The two central defensive pairings were in control throughout a tight contest lacking goalmouth excitement
This had been an occasion for both teams to establish their Champions League qualification credentials, though, in a tight contest of good technical standard if lacking goalmouth excitement, it ended as a masterclass in central defensive play.
Good centre-halves know when to tackle and when to drop off. Very good centre-halves always sense danger and learn to cover and distrust their partner, forever anticipating a possible mistake. Outstanding centre-backs also make calm, sensible selections with the ball. Here, both pairings – all four central defenders are right-footed players, but proved more than capable of covering their partners – were in control and impressive, although the workaholic and enterprising Emmanuel Adebayor gave more problems to the English pair of Gary Cahill and John Terry than Didier Drogba was able to effect upon Tottenham's two Frenchmen.
What threat there was posed by the home side came in the opening period when Chelsea were more progressive and, twice, Drogba reversed clever passes between the visiting centre-backs after drawing William Gallas towards the ball (see diagram) for Juan Mata, and later Daniel Sturridge, to run through and collect.
Yet on each occasion, a Spurs player recovered well – it was Brad Friedel reading the danger on the second occasion to tear to the edge of his penalty area – to snuff out the chance, with the visitors tightening up even further after the break to ensure the tactic never reaped dividends. They comfortably closed the gap in the second period: Scott Parker held and harried, always aware of Mata's desire to drift into any pockets of space around Drogba. Kyle Walker continued to raid down the right, while Tottenham's centre-backs coped with Chelsea's diagonal balls and played closer together to dissuade the hosts from the penetrative run through the middle between centre-halves. Frank Lampard, usually so adept at this forward-thinking movement, was restricted to one shot from distance four minutes from time.
The display should dispel any uncertainty at Spurs after their recent run, with this a workmanlike away performance. They were calm in possession, passed tidily and hinted at the greater goal threat as the game progressed.
Aaron Lennon remains a creative miss out wide as Rafael van der Vaart lacked the winger's speedy spark here, even if the Dutchman is a cleverer player with a fine touch. Yet, in the absence of the injured Michael Dawson and with Ledley King starting on the bench, there was encouragement to be drawn in the pairing of Gallas and Younès Kaboul with both sets of centre-halves on show excelling.