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Premier League

  • March 24, 2012
  • • 8:45 AM
  • • Stamford Bridge, London
  • Referee: M. Atkinson
  • • Attendance: 41830
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Chelsea 0-0 Tottenham: Visitors maintain five-point gap over Di Matteo's men to boost top four chances

Juan Mata crashed a free-kick off the bar for the hosts before Spurs' Gareth Bale headed onto the bar as a hotly contested London derby ended in a stalemate

Tottenham maintained its five-point lead over Chelsea in the Premier League with an action-packed 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Juan Mata came closest for the hosts in the second half, curling a free kick onto the upright with Brad Friedel rooted to the spot.

However, Spurs had perhaps had the best of the chances, with blocks on the line from Rafael van der Vaart and Emmanuel Adebayor, and a Gareth Bale header off their bar their biggest openings.

Tottenham came into the game having never won a Premier League game at Stamford Bridge, and it looked like a side bereft of the confidence to buck that trend during the opening exchanges. Several nervy passes saw the visitors lose possession and they were very nearly opened up within five minutes as Ramires passed inside to Drogba only for the Ivorian’s clever flick to run just beyond Frank Lampard’s burst into the box.

With the sun shining down on west London, Stamford Bridge gave the appearance of an end-of-season fixture and, within 20 minutes, the game had settled into that pattern. Both sides were content to pass the ball along the back, refraining from bursting forward in fear of leaving themselves exposed.

Chelsea provided one moment of menace though, in which Drogba cleverly flicked a first-time ball behind the Spurs defense which just escaped Mata’s intelligent run, but this proved a highlight of a one-paced opening.

After a slow start, the match came to life on the half-hour mark as some desperate defending from Spurs led to a breakneck counterattack which saw Adebayor deceive two defenders before just failing to pick out fullback Kyle Walker’s back post run.

For much of the half Spurs had failed to show the gung-ho attacking nature for which they have been widely praised this season but they almost went in at halftime with a barely deserved lead. The previously anonymous Luka Modric turned cleverly in the box before setting up Van der Vaart, only for the Dutchman to see two efforts blocked brilliantly by Petr Cech and then Ashley Cole on the line before Adebayor headed agonizingly over.

In truth, neither side’s contribution to the game warranted a lead and both sets of fans will likely have hoped for more entertainment after a cagey first period.

They very nearly got their wish as early Tottenham pressure led to a Chelsea break which saw Scott Parker just get enough on Drogba’s cross-field ball to Ramires, who would have been in on goal.

Gallas’ inability to control Drogba then again led to a chance as the forward headed powerfully into the path of the onrushing Daniel Sturridge, who powered wide of the far post on his favored left foot.

Bale has at times been crucial for Redknapp’s men this term but much of their attacking malaise could be put down to the Welshman’s failure to have an impact. That was until his jinking run from a central position allowed Walker to find space in the box, but the defender could only shoot into the side-netting with more time than he perhaps expected.

With his defense looking under more pressure from an increasingly adventurous Spurs in the second half, Di Matteo replaced Bosingwa with Luiz only for the Brazilian to see more of the ball in an attacking sense within five minutes of his introduction.

Given the cautious nature of the match, it was clear that it would take something special to break the deadlock and Mata almost provided that with 20 minutes remaining. The Spaniard stepped up to hit a free-kick from 25 yards and curled the ball onto the post with Friedel stranded.

The Blues’ frustration at failing to gain a lead led to the introduction of the much-maligned Torres in place of Essien, while Van der Vaart and Sandro made way for Saha and Jake Livermore as the visitors looked to freshen things up.

The substitutions did seem to add more attacking impetus to both sides but Drogba typified the toothless nature of both forward lines as he shot tamely when given the opportunity to turn in the box.

Spurs’ African forward, Adebayor, then showed equal wastefulness at the at the other end moments later as he rounded Cech following a ball over the top only to allow Cahill to slide in and clear a low and weak shot. Bale, who had grown into the game as space began to open up, was then unfortunate to see his header crash back off the bar from the subsequent corner.

Both sides attempted to push forward in the closing stages, with a generous four minutes of added time given, but they tempered their attacking instincts with a loss seen as a potentially disastrous result.

Bale's low free-kick almost caught Cech by surprise at the death but the Blues defense held firm to earn a hard-fought point.

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