Sunday, 12 December 2010

TOTTENHAM 1 CHELSEA 1

Substitute Didier Drogba saw an injury-time penalty saved as out-of-form Chelsea were held to a draw in an absorbing contest at Tottenham.
Heurelho Gomes palmed away the Ivorian's effort after he brought down Ramires with an untidy challenge.
The Brazilian goalkeeper was earlier at fault as he spilled Drogba's fierce drive to allow the Blues to pull level.
Roman Pavlyuchenko's neat control and precise finish had put the hosts ahead as Spurs started far the brighter.
Such was Spurs' dominance early on Chelsea appeared likely to suffer a fourth Premier League defeat in seven matches.
And although they rallied, a third consecutive league draw means Carlo Ancelotti's side have only taken six points from their last seven games and are still without a domestic win since the sacking of assistant manager Ray Wilkins on 11 November.
The Blues, though, will at least take heart from a second-half revival sparked by Drogba's introduction at the interval.
The Ivorian had been left out of the starting 11 with Nicolas Anelka in as the sole striker as Carlo Ancelotti looked to shock his stuttering side into life, but an experiment last trialled in defeat by Liverpool was unsuccessful once again.
Despite two early strikes from Michael Essien, Chelsea opened in nervy fashion with first Saloman Kalou and then Branislav Ivanovic committing basic errors as Spurs advanced with menace.
A cute flick from Luka Modric triggered a forward charge from Wilson Palacios but the former Wigan man could not pick out a telling pass to the groans of the crowd.
However the home fans did not have to wait long.
Jermain Defoe swept a ball across after meandering in from the left flank and Pavlyuchenko's superb first touch took him clear of the attentions of John Terry and Jon Mikel Obi. Having found space, he drilled a low shot inside Petr Cech's near post.
The setback did little to instil confidence in a Chelsea rearguard that has been unusually generous of late and a ruffled Ivanovic only just managed to shepherd the ball back to Cech as Modric nipped at his heels.
At the other end Kalou, charged with supplementing the attack in the absence of Drogba, got on the end of crosses from Ramires and Anelka, but could not make meaningful contact with either.
Chelsea's attacking struggles persuaded Terry to twice desert his defensive post in an attempt to add some muscle to his side's forward line and he was lurking dangerously as a Florent Malouda's cross floated over the six-yard box.
But Tottenham, with Alan Hutton and Assou-Ekotto impressive at the back, comfortably contained a Chelsea attack that had routinely devastated defences in the early days of the season.
A glanced header from Kalou wide of the post and an Anelka run that demanded a stretching intervention from Sebastien Bassong were as close as the hosts came to being breached before the break.
Ancelotti sacrificed the midfield cover of Mikel at the interval to introduce Drogba in an attempt to revive a misfiring attack that had scored only three goals in their previous six games.
The early signs were that the momentum remained with Harry Redknapp's men as a long-range shots from Defoe and Modric faded wide and Ashley Cole chased an overhit pass from Terry in vain to jeers from the stands.
But a hearty thump from distance from Drogba signalled the first spell of sustained pressure from the Blues.
Gomes dived low to his left to palm away the Ivorian's effort and had to be alert to tip over a stray defensive header from Wilson Palacios moments later.
Tottenham thrust back though and Hutton came close to finding the forehead of Peter Crouch with a floated cross. The striker lacked the power to get a strong connection on the ball - in stark contrast to Drogba who levelled shortly afterwards.
As Michael Dawson - in his first appearance in more than three months - attempted to deal with a bouncing ball, Drogba, with the hint of an arm, hustled ahead of the defender and drove a powerful shot straight at Gomes from an acute angle.
The Brazilian took the full force of the shot in his chest but could not stop its forward momentum as it looped off him and into the net.
Essien became an increasingly dominant presence in midfield as Chelsea scented three valuable points.
The action swung from end to end as fellow substitute Daniel Sturridge almost profited from Drogba's near-post flick-on and Lennon found the hoardings from outside the box.
But Gomes' second major error appeared to hand Chelsea the contest as he charged into Ramires as the midfielder hunted Drogba's flick.
But he redeemed himself in dramatic fashion, plunging to his left to push Drogba's attempt away to keep Spurs fifth in the table - five points behind league leaders Arsenal who face Manchester United on Monday.



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