And I would love to report that David Moyes has just trundled into view, wearing a large pair of outsized plastic spectacles and a revolving bow tie. But he hasn't. Sorry.
FULL TIME: Chelsea 2-2 Tottenham Hotspur
And that's that. Chelsea nudge closer to next year's Champions League, while Spurs stay on Arsenal's shoulder. Neither manager seems particularly unhappy as they shake hands: Spurs will be happy enough with a point after being second best for much of the game but digging in staunchly to equalise twice, while Chelsea only (16 goal swings aside) need three more points to make sure of a place at Europe's top table next season.
90 min +3: ... loops a pretty tame effort straight down Cech's gullet. Chelsea go up the other end, Torres looking briefly threatening down the inside left, but Vertonghen puts a stop to his gallop.
90 min +2: Ramires clatters into Bale as the latter makes his way down the inside-right channel. That's a free kick, 25 yards out, just to the right of the posts. Ramires is booked for the foul, or perhaps kicking the ball away afterwards. Bale stands over the set piece, and ...
90 min +1: Dempsey gets the ball at his feet, at a tight angle to the right of goal. He hits low and true, but Cech is positioned well, and gathers at the near post.
90 min: "Good to have a proper ding-dong meaningful end of season match to follow," opines Simon McMahon, "seeing as there's not been much else to talk about today." Yep, preach on, brother. There will be four added minutes, you'll be glad to hear.
89 min: Adebayor and Sigurdsson have got the taste for backheels, in the wake of that goal, and they exchange flicks down the left wing. Adebayor is upended, affording Spurs the chance to swing a free kick into the box. What follows isn't worth describing, and fortunately I'm not on piece work.
87 min: Bale is booked for a cynical tug on ... eh ... he's infringed the laws of association football, I can tell you that much, and has been booked accordingly. Soccer reporting, right here!
85 min: Much to the audible displeasure of the home fans, Oscar is withdrawn not for Lampard but Benayoun. "Chelsea will have the hot heat about the flag not going up?" wonders Kyle McWhirter. "So will Arsenal..."
84 min: This match was pootling along for much of the second period, but now there's one hell of an atmosphere as both teams go at it hammer and tongs. Torres isn't far away from getting his head to a Mata cross from the left. Then Bale has a whack from distance, but skelps the ball miles over. This is good old-fashioned knife-edge nonsense all of a sudden.
82 min: A bit of karmic payback for the non-offside decision, as Adebayor is incorrectly flagged as he goes haring after a long rake down the middle. Not sure his first touch passed muster there, but now it's Tottenham's turn to raise an eyebrow at the performance of Flag Person out there on the right touchline.
GOAL!!! Chelsea 2-2 Tottenham Hotspur (Sigurdsson 80)
What a lovely move from Spurs this is! Assou-Ekotto curls a ball from the left into Adebayor, just inside the area and with his back to goal. Adebayor backflicks towards the onrushing Sigurdsson, who suddenly finds himself in space and with only Cech to beat. And he plants a determined effort into the bottom right corner. Chelsea will have the hot heat about this, because Adebayor was a couple of inches offside as he received the pass from Assou-Ekotto. But the flag didn't go up.
79 min: And sure enough, having said that, Vertonghen sees yellow for clipping Torres's heels as the striker looks to make ground down the middle, then kicking the ball away. Luiz rasps the free kick, from 35 yards out, straight down Lloris's throat.
77 min: A corner for Spurs. As has been the pattern of this match, for both teams, the ball's soon being shuttled up the other end of the pitch. Adebayor puts a stop to Chelsea's gallop by clattering into Mata. No yellows in this game yet, the match having been played in a very pleasant spirit.
74 min: Bale is upended by the telescopic leg of the towering Oscar. No free kick, because Spurs are given an advantage, Chelsea light at the back, Huddlestone with the ball at his feet and time in the centre. The Spurs midfielder then plays the most idiotic ball in the history of the entire Premier League, and also the last 35 years of the old First Division, clanking it straight into the stand with options all around him. Spurs can't be affording this.
73 min: Chelsea make their first change. Hazard, who appears to be limping, trots off to warm applause. Moses takes his place.
71 min: Adebayor's been very quiet, the spectacular goal apart, but now he looks to hook a long throw down the left over his head and towards the newly arrived Dempsey. It doesn't come off, but there's a sign that Spurs may have decided to throw the dice now before it's too late.
70 min: Holtby is sacrificed for Dempsey.
69 min: Hazard has been Chelsea's star performer. He slides a ball down the left to release Mata, but the Spaniard's cross, looking for Torres, is way too deep.
67 min: Bale drops a shoulder going down the inside right channel, and then drops to the turf, but the referee, correctly decides the nearby Cole has done little wrong. We play on.
65 min: Hazard has been a busy bee this evening, and he's upended as he looks to make trouble down the left. It's a dangerous position for a free kick, ten yards from the byline, but Chelsea can't do anything with it. This match is going through a strange lull at the moment. Not much going on, yet still a sense that there may be more goals in this.
62 min: Lennon is hooked for Sigurdsson.
60 min: ... Chelsea break upfield. Mata's clear down the inside right, but Assou-Ekotto catches up well to hold him up. No worries, because Mata simply checks and rolls the ball inside for the onrushing Ramires, who will be able to take a couple of touches before scoring. Unfortunately for Chelsea, he trips, skates along on both big toes awhile, then falls face down into the turf. It's the most undignified pratfall since the days of Charlie Drake, although thankfully the only thing Ramires injures is his pride.
59 min: Walker is set on a dance along the right by Bale. Hazard impatiently upends him. This is a free kick in a very dangerous position. So Huddlestone witlessly drives it straight into the first man at the near post - Luiz - and there goes that chance. But where there's Bale, there's hope for Spurs, and the player of the year skedaddles down the same wing and wins a corner. From which ...
56 min: What a miss by Hazard. He scampers after a ball down the inside left channel. Dawson should cut it out, but skitters hysterically across the turf on his arse instead, allowing the Chelsea man to wheech into the box. Luckily for Spurs, Hazard slightly overruns the ball so can't take a first time shot. Instead, he checks, and still should get a shot on target, and probably score, but instead of sweeping past Lloris from the left-hand edge of the six-yard box, leans back and hoicks an effort miles over. That's three rugby points, none of which are any good to Chelsea.
54 min: Azpilicueta, in space down the right, looks to find Mata in the middle, but so nearly loops a strange outswinger into the top left. The ball misses the upright by inches and sails out for a goal kick. Spurs are getting pinned back here.
52 min: Luiz whips a low ball in from the right. Torres looks to backheel one into the bottom right from the six-yard line, but he doesn't quite connect properly. He's nearly in again less than 30 seconds later, after Mata nearly breaks clear down the right, is held up by Walker, and stands one up into the middle for the striker to not quite get his head onto it. That's another corner, which once again is wasted. But Chelsea are beginning to look lively again.
50 min: The gangly Oscar - an Ian Ormondroyd for the ages, if you will - dances down the right, where he's getting plenty of ball, and wins another corner. Another wasted corner. This half hasn't quite sparked into life yet, with the atmosphere taken down a notch from the incendiary early exchanges of the first half.
47 min: Oscar - all 5ft 11ins of him, so perhaps not so much of a wee man - finds a bit of room down the right and swings in a low ball that's deflected out for a corner. Not for the first time, Spurs clear the set piece easily and swish upfield on the counter, winning a corner of their own through Walker down the left. Nothing comes of the set piece, though. Meanwhile here's Chelsea fan Luke Garatt, giving me the opportunity to use the List function on our MBM tool for the second entry in a row, surely a first on the Football site. "Two things as a Blues fan:
- Benitez's other achievement has been to fade out Lampard and more importantly Terry without leaving the young guard looking lost or fragile
- Mourinho's a jammy bugger. Walking into another freshly well built squad and now the bonus of not having SAF pose a considerable challenge!
Are two entries enough to justify a numbered list? Dunno. But do you know what? Jimmy crack corn, and I don't care. We're using it, baby!
We're off again!
So, here's what we haven't seen so far:
- A coherent Spurs performance
- David Moyes
- A 21-man bench-emptying fistfight with assorted members of backroom staff, having popped down the tunnel to have a root around in the nearest cupboard, haring into view wielding mops, brooms, and vacuum cleaner tools
Still got 45 minutes to go, mind, so it's all to play for. Spurs get the ball rolling again, kicking towards the shops and
seedy knocking shop luxury hotel.
Local half-time advertisements (brought to you by Thames)
A little something every Londoner can enjoy, no matter which team they support. Even if the sexual politics are a little, eh, of their time.
HALF TIME: Chelsea 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur
Parker diddles in from the left and looks to bend one into the top right, Adebayor Style. But he's got too much elevation on it. And that's that for the first half. A big 45 minutes for both these teams coming up. The lesser-spotted David Moyes is missing a cracker.
44 min: Chelsea are finishing the half strongly, as you'd expect after the goal. First Torres nearly breaks clear down the inside right, then Oscar has a whack from the edge of the area after being cleverly picked out by Hazard. For all the grief he's been getting, Benitez has found a way to get all of that attacking talent playing as one, with an upsurge in form for Mr Torres to boot. Jose should send him a bottle of wine and a bunch of flowers by way of thanks.
42 min: Spurs get their gamefaces back on, and Walker exchanges a snappy one-two with Adebayor as he romps into the area from the right. His eventual shot isn't brilliant - he tries to give Cech the eyes and slide a pass into the bottom right, instead of the more obvious wang towards the top left - but it's decent enough as a response. Spurs will need to summon up plenty more of this if their season isn't about to be taken out of their control.
40 min: Spurs look more resigned than miserable.
GOAL!!! Chelsea 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur (Ramires 39)
This is a simple move, but a delicious finish. Torres is in a bit of space down the right, and he draws Vertonghen before poking a ball between the Spurs defender and Dawson, allowing Ramieres to scamper after it and, from the right-hand edge of the D, curl a first-time effort into the bottom left.
37 min: Vertonghen, from the left-back position, sprays a long ball forward towards Adebayor. The Spurs striker gets ahead of Cole, and swings a leg at the ball, hoicking it miles over the bar. That used to be called route-one football, but isn't any more now the players aren't 20 stone, don't wear headbands to hide questionable scarring, and no longer wander around all the time with their fists clenched and eyes narrowed.
35 min: A bit of space for Bale down the inside right this time, and he's this close to dropping a shoulder, skating past Cahill inside the area, and getting a shot away. But the Chelsea defender, sliding across on the business portion of his shorts, manages to somehow get a leg in the way to put paid to Bale's scheme.
33 min: Another Chelsea corner down the right, but Spurs deal better with this one, Dawson going nose to unbroken nose with Cahill on the penalty spot and getting the ball out of harm's way.
30 min: Spurs were doing nothing before that goal, but now they've got their tails up. Bale goes on a skedaddle down the inside left, and so nearly breaks into the box, but Cahill and Azpiulicueta gang up to take the ball off his toe. We've a proper game here now.
28 min: That goal has, unsurprisingly, given Tottenham succour. Parker looks to break down the inside-right channel, but... well, he's not the fastest is he.
WHAT A GOAL THIS IS!!! Chelsea 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur (Adebayor 26)
The ball's swung into the Spurs box from the left. It breaks to the edge of the area. Hazard has a low lash, but it's cleared upfield, whereupon Spurs break down the inside-left channel. Adebayor has the ball, and 30 yards out, he opens up his body and, spotting Cech off his line, curves the most gorgeous shot you'll ever see into the top-right corner. What a finish! Chelsea were hoist by their own petard then, a mere 19 seconds after taking their own corner.
25 min: Hazard drops a shoulder to skate past Walker down the left, and then wallops a rising shot right up Dawson's hooter. That's a corner on the left, and I am genuinely surprised that poor Dawson's face hasn't opened out into net form. And from the corner ...
22 min: Another free kick for Chelsea in the Spurs area, nearly 40 yards out. Time for Luiz to take a hack at goal, then. He blooters it straight into the face of an unfortunate Spurs coupon. "Toot Sweet! Toot Sweet!" begins Daniel Farthing, clearing his throat. "Those loveable sweets they’re the treat you can eat! Oh… sorry… this is a big game isn’t it… must concentrate." Not at all. Be my guest. I'm just whiling away time until the camera pans to David Moyes, anyway.
19 min: Ivanovic, with nobody around him, reprises his League Cup semi performance against Swansea by gifting the ball to Holtby, 25 yards out. Luckily for him, Holtby has yet to prove himself in a Spurs shirt as a Danny Graham, never mind a Michu, and he runs witlessly straight back into the defender - the only man he's got to beat - and the chance is gone.
16 min: Tottenham should be two down. Seven of them were standing around on the edge of their own D, gabbing like schoolkids sharing out a box of fags. Meanwhile Chelsea were busy taking another free kick, this time Luiz sending the ball out right to Azpilicueta, given acres on the wing. He slides a ball into the centre, and Mata hacks a shot over the bar from 12 yards. Not the easiest chance, but Mata has more than enough quality to do better there. Spurs are very fortunate, and need to get their gamefaces on toot sweet.
13 min: Tottenham are already facing their worst nightmare, another season with their dreams scuppered by Chelsea and Arsenal. They come back at Chelsea in an effort to hit back quickly, and Lennon's got a wee bit of space down the inside right, with Chelsea's defence inexplicably standing off him. But despite being afforded time and space, his cross into the centre is aimless and lame, and Chelsea clear with ease. "If it's a 21-man brawl then there is more than just one wussing out," moans a disgusted Robin Hazlehurst, with a welcome new twist on Won't Anyone Think Of The Kids. "What are subs, managers, physios etc getting up to, just standing and the touchline clapping and shouting 'fight, fight, fight'? Although wouldn't it be amusing to see either Rafa or AVB - or both - sprint onto the pitch and chin someone." I'd pay to see it, although in this new age of 24-Hour Rolling Social Media Disgust, I do realise I'm in a minority of 26,000,000.
GOAL!!! Chelsea 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur (Oscar 10)
From a free kick in the centre of the Spurs half, Chelsea win a corner on the right. The ball's swung in. Spurs are all over the shop, and Cahill blasts a header goalwards from eight yards. The effort's going just wide, but Oscar's by the post and he glances it home with his eyebrows for his second headed goal of the season. I could be wrong, but the wee man's scored as many with his head this season as Andy Carroll has. Possibly not correct, but doesn't that sound good.
8 min: Huddlestone has a scuff from 20 yards, but it's not up to much. Still, it's Tottenham's first dig in anger this evening.
7 min: Bale causes a wee bit of bother down the left, to little overall effect. Chelsea seem quite happy to sit back and soak it up before breaking forward at speed - ladies and gentlemen, Mr Rafael Benitez - and they zip upfield through Luiz, who nearly releases Torres with a raking pass down the middle from the left. Chelsea are almost immediately coming straight back at Spurs, and Mata takes a snapshot from the right-hand edge of the D, looking for the top-right corner. The effort flies high and wide, but not by much. The crowd OOH and AHH and EFF accordingly.
5 min: There's a blistering atmosphere at Stamford Bridge. And no wonder: this is a big game. There's bound to be a few decibels-worth of relief in the home hollering, mind, because for a while back there it was looking like the Special One was off to Old Trafford, in the wake of the events of this morning. Much can change, of course, but as the rumour mill currently stands, Mourinho will be back in situ at Stamford Bridge next season. In a murderous mood, too, one would suggest. If things pan out like this, United-Chelsea next year will be one for the diaries.
2 min: Cole sprays a long diagonal ball towards Torres, the striker making good for the area with only Dawson nearby. The flag for offside goes up, but that's a fortunate one for Spurs, as the pair looked level, and Torres had the ball and was looking to drop a shoulder and head boxward.
And we're off!
Chelsea kick off, and start running in the direction of the tube. It's not long before Cole's got a bit of space down the left, but his low ball across the front of the area just fails to find Mata, who was loitering with intent.
The teams are out! The last notes of The Liquidator sail off into the ether as the teams line up and shake hands, Chelsea in their famous blue, Spurs in their equally storied white. "A 21-man brawl?" splutters Jim McKenzie. "Just who is the conscientious objector and what's he doing while all hell breaks loose? Pulling out a rolled up copy of the Guardian and having a crack at the crossword?" Graeme Le Saux played his last game for Chelsea in 2003, Jim.
Chelsea bring in Gary Cahill, Eden Hazard and Fernando Torres: Cech, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Ivanovic, Cole, Ramires, Luiz, Oscar, Mata, Hazard, Torres. Subs: Turnbull, Lampard, Moses, Terry, Ba, Benayoun, Ake.
Tottenham call up Lewis Holtby, Emmanuel Adebayor and Scott Parker: Lloris, Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Assou-Ekotto,
Parker, Huddlestone, Lennon, Bale, Holtby, Adebayor. Subs:
Friedel, Dempsey, Naughton, Defoe, Sigurdsson, Caulker, Carroll.
Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral)
Thorstvedt, Hughton, Van den Hauwe, Polston, Howells, Mabbutt, Walsh (Moran), Gascoigne, Nayim, Lineker (Moncur), Sedgley. There you go, the last 13 men wearing Tottenham Hotspur shirts to leave Stamford Bridge with all the points. Feburary 1990, this happened. That's 23 years ago. To paraphrase Anthony Aloysius St John Hancock: 23 years?!? That's nearly a Fergie!
Never mind the long-term trends, though. Andre Villas Boas and his men have enough on their plates in dealing with the here and now. The recent record doesn't bode well for Spurs: Chelsea beat them 4-2 at White Hart Lane last October, a result which came off the back of last year's FA Cup semi final between the pair, a 5-1 win for the Pensioners which was thoroughly embarrassing for everyone concerned. Poor Chelsea didn't know where to look by the end of it! Oh Spurs!
And if that wasn't enough for Tottenham to be dealing with, there's this habit of stumbling along the final furlongs as they desperately try to finish ahead of Arsenal for the first time since 1995*. It really did look a shoo-in when Spurs beat the Gunners 2-1 at the start of March, to put seven points between the clubs with ten games to play, but they immediately started to Devon Loch it, to the point that unless that 23-year trend is bucked tonight, Arsenal go into their last pair of eminently winnable games knowing six points will see them right.
[*Yes, yes, it's all about Champions League qualification and the long-term economic future of the club, yada yada, but everyone in North London knows that isn't true.]
Chelsea have concerns of their own, of course. The outgoing European champions want some more of that Champions League pie next year, and it's not theirs yet, though a win tonight would put them on the brink of qualification. As well as having the sign over Spurs, they're very much in form, thanks in no small part to Rafa Benitez, who despite walking alone through a storm has kept Chelsea's head held up high. (Well, he has, though you're not obligated to like it.)
Anyway, there are enough nerves jangling, and a few raw ends showing, for this to turn into a madcap classic. Here's hoping! Goals, please! Free-flowing entertainment! Or failing that, maybe - and let's not be disingenuously pious - a 21-man brawl in the 1970s style. We're not fussy.
Kick off: 7.45pm.