Chelsea throw away chance to kill off Spurs

Shaun Botterill

Going into the match, I was relatively calm. Even if Tottenham Hotspur won, I assured myself, Chelsea would still be in third place and in pole position to secure a top three finish. And, ultimately, the 2-2 draw is a pretty good result. The Blues are two points clear of fourth place and need to get three points out of their last six to guarantee Champions League qualification.

So why was I so angry at full time? Simple. Like Manchester United, Spurs played a horrendous football match and were there for the taking throughout. At Old Trafford, Juan Mata's 87th-minute goal bailed us out -- that goal may prove the most important of the season, incidentally -- but here the rather implausible figure Emmanuel Adebayor made Chelsea pay for not killing off the match quickly and efficiently.

We started brightly enough, although the frantic quest to reach the holy land of 'Offside' was perhaps a little bit silly. Fernando Torres, not wearing a mask this time, was lively, and Juan Mata did very, very well in moving Tottenham's defence around. The two combined for the first chance of the game, with Torres knocking the ball on to his compatriot, who somehow managed to control before fizzing a half-volley over the bar.

And the strong start turned into a lead thanks to Spurs completely melting down on what should have been a rather straightforward corner. Adebayor was abused for missing his header, allowing Gary Cahill to flick on, but the real culprit was 2011 FWA Player of the Year Scott 'Scottie' Parker, whose rather unorthadox technique of running away from the ball like a timid puppy being chased by a vacuum cleaner allowed Oscar to steal in at the back post and mop up from close range.

It was all pretty odd.

Chelsea didn't let off the pressure after taking the lead, and could have gone 2-0 up after Cesar Azpilicueta found Mata unmarked in the box. Again, the shot went just over. Eden Hazard joined the party and nearly took off Michael Dawson's head with a vicious effort after cutting inside -- perhaps in retaliation for the defender's rather unfortunate habit of raking his studs down the back of Torres' calf.

Spurs had created nothing. Gareth Bale was anonymous, Aaron Lennon well marshalled by Ashley Cole, and Lewis Holtby looked like he'd been taken out of an N'Sync show and been inserted into the middle of a football match as some sort of cosmic joke.

So naturally they scored in the 26th minute. From a Chelsea corner. Hazard lost the ball in the middle of the pitch and went diving back in on Tom Huddlestone to retrieve possession. Despite the foul, Tottenham kept hold of the ball, and saw the chance open up when Ramires mistimed a tackle.

Adebayor burst forward, running at Cahill. Bale sprinted down the right side, seemingly the prime target for a pass. I was actually pretty relieved when the Togo striker wound up to shoot rather than play Bale in. What a fool I felt when he dispatched a beautiful curler over Petr Cech and into the top corner.

Happily, Chelsea took conceding on the nose and got on with things. The goal did inject the visitors with the confidence to try playing actual football, but they were still comfortably second best and it came as no surprise that the Blues reestablished their lead before halftime.

Azpilicueta had already wasted a (difficult) open goal chance with a header from outside the box when Ramires went and did his magical thing. A slick move from Torres opened up the defence, and his through ball, intended for Oscar, proved perfectly weighted for the other skinny Brazilian, who blew by both Scott Parker and Jan Vertonghen to poke a first-time finish across Hugo Lloris and into the bottom corner.

Oscar had time and space to make it three before halftime only to direct his shot straight down the goalkeeper's throat, but 2-1 at the interval was entirely satisfactory. It had been a frantic half, but Chelsea were quite clearly the better side.

They remained comfortably better than Spurs in the early stages of the second. Andre Villas-Boas' halftime talk appeared to involve telling his players to stand around and not give a [fun], and so Tottenham obliged, yielding several clear chances for Chelsea to extend their lead.

They didn't take them, mostly thanks to slips (Torres, Ramires) and poor decision-making (Hazard). Ramires' chance was particularly inviting -- a beautiful flick from Hazard set Mata away, and although he was swiftly overhauled by Kyle Walker he was able to pass across for Ramires to go one on one with Lloris. However, the ball was behind him, and the midfielder slipped on the Stamford Bridge turf rather than tucking the ball away.

Then substitutions changed the game. Adebayor was quietly having a stormer, and Villas-Boas brought Clint Dempsey on in order to allow him to play deeper. Gylfi Sigurdsson was deployed in Lennon's place as well. That combination caused chaos, with Adebayor giving David Luiz and Azpilicueta a very hard time when he dropped back to hold up the ball, and would eventually lead to the equaliser.

Meanwhile, Chelsea didn't do much of anything. Hazard came off with what looked like a reoccurrence of the calf problem that kept him out of the Manchester United, with Moses his replacement in a like-for-like substitution that completely failed to address the changing complexion of the game. The midfield needed help -- David Luiz in particular just lost -- and the natural change would have been to withdraw Mata and add Lampard to the mix. But that never happened and Chelsea were made to pay.

In the 80th minute, Adebayor won a battle on the Tottenham left and brought the ball into the box. It was enough to suck Cahill out of position, and Sigurdsson's run went untracked thanks to David Luiz failing to track back. A deft backheel later and the ball was at the former Swansea man's feet, and from there a good finish took the ball beyond Cech and inside the far post.

The Chelsea reaction was to add Yossi Benayoun for Oscar, a decision which incensed the home crowd. A draw was a satisfactory result, of course, but a win would have been far better, and two points were essentially pissed away against a team that bore no threat whatsoever apart from their two goals.

This has been the story of the season and the reason there's still a 'race' for third place. Chelsea don't close out games -- they've dropped 18 points from winning positions* -- and as a result, we're sweating our Champions League position while they're getting ready for next year. For a side blessed with so much ability on the counterattack, that's nothing short of an embarrassment.

*For comparison, United have dropped four and Manchester City seven.

So it goes at Stamford Bridge.

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