0-0 at Spurs. That's ... well, it's hard to know what it is. Tottenham have been significantly better than Chelsea over the course of this season, and beyond that have been setting everything on fire in recent weeks. The Blues have not travelled well at all, either, gaining just four points from the six away matches prior to this encounter. On paper, a draw and a solid defensive performance is fine.
But, and I think Sir Alex Ferguson put this best:
Lads, it's Tottenham
Being in a position where anything other than three points at White Hart Lane feels acceptable (perhaps even positive) makes for a fundamentally depressing existence. It's the moment in life where your mediocrity becomes crystalised and your dreams boil away. The handsome knight sweeping you away on horseback transforms himself into that nice bloke you met at a party who you can pretend to yourself is funny. The Nobel prize you imagined from childhood becomes just barely winning a pub quiz. This was the existential crisis of adulthood, transmitted to us via football.
A draw, in context, is fine. It's just that said context should be making Chelsea supporters throw nearby objects at convenient nearby surfaces. All of which is to say that not a great deal happened in this one and I felt like the match report needed padding.
The big story, tabloid wise, will be the exclusion of Diego Costa from the starting lineup after a fairly public feud with Jose Mourinho. Eden Hazard was the nominal striker and one of the few bright sparks up front, but perhaps as a result of leaving their most dangerous forward sitting down/warming up/throwing his bib away in disgust, Chelsea were lacking something of a cutting edge throughout.
Happily, Spurs were suffering from a similar ailment. They had some mildly dangerous moments, but most came from ludicrously botched tackles that left the Blues out of position rather than from actual buildup play, and apart from a neat Harry Kane cross that found Son Heung-Min at the back post* (which ended up being a straightforward save for Asmir Begovic) there was nothing that we can point to as a serious threat.
*As the result of some supremely poor marking by Branislav Ivanovic, might I add.
Meanwhile, Hazard tried to score with a centre forward's header. It was adorable. His job mostly involved upsetting the Spurs defenders, and he did so with aplomb, earning a yellow card for Danny Rose while chasing a Cesc Fabregas pass down the right flank and receiving more than his fair share of kicks in the process. Kyle Walker, seemingly annoyed at not being able to kick anyone himself, lunged in on Cesar Azpilicueta with a tackle that might have been a red on a different day, leaving both Tottenham fullbacks booked before halftime.
After the break one might have expected the game plan to involve targetting that pair with Hazard and trying to force a sending off. It didn't. Instead, the game became even more devoid of attacking intent than the first, with both teams clustering in the middle third and finding their opponent impossible to break down.
Spurs were forced into a change thanks to an early injury to Ryan Mason, and his replacement, Erik Lamela, fashioned their only partial-chance of the second half when his improvised chip found Son in the six-yard box. Kurt Zouma was slow to react, but ended up doing just enough to force his man into changing his body shape and poking a weak shot straight at Begovic.
Chelsea were slightly more dangerous at the other end, by which I mean they contrived to get a shot on target. And it was a peach of a shot too, a superb Hazard volley from an Ivanovic cross which Hugo Lloris did very well to get to and even better to prevent it creeping in at the far post despite the touch. But that was the climax of our attacking game rather than the harbinger of any real pressure, and our woes in front of goal were typified when Pedro snapped up a miscue by Toby Alderweireld in the area and then passed to nobody rather than taking a close-range snapshot.
Tottenham played in Azerbaijan on Thursday and looked increasingly fatigued as the match wore on, but defended well and reduced the Blues to taking somewhat speculative set pieces. Unfortunately there was no repeat of the midweek magic against Maccabi Tel Aviv, and each was wasted.
On the bright side, it didn't ever look like we were going to lose. Which is more than we can say of the last time Chelsea came to Spurs.