With Lilywhites needing to avoid dropping points to stay in the hunt for the Champions League, Goal analyses their trip to Bridge who are also harbouring similar ambitions...
By Aman Arora
Rafael Benitez’s Chelsea welcomed Andre Villas-Boas’ Tottenham Hotspur in an enticing clash which saw the Spurs’ manager return to his old stomping ground for the first time since his infamous sack from the Bridge back in early 2012.
How Spurs attacked How Chelsea attacked
The Spanish boss started with Fernando Torres upfront supported by the trio of Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar, with David Luiz occupying one of the two holding midfielder roles along with Ramires. Gary Cahill returned to the side and was paired with Branislav Ivanovic at the heart of defense.
Lewis Holtby was handed the responsibilty of providing the final through-balls for the away side. Emmanuel Adebayor was preferred over Jermain Defoe upfront with Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon supporting from the flanks.
Spurs need to find consistency in their play
The Blues started the game on the front foot with Mata and Torres combining well, with the former firing a volley just over the bar. The game was beginning to warm up when Oscar guided a clever flick from Cahill into the net after the defender was picked out by Mata’s corner. The Blues were up and deservedly so. Spurs hadn’t really got into the game, not to mention the poor defending by Michael Dawson and Parker to give Chelsea the crucial lead.
|Oscar put the Blues 1-0 up as early as the 11th minute|
Chelsea were attacking with venom whenever they got the ball, often stretching their opponent's defense wide to create space through the middle.
The resurgence of Parker after the first twenty minutes or so brought Tottenham back in the tie with Holtby's calming presence further helping their cause.
Benitez and Villas-Boas showcase their tactical acumen
The change in tactics of getting Bale operating through the centre to pose a more direct threat to Chelsea’s defense also helped. The Welshman not only has the pace and dribbling ability to cause harm, but also creates space for the surrounding attackers by drawing more than one defender towards him. This almost immediately paid off when Adebayor received the ball in his own half only to take advantage of the time and space given to him by Chelsea’s defenders who were distracted by the runs of Lennon and Bale on either sides of the Togo international. As it turned out, Adebayor found enough space to shoot from the edge of the area and curl a stupendous effort past the hapless Petr Cech.
|Adebayor and Holtby benefited from AVB's system
As the half progressed, the hosts had the better of the chances though that final ball was lacking at times. Torres had other ideas as he yet again drifted wide right to drag the defenders out of position allowing Ramires to make a run through the centre. The Spaniard's well measured pass was taken in his stride well by the Brazilian as he fired into the net first time. Chelsea were leading once again and did well to subdue Tottenham's attack thereafter.
Poor finishing from Chelsea and Adebayor's rescue act
The second half was a mere continuation of the first with Tottenham hardly looking like getting the two goals they now needed to grab the three points from the game. They were rarely threatening with talisman Bale marked out of the game. Chelsea not only limited them to a few opportunites and defended well when they did attack, but also piled pressure onto them by attacking with pace on the counter. Torres, Cesar Azpilicueta, Ramires and Hazard all came close to scoring and should have really put the game to bed early in the second half but the lack of clinical finishing did them in eventually.
One man who was really on song for Spurs was Adebayor who looked lively down the left hand side throughout. With good passing and better dribbling, Adebayor showed what Villas-Boas had probably expected of him throughout the season. His superb first time flick to Gylfi Sigurdsson in the 80th minute after carefully reading Benoit Assou-Ekotto's pass was the icing on the cake as his wonderul performance alone had guided his team back into the game not once, but twice. The Iceland international made no mistake as he steadied himself well before placing his shot into the far corner of Cech's goal to equalize.
As far as the overall performance of the teams go, Tottenham do really need to step up in games like these where certain players often go missing. Bale, though not on the score sheet did enough for his team-mates to get opportunities but Lennon, on the other hand, yet another poor outing.
The lack of consistency of players like Adebayor who stole the show on the night has been hurting them. Benitez rightly pointed that his side weren't clinical. The Blues look set to achieve their objective of Champions League football although this time next term, their fans will be expecting much more.
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