Tottenham self-destructed as Chelsea went seven points clear at the top of the Premier League
And that’s that. Chelsea go seven clear at the top of the table. Spurs can bemoan the penalty and red card decision, which came at a crucial time, but that’s no excuse for some of their preposterous defending, either side of the incident, and so it’s very difficult for them to claim any moral high ground. Chelsea the deserved victors, yet again in this fixture. Twenty-four years and counting, then.
90 min: There will be four added minutes of this homage to the golden age of silent comedy.
Walker heads back to his own area down the Chelsea right. It’s weak and useless, allowing Ba to challenge the outrushing Lloris. He easily wins that battle, spinning around the hapless keeper and hoicking the ball into the empty net.
Oscar makes good down the right. He fires a low cross into the area. Sandro looks to trap, but has bars of soap for feet and falls over. Ba takes up possession and hammers a low shot home.
87 min: They’ve just shown a replay of the opening farce. Kaboul was standing in the middle of the park, tying his bootlaces. If he’d been concentrating, he might have been able to either intercept Vertonghen’s ludicrous backpass, or at least hassle Eto’o. But no. Spurs were the architects of their own downfall, dubious penalty decision or no.
86 min: Azpilicueta is booked for what is in all honesty a fairly common-or-garden barge in the back of Sandro. That Howard Webb rulebook in full effect, once again.
83 min: Oscar again in the middle, with a low cross coming at him from the right, this time from Willian. He gets a touch this time, but blooters it miles over the bar.
82 min: Hazard slips a ball down the right for Ba, who slips a first-time cross into the area for Oscar. But the Brazilian doesn’t get a chance to slap the ball home from six yards, because Lloris is off his line quickly to smother.
81 min: Chelsea have taken their foot off the pedal. And as a result, nothing much is going on.
79 min: Ba and Sandro attempt to kick each other’s legs clean off. Both men require treatment, having momentarily jiggered themselves. Looks like they’ll be OK. Sandro really is treading a fine line.
76 min: Eto’o is replaced by Ba. “Thanks for your concern, Scott, but I’m OK,” writes Simon McMahon of 8-min fame. “Dug out my ‘Strangeways, It’s A Riot’ T-shirt and am now Vogue-ing to the MBM after my 12th bottle of Michelob. Happy days.”
75 min: Much better from Willian this time, who rakes a long ball down the inside-left channel to release Hazard brilliantly. For once, Hazard isn’t quite on top of his game, lets the ball get under his feet a wee bit, and can’t get a decent shot away.
74 min: Willian goes on a skitter down the right, reaching the byline and rolling a piss-poor cross-cum-shot into Lloris’s hands, with blue shirts begging to be set up for a tap-in. “Why do we always have to freaking self-destruct against Chelsea - it’s not fair!” begins John Willough. “No, I’m NOT being immature, but if there’s one thing wrong with professional football, it’s that you can’t just say ‘It’s my ball and I’m going home for my tea now, so you can’t play anymore.’ Huh.”
72 min: Dawson’s hamstring has the P-Funk. He hobbles off, unable to continue. He’s replaced by Fryers. The home support are enjoying this half of football very much. Tottenham have, to a man, got faces on.
69 min: Oscar looks to burst past Sandro, and is sent tumbling by a playground shove in the chest. It’s as clear a booking as you’ll ever see. But there’s nothing doing. Referee Michael Oliver may be wondering if he’s made a bit of a mistake with that penalty and red-card decision, and could be subconsciously trying to level things up. Sandro really should be taking a walk now. But we’re playing by the Howard Webb rulebook now, it seems.
68 min: From the halfway line, Willian rakes a long right-to-left ball towards the edge of the area for Hazard, who volleys a ludicrously good first-time ball back to Eto’o. The striker twists and turns on the edge of the box, but finds his eventual shot blocked.
66 min: Chelsea hook the poor Schurrle, replacing him with Willian.
64 min: A clever flick by Hazard sends Schurrle clear down the right and into the area. A heavy touch means a corner is his only reward. From the set piece, Dawson is forced to head powerfully over his own crossbar. The second corner is mopped up in a fuss-free fashion.
63 min: Chelsea are knocking it around the back, hither and yon, this way and that. They’re clearly taking any sting that’s left out of the game. Clever Chelsea.
61 min: Paulinho comes on for Sigurdsson. What an impact Eto’o has had on this game! Everyone will be pleased with Fernando Torres for once, too.
The man who may well be Player of the Year rolls a delicious spot kick straight down the middle. Chelsea suddenly look home and hosed, in the space of four minutes! It’ll be interesting to see that penalty incident again.
59 min: AND NOW IT’S A PENALTY TO CHELSEA - AND A RED CARD FOR KABOUL! Eto’o races into the area after a low cross from the left. He falls to his knees with Kaboul behind him - and the referee hits Spurs with a double whammy. It doesn’t look like there was much contact there at all.
Vertonghen has a complete and total nervous breakdown. Under no pressure, looking up his own left wing near the centre circle, he steps on the ball and falls over. To ensure no opponent makes off with the ball, the grounded Vertonghen swivels round on his buttocks and pokes the ball back towards his own goal. It’s a suicidal pass, releasing Eto’o clear. Eto’o takes a touch, then guides the ball into the bottom left. He celebrates with a comedy old-man routine, a reference no doubt to Mourinho’s recent video faux pas. The estate of Clive Dunn should claim a royalty.
54 min: Now Sandro is booked, coming in late on Ivanovic, who was looking to burst into space down the inside-right channel. The resulting free kick is ballooned straight out of play by Cahill for a throw to Spurs near the left-hand corner flag. That’s a decent tactic in rugby, but nothing else.
53 min: Hazard is about to turn on the burners down the left, but he’s sent crashing to the turf by Naughton, who is booked for the cynical lunge.
52 min: Eto’o brings down a Terry garryowen, a gorgeous touch while tight on the left wing. His through ball down the channel for Schurrle is awful, though. No matter, Chelsea soon come back at Spurs, winning a corner down the right, but Schurrle’s delivery is appalling, allowing Adebayor to clear with ease.
49 min: A lump down the Chelsea left. Dawson fails to deal with the bouncing ball. Schurrle sends a dribbler straight at Lloris. Nothing’s quite coming off yet.
47 min: Lennon’s cross from the left hits Ivanovic smack in the coupon. He has another go, chipping to the far post. Terry guides the ball out for a corner. The ball’s zipped in from the right, Kaboul rising above Terry and planting a header straight at Cech. A lively enough start to the half by the visitors. Oscar has had a couple of semi-dangerous flicks up the other end, too. Hopefully this half will see both sides make a vast improvement.
And we’re off again! Chelsea make a change, with Lampard, teetering on the brow of the big hill, making way for Oscar. The home side kick off, then lose possession. Vertonghen makes his way down the inside-left channel, then attempts to replicate Phillipe Albert’s goal for Newcastle United against Manchester United at St James Park in 1996. The chip, from the best part of 30 yards out, floats serenely over the bar, with Cech watching it sadly.
Half-time entertainment: With events of 1990 very much in mind, we need little excuse to link to the titles of that summer’s World Cup, and reminisce awhile. The BBC’s tasteful Nessun Dorma sequence being all played out, here’s the effort from brash upstart Independent Television, which is not as bad as might be feared, and is notable for Michelangelo’s David planting the nut on three crosses bunged in from the right wing in quick succession.
And there, in bright orange type, is all that needs to be said.
45 min: There will be two added minutes of this. I’m not sure anyone’s particularly enthused by that news.
44 min: Eto’o looks to take on Kaboul in a footrace down the right. He falls over his own feet, and brazenly claims a free kick. It speaks volumes that none of the Chelsea fans nearby can be bothered to join in.
43 min: Matic twists and turns down the left, and forces a corner off Adebayor. It’s Chelsea’s first corner, and it’s worked short. Hazard cuts into the area and has a blast, but the shot’s blocked.
41 min: Dawson attempts to release Lennon down the left with a spectacular diagonal ball. It’s spectacular all right, but not in the way he intends. Twenty rows back, a pair of glasses is knocked off some poor punter’s nose.
40 min: Lampard is booked for a dismal slide through the back of Sandro as the Spurs man looks to break down the right wing. He can have no complaints.
38 min: Neither side can string more than a couple of passes together at the moment. After a promising opening half hour, with bursts of quality shown by both sides, this is pretty damn poor all of a sudden.
35 min: Walker brushes Hazard off the ball with extreme disdain, then makes for the Chelsea area. It’s brilliant harrying, but unfortunately for Spurs there’s no end product, as Walker nearly runs the ball out of play with a heavy touch, then sends a weak low cross straight into the hands of Cech by the near post.
32 min: A bit of a lull. “That Spurs pic is an incredibly flimsy excuse for sharing this clip of ZZ Top in their pre-80’s drum machine, power-trio pomp, but share it I must,” insists Grant Tennille, in an email with the heading ‘The sartorial panache of a bygone era’. “Getting misty-eyed for a time when stern challenges yielded only stern words, and collars were god-damn COLLARS. Hallelujah!”
29 min: Lampard, taking a free kick to the right of the centre circle, whips the ball to the far post. Matic heads weakly wide. Spurs look to shuttle upfield, but Bentaleb gives the ball away cheaply, allowing Eto’o to make his way back towards the Spurs box. Kaboul does fantastically well to guide the striker wide right, and eventually forces him to shoot wide right.
27 min: Spurs push Chelsea back well, Adebayor bringing down a raking crossfield ball on the left-hand edge of the D, then feeding Lennon, who twists and turns along a rococo route before seeing his snapshot easily blocked.
25 min: Twice in a minute, Schurrle is caught offside when attempting to break clear down the middle. Chelsea have obviously decided to sit back, soak up any pressure, and ping forward with malicious intent. It’s nearly worked on a few occasions now.
23 min: Matic could easily have been booked for a cynical clip on Walker in the centre circle, but gets away with it. From the free kick, the ball finds Sandro, 25 yards out. His low fizzer, sent towards the bottom left, is dealt with by Cech at full stretch. The corner results in a mild kerfuffle, but there’s no real drama.
22 min: More good possession for Spurs in the middle of the park, though they’re not really doing much with it. Jose Mourinho will be happy enough with the way this is panning out, given the way Chelsea have been breaking.
19 min: After a decent spell, Spurs look to have gained a foothold in this game, then all of a sudden they nearly fall apart at the back again. Lampard slide-rules a pass down the right and is an inch or so away from releasing Eto’o, but Dawson extends a toenail to poke back to his keeper before the striker can break clear.
16 min: Azpilicueta comes in late on Lennon, flicking the Spurs man into the air. It doesn’t seem particularly malicious, and the referee doesn’t act, but you’ve seen yellow cards given, and on the touchline Tim Sherwood reacts accordingly. The resulting free kick, swung in from the right, results in a wee bit of Spurs pressure which eventually sees Ivanovic head out for a corner. Catching practise for Cech.
14 min: Spurs have been on the back foot for most of this, yet they so nearly take the lead. Adebayor wins a towering header, flicking the ball down the inside left for Bentaleb. The midfielder’s got options in the middle, but opts to romp into the box himself, before dragging a weak shot across the face of goal, the ball rolling apologetically out of play to the right of the target. Walker, one of his free team-mates in the middle, has the funk on.
11 min: Hazard draws three white shirts towards him on the left wing, then chips an outrageously tight one-two with Lampard, scooting off with the ball down the wing. His cross is too strong for the blue shirts in the centre, but that was lovely to watch.
9 min: Ramires turns Bentaleb in the centre circle, a quick break on his mind. Bentaleb rugby tackles him, and receives a yellow card for his trouble. It’s a really scrappy start by Spurs, who really need to clear their heads.
8 min: Spurs force a corner down the left on their first sortie upfield. The ball’s cleared at the near post by Schurrle, Sigurdsson’s delivery poor, but that’ll give Spurs a bit of heart nevertheless after a torrid start. “1990. 1990. Italia 90. Murrayfield. Nick Faldo. The Stone Roses. Happy days.” I think Simon McMahon may be in tears. Does anyone live near him? Maybe pop round to check he’s OK?
6 min: Why are Spurs playing such a high back line? It’s like Andre Villas-Boas never went away.
4 min: What on earth is Lloris on? Actually, the entire Spurs defence, come to that? The back line is split asunder again, Eto’o sliding a pass down the middle this time. Hazard picks up the ball, and rounds the advancing Lloris on the right. Lloris is fortunate he doesn’t make contact this time, as again he’d be off for an early soak. Instead, Hazard stays on his feet but can’t quite wrap his foot around the ball to bury it from the edge of the area. It flies wide right of the target. Another huge let-off for Spurs, who are all over the shop here!
3 min: Eto’o had taken quite a whack from Lloris, and it’s a while before he’s up and about. Surely Chelsea aren’t about to lose two strikers before the 20-second mark is up? Nope. He’s OK.
And we’re off! Spurs get the ball rolling, and the crowd demonstrate their excitement in the musical style. Mohamed Salah is the late addition to Chelsea’s bench, incidentally, in the wake of Torres’s injury. Within 20 seconds, Hazard pings the ball through the centre for Eto’o to chase. He’s clear! Lloris comes out of his area and cleans the striker out. Fortunately for the visitors, Eto’o has been flagged offside - incorrectly as it happens, for Eto’o was level as the pass was played. That would have been a comically early red card for the keeper. But play had been pulled back before contact had been made. Lucky Spurs.
The teams are out! And they’re revised teams, because Fernando Torres has managed to upset his physical equilibrium in the warm-up - a groin problem, so we hear - so Chelsea have replaced him with Samuel Eto’o: Cech, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Lampard, Matic, Ramires, Hazard, Schurrle, Eto’o.
So out the Cameroonian legend trots in the famous blue kit ...
... while Spurs have no need to change out of their equally beloved all-white tops.
Handshakes all round, and we’ll be off in a minute!
Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Lampard, Matic, Ramires, Hazard, Schurrle, Torres.
Subs: Oscar, Mikel, Ba, Willian, Schwarzer, Eto’o, Kalas.
Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris, Naughton, Dawson, Kaboul, Vertonghen, Sandro, Bentaleb, Walker, Sigurdsson, Lennon, Adebayor.
Subs: Paulinho, Soldado, Townsend, Chadli, Friedel, Fryers, Kane.
Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland)
10 February 1990. Margaret Thatcher was still Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. East and West Germany had yet to be officially reunified. Nelson Mandela was only just about to be released from the jug, while Mike Tyson was busy losing his heavyweight belts for the first time. And Luton Town, Millwall, Coventry City and Wimbledon all competed in the First Division. It was a long, long, long time ago.
This, of course, was when the following 13 men - Erik Thorstvedt, Chris Hughton, Pat van den Hauwe, John Polston, David Howells, Gary Mabbutt, Paul Walsh, Paul Gascoigne, Nayim, Gary Lineker, Steve Sedgley and substitutes Paul Moran and John Moncur - won a football match at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge stadium while trading under the collective banner of Tottenham Hotspur. It was a long, long, long time ago. And Spurs haven’t managed a win in the league there since.
But never mind that! They’ve drawn on their last two visits, 0-0 in 2012, 2-2 last year. Which to be fair, seeing everyone’s beating up on them about their lack of a win, is still a better recent record on the Fulham Broadway than a lot of other Premier League clubs can boast. So, swings and roundabouts, then. Chelsea will fancy their chances of stretching their lead at the top of the table to seven points, while Spurs will hold out hope of grabbing at least a point in their pursuit of fourth place. In conclusion: IT’S ON!!!
Kick off: 5.30pm.