If Wednesday was a frantic affair where we hung on through grit and determination Saturday was exactly the opposite. We took control from the opening moments and were the better team throughout. It was a terrific effort where the only thing we should feel annoyed about is that we didn’t put Chelsea away by more and do our goal difference some good.
It’s hard to pick out stars in such an all round good performance but Dawson, Modric, Assou-Ekotto and Pavlyuchenko all played out of their skins. Gareth Bale though was something else. He seemed at the centre of everything. He scored a goal, narrowly missed two others, was denied a stonewall penalty, set up chances for others and forced John Terry into the mistake that got him sent off with still a quarter of the game to go.
Against the gooners we found it difficult, in the first half anyway, to retain possession but today we kept the ball and forced them back from the kick-off. Bale, Bentley and Assou-Ekotto had all sent in crosses and shots from Pav, Defoe and Bale had all been blocked or cleared before after fifteen minutes we got our reward when Bentley’s cross flicked off Pav and Terry blocked the deflection with his arm.Â Defoe grabbed the ball for the spot-kick (to universal cries of “Oh no, not him!”) and smashed the penalty past Cech.
As half time approached Chelsea thought they’d got back into it when Malouda forced one past Gomes but a late but welcome flag from the lino cut short the celebrations in the away end. Then after 43 minutes Gareth Bale picked up a lovely ball from Pavlyuchenko wide left on the half way line and sprinted towards the area. He cut inside the floundering Ferreira and buried it past Cech on his near post. 2-0. White Hart Lane erupted and whilst it had been noisy up to this point, for the remainder of the game it was a bear pit. Sound came from all sides of the as waves of delight and belief swept over the ground. Even the top tier of the West Stand was full of raised arms clapping and scarves waving.
Chelsea reorganised at half time. Ferreira was replaced by Ivanovic and Joe Cole by Anelka. Mikel had already been swapped for Ballack so the second half began in confusion when Drogba appeared to suffer some sort of groin strain before a ball was kicked. Whether Ancelotti tried to withdraw one of his subs and grab Joe Cole back from out of the shower I don’t know but Fatty Dowd was having none of it.
Led by the brilliant Dawson we were even more dominant at the back in the second forty-five. Chelsea’s tactic of trying to slide a ball through to one of their strikers in the box continually failed. The only time they looked dangerous was when either Malouda or Zhirkov managed to get Kaboul in a one on one. They both seemed to have the easy beating of him. On the other side Drogba was trying to isolate Assou-Ekotto who dealt with him with total confidence and assurity.
Pav, Defoe, Bentley and Bale were finding space on the break and within a couple minutes John Terry’s desperate attempts to halt first Pav and then Bale run free resulted in two yellow cards. A sea of cheerful faces waved him off down the tunnel.Â Defoe had already seen a great chance to go 3-0 up saved by Cech when Chelsea still had eleven men and now they were down to ten the chances flowed. Bale twice, Bentley, Defoe and Pav all saw chances saved by the keeper or go wide.
In the third minute of the five added as extra time (most of which would’ve been due to a bout of handbags after Deco appeared to kick Huddlestone whilst he was on the floor), Kaboul allowed Lampard in front of him and he got on the end of Ballack’s cross to make it 2-1. The Chelsea end was half empty by then but all those who remained witnessed was a miss by Pavlyuchenko that he’ll not want to see again.
At one point I thought I heard someone say “I’ve had more fun in the last four days than the last 38 years”. It was only half-time then as well! But he’s right, it was so much fun today. Every player deserves huge credit for their performance especially given the emotion and energy they’d already expended in the previous seven days.
Chelsea’s charmless fans wouldn’t have enjoyed themselves quite so much. Their team played at a low tempo and almost with a lack of confidence. At the back there was space behind and in front of their back four. At the front they constantly over hit and misdirected passes.Â Their manager spent the second half man marking the fourth official moaning about anything he could think of. They’ll most probably hang on to win the title I guess, but if this is a typical showing then it doesn’t say much for everyone else that they’re the best we’ve got.
As for us, well we’ve now beaten all the other Premier League London teams at home this season. It must be a long time since that last happened. The general hope was for four points from these three games against the top three and with six in the bag already we’re ahead of target. Confidence is booming as we head to Old Trafford and we’ll have a refreshed Palacios to let off the leash and set snapping at the opposition. As Spurs fans we’re just waiting for it all to go wrong but at the moment there’s every possibility that we’ll still be in fourth as we head into a showdown at Eastlands on May 5. Bring it on.