We were only at our best in this game for the first ten minutes and thankfully scored during this period because we were below par and marginally inferior for most of the rest of the game. It was a stuttering performance in a stop start 90 minutes full of interruptions as Chelsea players periodically collapsed to the floor with mysterious injuries whilst referee Webb fell for every dive and theatrical tumble. We started full of confidence and purpose with Bale looking unstoppable. After eight minutes Sandro won the ball from Sturridge and moved it on to the imperious Welshman. He sped off towards Bosingwa whose tactic of showing him the outside backfired when Bale found enough space to curl a lovely cross in front of Adebayor who beat Cech with one touch.
Chelsea responded well and whilst we created hardly anything else in the half, they equalised and created several other opportunities with Drogba smacking the post with the best one. The second half followed a similar pattern but in reverse. The visitors began on top and created openings but we could and should have scored on several occasions in the final few minutes as Bale, Sandro, Gallas and most agonisingly Adebayor all went close.
There were good performances throughout the side but the lack of an adequate replacement for Lennon was an obstacle we never properly overcame. Van der Vaart started nominally on the right and Modric finished there. All this meant was that two of our main creative influences were once again largely peripheral to the play unless they came inside into an already overcrowded midfield. Kyle Walker was exposed for Sturridge’s goal as Rafa failed to track Ashley Cole’s run into the area, his arm assisted control of the ball may have been given as a free-kick by some officials, not this one though, oh no. Walker though was a huge influence in the second half as he at times appeared to be alone in carrying our attack forward down his side. His runs are often as full of aggression and pace as skill and artistry but their effect was to keep Cole on the back foot as he dared not give the youngster too much room.
Bale was the best attacking player on the field by some distance, the ball sticking to his magic left peg as he slalomed and hurdled through the Chelsea midfielders and defenders. Their tactic was to try and crowd him out; he made one goal though, might have had one himself and so nearly created the winner for Adebayor at the death. As the stand out Spurs player Sandro was not far behind him. He and Parker in the middle together look on paper like a formidable pairing, in this game though and it was the same at West Brom, it was clear that something’s not right. Whether they’re too similar or not I don’t know but there often appeared too much space in front of Gallas and King for the Chelsea midfielders to move the ball about and run in to. Again it’s probably all down to the balance in the midfield.
Friedel had no chance with the goal, made a couple of handling errors but also made an outstanding save at the feet of Ramires in the second half. Gallas was excellent and King once again a marvel. Benny coped with the dangerous Sturridge pretty well, his distribution though was well below par for him. Parker was his normal self and Sandro a growing influence on the game as it went on. His determination at one point to keep the ball in with his head despite lying prone off the field roused the crowd and triggered the wave of attacks near the end that so nearly led to us snatching a win that had looked unlikely for a lot of the game.
Another injury, Van der Vaart out again with his hamstring, and only a point but with a number of home games to come punctuated by two trips to newly promoted sides we can’t moan too much. At the moment the Moneybags League spots look like they’re heading to Manchester and two of us, Chelsea and Robin Van Persie. Not even halfway through the season but tension is already mounting.
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