It’s how things went at The Lane yesterday as Spurs trudged off the park, yet again it’s another that got away but it could have been far worse.
Things aren’t helped by expectations, yes Spurs haven’t been at their very best of late but have still been in far better form than the visiting champions. Then the teams were announced and it gave everyone even more cause for optimism. Though Gallas was out through an injury picked up in training the armband he’s worn with such distinction of late was passing to the returning Dawson. Added to that was the news that Drogba would be starting this one on the bench. Now he hasn’t exactly been terrorising defences and banging in goals since his malaria diagnosis but it’s still a lift.
But with all that and the crowd up it didn’t quite have the fast start required by Spurs, it wasn’t a flat as some of the starts to recent games but wasn’t quite what you’d hoped and expected. You could say that the 15th minute opener had come against the run of play, in that Chelsea did have more of the ball before that but had done bugger all with it and had been well defended, with no cutting edge.
The goal was a thing of delight, Assou-Ekotto playing the ball up the left wing into space, created by Bale keeping his man occupied, for Defoe to run onto the Chelski defence gave him time and space to come back in and find Pavlyuchenko in the box, his first touch took him away from the three static blue shirts in there with him, giving him the space and time to bang in a nice left footed shot.
He does score some cracking goals but does he do enough? Pav and Defoe didn’t exactly get the service you’d want, I don’t know if the Russian does the work to get it. While Palacios was at his best in the game, harrying and cleanly tackling – he also didn’t give the ball away with the aplomb we’ve seen earlier this year – and Modric was here, there and everywhere working like a Trojan. “Luxury players” don’t do this amount of work. With the flanks subdued the final ball wasn’t killer. Missing something, missing Huddlestone and van der Vaart.
Bale did some good work and with being doubled up on quite a bit was crating space but he wasn’t on top form, runs coming to nothing and passing being mistimed, though he wasn’t helped by some of the challenges going in. The media of course starting up their anti-Bale campaign – got to knock him down lads – with claims of feigning injury and poncing it when he lost the ball in a challenge and then just got a toe to it flicking it away when Essien dragged his studs down the Welshman’s shin. If you can’t see that has a foul worthy of at least a yellow then you’re as bad as the ref was.
Though we’ve yet to see how fully the latter will work with Defoe, what part of a half against the scum but it should mean that we see the end of the aimless humps up the park that blighted the second half when Crouch came on.
For the rest of the half and after the break Chelski again had the ball but in the first 45 minutes with Anelka looking like a spent force who is so used to playing wide in their 4-3-3 formation he’s lost his spark as a striker and so many of the chances falling to (hasn’t got a) Kalou, things were simple for Spurs. Especialy for the returning Dawson who didn’t look as rusty as you’d think he’d have been after missing 20 games.
Drogba’s introduction slightly changed things but up until the 70th minute Dawson was still in control, then as he got too tight to Drogba and seemed more intent on playing the man and not going for the ball, he was disorientated for a second. The ball coming off Drogba’s arm, Dawson’s head spun round, was he looking towards the linesman for a flag, it never came so for a moment Dawson’s head was frantically trying to pick up where the ball was now. Too late, Drogba was locked in and now had the space. It should have been the space to get a shot off not to score. Don’t know what Gomes was doing or thinking but it involved certain parts of his body going all limp and letting the ball go straight through him, not his best moment. It was harsh on Dawson.
Spurs had started going long before this with Crouch replacing Defoe. Seemed an odd move as Defoe really is the only one of the strikers with any pace to profit from Chelski coming forward.
So with the ball given away with the aimless humps there was an element of hanging on when it all looked to have gone tits up with Gomes reckless charge out on the bizarrely still on the field Ramires. Ramires wasn’t going to do anything dangerous, Gomes could have stayed where he was and not bundled him over. But he did, it was looking like a really bad day for the Brazilian. Thankfully Drogba was handed the ball for the spot kick not the recently introduced Lampard, Gomes waited on his line this time and brilliantly saved the kick. You do feel if Fat Frank had taken it things might have been different. With a bit of luck Gomes has got that all out of system for a few weeks anyway.
So from being in a position to take all three points it looked like it wasn’t going to be any but turned out to be one. It does show how things have changed from always being on the end of it from them to now being disappointed with a draw that ended a winning trot against them.
Still van der Vaart and Huddlestone can’t return quick enough but when they do if the likes of Assou-Ekotto can recreate this form and Bassong and Dawson play like that week in week out with Gallas playing as he has done of late, Palacios when called on can do the job as he did here, it just needs someone to finish off the chances.
Just got to batter Blackpool next week…