Chelsea winless streak extends to five games
Heurelho Gomes went from zero to hero as he let Didier Drogba's shot to bounce over the line to cancel out Roman Pavlyuchenko's first-half goal before saving the Ivorian's last-gasp penalty as it finished 1-1 between Tottenham and Chelsea on Sunday.
The Russian striker latched onto a Jermain Defoe pass to fire in the only goal after 15 minutes, with a first touch to take the ball past John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic and John Terry and a second to power past Petr Cech.
As Spurs looked good for the three points, Gomes allowed Drogba's fierce shot to escape his grasp and bobble over the line with just 20 minutes remaining.
Then, in the second minute of added time, Drogba had the chance to end Chelsea's terrible run and kick-start their season from the penalty spot but Gomes redeemed himself with a brilliant save to his left to deny the Ivorian.
Nerves were definitely on show in the early stages. First, Luka Modric’s wayward pass allowed Salomon Kalou to play in Nicolas Anelka for a tame shot from 25 yards that trickled wide. This was quickly followed by a hesitant Beniot Assou-Ekotto clearing his lines as Anelka was looking to steal in.
Many were talking up Spurs’ confidence pre-game, but it was definitely the away side showing more of it from the get-go, summed up by two long-range efforts from Michael Essien inside the first 10 minutes that were both well hit and on target.
Spurs took a while to get started, but when that moment did arise it was no surprise to see Gareth Bale instigate it. The Welshman dinked past Paulo Ferreira and delivered a deep cross that was picked up on the right wing by Aaron Lennon, who quickly sent it back in towards Bale on the edge of the area but his right foot volley was rushed and it sailed high and wide.
Just one minute later though and Spurs were ahead. The home side changed their approach and Assou-Ekotto picked out a marginally offside Defoe. The referee’s flag did not appear so the striker held up the ball, which Ferreira nibbling at his heels, before finding Pavlyuchenko in space inside the area. One touch to take the ball away from John Terry and one touch to fire low past Petr Cech. Fantastic finish, but suspect defending and possible question marks over Petr Cech's positioning for the reigning champions.
After an encouraging start, Chelsea were stunned. Essien, one of the away side’s better players, showed his frustration by going in hard and strong on Bale causing the winger’s leg to twist badly but luckily, for both parties, he could get up and continue.
The game completely opened up from then on. It was as end-to-end as you could ever wish to see. Both teams were defending well with Terry and Branislav Ivanovic getting in last-ditch challenges to keep Lennon, Defoe and Pavlyuchenko at bay, and Michael Dawson, on his first appearance his August, and Sebastien Bassong doing equally well to keep out Chelsea’s own front three.
Spurs could have made it two just after the half hour mark when a marauding Assou-Ekotto strolled past Ferreira to find Defoe one-on-one with Terry but the Chelsea captain stood tall and firm and denied the striker with a crucial tackle in imposing fashion.
Again just one minute later, a Chelsea freekick near the right hand touchline was whipped in and Kalou managed to get a flick on but saw his header bounce a whisker past the post.
Chelsea enjoyed a threatening period towards the end of the first half, and their efforts nearly paid off when Anelka had the ball in the back of the net, but the Frenchman was quickly adjudged to be offside and it was back to square one.
But, in keeping with the rhythm of the rest of the game, it was Spurs who next came closest to scoring. An arrowed through ball by Pavlyuchenko sent Defoe rushing towards goal between Chelsea’s central defensive pairing but Cech darted out of goal to clear.
Ancelotti bit the bullet and not-so-subtly admitted defeat to his original tactical approach and brought on Didier Drogba for the start of the second half, changing his side to a 4-4-2 but it was an opposition striker with the first attempt on target as Defoe latched onto Lennon’s pass on the edge of the area to unleash a low drive that whizzed past Cech’s right post.
Again Spurs attacked, a high lofted ball from Alan Hutton was headed back to the edge of the area by Bale, but Modric scuffed the volleyed attempt wide.
Time for Chelsea to attack, and Gomes was forced into two brilliant saves within a minute of each other. Bassong’s attempted clearance from an Essien center fell to Drogba to hammer the ball first time only to be denied by the Brazilian. From the resulting corner, Wilson Palacios got his headed clearance all wrong and spun around in bewilderment as Gomes tipped it over the bar.
As Chelsea attempted attack after attack, Defoe, still not fully fit, was withdrawn for Peter Crouch, giving Spurs another option upfront and the striker was immediately on hand to help defend another mounting away side attack.
If it was possible, the game opened up even further as Daniel Sturridge came on for Kalou. But with both sides attacking so well, something had to give and Chelsea eventually got the breakthrough but with a helping (weak) hand from Heurelho Gomes.
A long ball over the top towards Drogba was controlled well by the Ivorian, allowing him to out muscle Dawson and hammer the ball towards Gomes, only for the goalkeeper to fail to get a strong enough pair of hands behind the shot and thus allowing it to fly up and over the line.
To bring further cheers out of the away fans, Frank Lampard made his first appearance since August for Chelsea 15 minutes to go as both teams searched for a vital winner that could define both their title chances.
Clever work from Bale on the left saw Robbie Keane nearly steal in before Cech gratefully grabbed the ball before desperate defending from Bassong put Drogba off enough down the other end as time ticked down but in a game.
Then a defining point came. In the second minute of injury time, another mistake by Gomes saw him haul down Ramires inside the area. Drogba immediately grabbed hold of the ball and placed it on the spot, but Gomes redeemed himself with a vital save diving to his left.