilliant away win at Old Trafford, a win against Tottenham on Wednesday night would secure Champions League football for next season. Tottenham new they needed something from this match to keep their dreams of a top four finish alive, and began at a high tempo, getting into some dangerous positions inside the first five minutes. It didn’t take long for Chelsea to get on top though, winning key battles all over the pitch. Oscar worked tirelessly all night, he must have won as many tackles as any player on the pitch. Starting from a wide right position he hassled Tottenham left back Assou-Ekotto all night, preventing him feed any meaningful balls to bale on the left. Oscar also helped out in midfield when he could, doubling up with Ramires and Luiz to close down the closest Tottenham midfielder. Both Luiz and Ramires did important work defensively as well, chosen as the two deep lying midfielders, they won countless balls in this area, and stifled the creativity of Holtby and Bale when he drifted inside. Their performance was key in helping Chelsea to win the midfield battle. The Tottenham midfield on the other hand could not cope with the movement of Mata, or the creativity of Hazard and Oscar. Huddlestone looked out of his depth alongside Scott Parker. Neither could get a grip on Mata. He was managing to find space in dangerous areas constantly. He had the first effort of the match as the ball found its way to him on the edge of the area, he turned and hit a left foot volley in one motion which flew a yard over the bar.
There has been a lot of talk all season about Gareth Bale when Tottenham are mentioned, but he would hardly feature in this match. He didn’t once track Azpilicueta who overlapped Oscar to join our attacks constantly in the first half. This created another chance for Mata, as Azpilicueta ran unchecked to make a 2 v 1 situation on the right flank with Oscar, who committed Assou-Ekotto and then fed Azpilicueta, who played the ball low first time to Mata on the edge of the area, again unmarked, but his first time right foot shot flew into the Shed end. Soon after, we were ahead.
Huddlestone fouled hazard, and the resulting free kick was cleared for a corner. Mata swung in a great delivery from the right, Gary Cahill rising to head towards the far post, where Oscar had ran round the back of the statuesque Parker who should have tracked him, Oscar headed in from a yard, and our domination had been rewarded. A second before half time looked like killing this, in a similar scenario to the reverse fixture at White Hart lane, Chelsea just looked better everywhere, but especially in midfield. The opposite was to happen. Another Chelsea corner was cleared to the corner of the box in front of the west stand. Hazard and Ramires both challenged for the ball, but Lewis Holtby got there first, the ball ricocheting of Ramires back to Holtby, who was now clear of both, and indeed the whole Chelsea midfield. His ball forward left Adebayor running at goal, Azpilicueta, Cahill and Cole were all back, but Cole tracked an overlapping runner, Cahill and Azpilicueta continued to back off, seemingly leaving Adebayor for each other, as he approached the edge of the area left of centre, he curled a lofted effort over Cech’s head and into the top corner. It was a sublime finish, but the fact he had run so far without being closed down was extremely poor. Without having done much, Tottenham were now level. This lifted them but they only threatened for brief moments before the match returned to the pattern of play before they had equalised.
It was an assured performance from an attacking point of view. We have certainly improved in consistency over the last three weeks. There is less of the plan B long ball route when the measured build up doesn’t immediately take effect, and when Mata Hazard and Oscar perform at the level they have done over this time frame, then we are always going to create chances. It was in fact Fernando Torres who made our second of the night. His effort could not be questioned here, he closed down defenders all match, but all to often he was out wide when we needed a target man in the middle. It was from wide right that he cut inside, beating two defenders, before feeding the run of Ramires with a perfectly timed through ball, Ramires struck it first time on the stretch from inside the right corner of the box, a brilliant finish low into the far corner. It was what we deserved.
The second half was a continuation of the theme, but chances weren’t taken. The best of which saw Mata sent clear by Hazard, Ramires up with him to his left, Mata played him in, surely a tap in to finish Tottenham off, but Ramires slipped over before he could get the ball, not the first player to do so at the Matthew Harding end, and the chance was gone.
As time ticked on Tottenham new they needed to score, and threw Dempsey into the mix, replacing Holtby with 20 minutes to go. He joined Adebayor up top in a re-shuffle to 4-4-2. This seemed to signal a change. Tottenham now left themselves exposed as both central midfielders now joined their attacks, leaving no cover in front of the defence. They now began to create, and worryingly when we should have been shoring up the midfield, Luiz and Ramires seemed to decide they that didn’t like the idea of staying back either, what followed was a frantic final ten minutes plus stoppage time, more akin to a Basketball game. This period began with Tottenham’s leveller. Adebayor was played in down the centre, Luiz didn’t track Sigurdsson’s run from midfield, and he fired across goal into the far corner. Both teams were now throwing what seemed to be their whole midfield forward with each attack, the play went from one end to the other, as soon as one side won the ball, a single pass seemed to leave them with a run at the opposition back four. As entertaining (and nail biting!) as this was, it was poor from both sides defensively, most definitely not the sort of antics you would see from a Mourinho side. Neither were the substations from Benitez. Evidently resting and rotating, but Hazard and Oscar being removed for Moses and Benayoun did not go down well, and seemed a little negative when surely leaving them on here to help get a win would have meant that they both could have been unused on Saturday as a top four place would already have been secured?
As it is, it somehow remained 2-2, meaning that we now need a win against Aston Villa to secure Champions league football. At worst we can afford to lose one of the remaining two matches, as long as we win the other. It would be nice to have it over and done with before the Europa league final though.
Oscar 10, Ramires 39,
Cech*; Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Cahill, Cole;
Luiz, Ramires; Oscar, (Benayoun 84), Mata, Hazard, (Moses 73);
Tottenham Hotspur 4-2-3-1
Adebayor 26, Sigurdsson 80,
Lloris; Walker, Dawson*, Vertonghen, Assou-Ekotto;
Huddlestone, Parker; Lennon, (Sigurdsson 62), Holtby, (Dempsey 70), Bale;