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Chelsea secure 1-1 draw at White Hart Lane

Clive Rose

So that wasn't the worst thing in the world. Chelsea went to White Hart Lane against a pretty good Tottenham Hotspur side and can probably consider themselves unlucky not to have emerged with a win, which is more than the vast majority of teams will be able to say this year.

I don't think anyone would have been expecting all three points from this fixture. The days where Spurs were merely a steam to steamroll are long gone, and away games are never, never easy. That said, there's still a pang of disappointment in drawing 1-1 against them, especially after a dominant second-half performance that could easily have won the game for the Blues.

I'd have snapped your arm off for 1-1 after an insipid opening spell which saw Chelsea create absolutely nothing and then concede through Gylfi Sigurdsson. Ramires started on the right wing, an experiment which probably could have gone better, but the real weakness was in the Frank Lampard-John Obi Mikel double pivot, which was eviscerated by Christian Eriksen in the buildup to the Spurs goal.

The young Dane threw off both Chelsea midfielders with a quite lovely turn before a quick series of passes saw Roberto Soldado feed Sigurdsson in the area, and although a last-ditch tackle by John Terry knocked the Icelandic international off balance it failed to prevent him from lashing past Petr Cech for the 1-0 lead. At the other end of the pitch, Fernando Torres was protesting that he'd been fouled by Kyle Walker just prior to the goal. He might have had a point.

As far as Chelsea were concerned there were few positives to take out of the first half. One of the major ones, however, was how weak Spurs looked through the centre. The Blues were moving the ball quickly whenever they recovered possession, and it took a series of cynical fouls to stop them blitzing down the middle of the pitch. The only one which resulted in a card was Eriksen's lunge on Oscar, but there could easily have been several booking by the time we got to the interval.

There could also have been another Tottenham goal. Walker made the chance, pulling off a backheel that took two defenders out of the game, but Paulinho ended the passing move by trying to beat Cech at his near post and succeeding only in clipping the outside of the woodwork.

Had there been some decent chances for Chelsea? Yes, but nothing particularly special, and the 1-0 deficit at halftime was deserved. But with 45 minutes left, there was plenty of time to turn the match around, which is exactly what Jose Mourinho did. The manager's answer? Juan Mata.

It was a pretty good answer, all things considered. Within minutes, the substitute had the ball in the back of the net only for his effort to be ruled out (quite rightly) for offside. Torres was given amazing new life by his compatriot's presence, and suddenly emerged as a potent attacking threat. His pass across the face of goal might have been converted by Oscar, and his darting run through the Spurs defence deserved more than a save from Hugo Lloris.

Torres being fired up wasn't all good, mind you. He got into a series of scuffles with Tottenham centre back Jan Vertonghen, and received a yellow card for raising a hand against the defender after apparently catching him as both ran towards the touchline. Vertonghen, meanwhile, wasn't exactly big on discipline himself -- he received a yellow card after scything down Ramires as the Brazilian, by then a central midfielder, threatened to burst free on goal. Not that that prevented Chelsea from scoring. From the free kick, Mata swung the ball right onto Terry's head (Vertonghen had lost him), and the captain guided the ball past Lloris to level the game.

For a while it looked as though the Blues might actually come out with the win. Spurs were completely unable to get any purchase in midfield, and Soldado was cutting an increasingly forlorn figure  high up the pitch, expertly marshalled by Terry and David Luiz. Lloris had to come to the rescue again, this time from Andre Schurrle. In order for the hosts to get back into the game, something strange had to happen.

And so Torres got sent off for contesting a fifty-fifty ball with Vertonghen. I won't pretend that a red card wasn't coming; the pair had clashed repeatedly throughout the half and both had been rather unprofessional about it, but that it was brandished for an incident which barely warranted a foul was bizarre. Mike Dean's error ensured that Chelsea would have to play the rest of the game with ten men.

The red card signalled the end of the Blues as an attacking force, and the final ten minutes were essentially an extended defensive drill. There were some nervy moments, especially when Sigurdsson let fly with a nasty dipping volley which left Cech motionless, but the team came through with a 1-1 draw and a very precious point.

The first three away fixtures of the season have been Manchester United, Everton and Tottenham Hotspur, which is an incredibly difficult set. Yes, we'd have preferred better than two points from that trio of games, but the Blues' current position hardly constitutes a crisis, especially now that the performances have ticked up a notch. Not a bad day, all told.

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