Chelsea neuter Gareth Bale threat but fail to exert midfield strength

Chelsea struggled to impose themselves on Tottenham but they grew into a hectic game as it progressed

Without Didier Drogba to help power Chelsea's attacks they looked somewhat punchless and short of forward passing options in the first half. Tottenham, working to regain shape quickly when possession was lost, were the more purposeful and dangerous team.

Chelsea sat Paulo Ferreira tight on Gareth Bale, discouraging the Welshman from collecting the ball and making those long, searing runs. Tottenham attempted to exploit the space created between the touchline and the right‑sided centre‑back, Branislav Ivanovic, to initiate attacks. Jermain Defoe's early pass delivered from this area gave Roman Pavlyuchenko the chance that he took so well, albeit John Terry looked sluggish in his challenge. Subsequently he surged forward on three occasions after winning tackle to send messages to his lacklustre colleagues for the opening goal.

I had expected Ramires, Mikel John Obi and Michael Essien to control the centre of midfield against Tottenham's twosome but with Wilson Palacios and Luka Modric helped by the workaholic wide men Bale and Aaron Lennon Chelsea failed to exert themselves enough in this area. They could not discourage the creative Croatian Modric and they needed to nail him as he sprayed passes, ran with the ball and tackled the more fearsome-looking players.

Tottenham, building from the back, with Heurelho Gomes intelligently throwing the ball at every opportunity, built quick attacks, triggered by the running of Defoe into space and Bale spinning to support. Chelsea invited this pass and Ivanovic coped with the threat quite well. Bale, though not entirely nullified, was less effective than usual.

Drogba duly arrived for the second period. His equaliser, where his power rattled Michael Dawson and his fierce shot was mishandled by Gomes, was vital. At that stage Chelsea, playing with more passion, looked a better bet. Modric continued to provide but the midfield area became a no man's land, wasteful attacks by the home team followed by wasteful attacks by the away side. It was cut and thrust, but there were loose contributions from experienced internationals – thrilling, but more harum scarum than a technical masterclass.

The visitors continued to nullify the Bale threat and when Defoe was surprisingly substituted this attacking out-ball disappeared. Chelsea, way short of their early-season rhythm, looked unconvincing. But Bale, Tottenham's main weapon in their recent run of success, had difficulty in finding clear patches to exploit.

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