Mike Dean tried, but in the end failed, to ruin this very tense and even, lunchtime squabble. His inability to stop the feud going on between Vertonghen and Torres ultimately led to the latter being sent off, an action that arguably saved our bacon as by then we were struggling to keep any possession whatsoever and personally I was fearing the worst.
In the period before Torres was asked to leave the scene of the crimes, it looked like the pressure from the away team might win the day: Lloris was being called into action far too often and despite having nothing to do before half-time, by the end he was vying with Dembele for the honour of being our Man of the Match. A loss would’ve been unfair though as up to the break we were the better side and Paulinho was the width of a post away from giving us a two goal lead that may well have been game defining.
That first half featured much smart and snappy midfield scrapping from Paulinho and Dembele and some sparkling wing play from Townsend who regularly showed Cole a clean pair of heels and helped keep Chelsea on the back foot. Sigurdsson scored expertly after a move involving Eriksen and Soldado that was similar to the opening goal against Norwich. Eriksen had initially made space with a lovely turn away from Hazard I think and after Soldado laid it off, Siggy did superbly to get a shot away when Terry looked favourite to clear. We remained the better team, evinced by the frustrated ball hoofing of Luiz and Ramires and when Paulinho was put in by Townsend after some great work by him and Walker it looked like we’d get our reward but from an angle the Brazilian beat the Cech but not the Pole, erm sorry, the post.
The second half was as bad for us as the first was good. Chelsea got in our faces and with the extra craft Mata provided after being brought on for Mikel, they slowly turned the screw, mostly through Torres getting the better of one-on-ones when Dawson or others were left isolated against him. In response, Dembele excepted, our midfield couldn’t get going at all and we lost grip completely where it had appeared total in the first forty-five. Townsend was withdrawn for Chadli shortly before Terry was given an almost free header from a Mata free-kick to equalise. Personally I think finding a way to introduce Sandro would’ve been a better move such was our inability to keep hold of the ball for more than a few seconds at a time.
Lloris saved at the feet of Torres and Schurrle and Chelsea were definitely on top when Dean intervened. Torres had had the best half of football I personally have seen him have since he stopped dressing in red. After the game we learned that he was unlucky to go, we also learned that given his claw across Jan’s face not seen by the ref, he was lucky to still be on in the first place.
Against ten men the momentum shifted back in our favour and we nearly stole a winner. Defoe was put in by Dembele but tamely side footed at Cech and Sigurdsson sent a volley inches wide. The away team and fans celebrated with vigour at the close which says more about us than them.
As intense and crucially vital as this game felt there was an incident in the Paxton Road stand near the beginning that was a reminder that one should retain perspective. A few minutes after kick off a man collapsed in his seat with what looked like a heart attack. He was aided by those around him and according to a steward asked at the end of the game, he made it to hospital safely. Good luck to him and well done to those who helped him through.
A bit of a strange week ahead, Anzhi away and then the Hamsters at home. COYS.
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