Saturday, 28 September 2013

Match Report: Tottenham 1-1 Chelsea, Premier League, 28/9/2013, White Hart Lane

Tottenham 1
-Sigurdsson 20

Chelsea 1
- Terry 65
Torres sent off 81

Billed as master vs apprentice for the first time, I didn't quite feel like Obi-Wan vs Anakain in Revenge of the Sith but more like Luke vs Vader in The Empire Strikes Back. AVB, the young, fresh uncut gem of a hero playing the role of the Jedi, taking on the older,  smarter, evil Sith Lord in Mourinho who proved he is still the better fighter despite not getting the result he wanted.

Mourinho left out Juan Mata again. Not a surprise to anyone I'd imagine. Andre Schurrle was the surprise omission for me as he went with Ramires on the right flank (despite seeming to criticise Benitez playing him there last week) with Hazard on the left and Oscar in the middle. Torres replaced Eto'o up front in having impressed against Swindon in mid-week. Villas-Boas stuck with the same side that beat Cardiff a week ago, again ignoring his record signing Erik Lamela in favour of the in-form Andros Townsend. Two goals at Villa on Tuesday was not enough for Jermaine Defoe to oust Robert Soldado from the side and he started on the bench.

Starting Line-Ups
Chelsea started the better. It was clear they were trying to implement Mourinho's long diagonal approach he mentioned last week, trying to beat the offside trap and find space for Hazard, Torres and Ramires in behind the Spurs defence. This had little effect throughout the game and despite dominating possession, Chelsea found themselves behind on 19 minutes thanks to some superb link-up play from Eriksen and Soldado and a great run from Sigurdsonn. It was just this play that Chelsea were lacking from their own striker in the first half.

Chelsea looked flustered and it took them a few minutes to find their rhythm again but once they did they turned up the pressure on Spurs, enjoying a period of dominance in the run up to half time. They temporarily abandoned the long ball approach and instead favoured crosses. Again this approach bore no fruit, Fernando Torres is many things but a target man is not one of them. Lampard and Mikel's performances in midfield were very good, they ensured Chelsea dominated possession and kept their direct opponents Dembele and Paulinho quiet for much of the first period. A chance for Paulinho right on the stroke of half time being his only moment to remember. Terry and Luiz at the back too did what they had to do very well and kept recycling possession for the team.

Second half saw the introduction of the much talked about Juan Mata. He was put on in his preferred number ten slot, behind Torres with Oscar moved to  the left and Hazard to the right. Ramires moved into the centre to partner Lampard while Mikel made way. He did virtually nothing wrong all game but its often a victim of his own defensiveness. 

Mata's impact was crucial but not as much as that of a rejuvenated Fernando Torres who came out for the second half looking an entirely different player, leading the line wonderfully, creating chances for himself and others. This is exactly the type of striker Chelsea need right now and the one they thought they bought from Liverpool for £50m almost three years ago. 

Chelsea once again tried to use the long diagonal method to set up the two new wingers Oscar and Hazard but it was from a set piece that they got their equaliser. A Juan Mata free kick conceded by Vertonghen found the head of John Terry who scored his 33rd Premier League goal for Chelsea. An amazing achievement for a centre half, the most prolific in Premier League history.

From this point on Chelsea were the only side who looked like getting a winner. They piled the pressure on Spurs when they didn't have the ball and dominated possession for the rest of the game. Christian Eriksen failed to make any sort of notable impact in the second half and was replaced by Lewis Holtby. Chelsea were by no means all over Spurs and I think Mourinho would have taken a draw with about 15 minutes to go. As he said himself now, Spurs are title contenders and a point at White Hart Lane is not so much two easy ones dropped anymore.

The Chelsea boss will be left feeling aggrieved however due to an incident between Torres and Jan Vertonghen. This was not the first time these two had clashed. A little scrap between the two in the corner had left some observers feeling Torres should have been sent off there and then. He was dismissed on 81 minutes in an aerial challenge with Vertonghen where he was somehow deemed to be the offender. It seemed ridiculous, but perhaps the referee had the previous incident in mind and saw this as an opportunity to put things right and sent Torres off for a second yellow.

This effectively put and end to any Chelsea offence. They sat back with nine men behind the ball with only Juan Mata up top and let Spurs come at them with everything they had. What Villas-Boas would have done to still have Christian Eriksen on the pitch right about now. The role of primary play-maker fell to Moussa Dembele and he created a golden chance for substitute Jermaine Defoe but Cech was equal to it and the game fizzled out into a 1-1 draw. Both sides would have taken that before kick-off. And  probably also on 75 minutes if truth be told. But the harsh dismissal of Torres will have left Chelsea feeling a burning sense of injustice. Both these sides are title contenders and the bitter taste left in Chelsea mouth after this game could spark this already heated rivalry into one of the league's fiercest.

Player Ratings


Lloris - 7.0
Walker - 7.0
Dawson - 6.9
Vertonghen - 7.2
Naughton - 6.4
Sigurdsonn - 6.5
Dembele - 8.2
Paulinho - 7.0
Townsend - 7.1
Eriksen - 7.2
Soldado - 6.5
Chadli (Townsend 62) - 6.2
Holtby (Eriksen 70) - 6.6
Defoe (Soldado 76) - 7.0


Cech - 7.2
Ivanovic - 7.5
Terry - 7.4
Luiz - 7.2
Cole - 6.8
Mikel - 7.2
Lampard - 7.6
Ramires - 7.0
Oscar - 6.4
Hazard - 6.4
Torres - 7.6

Mata (Mikel 46) - 7.8
Schurrle (Hazard 70) - 6.2
Azpilicueta (Oscar 82) n/a

Man of the Match: Moussa Dembele - Tottenham

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