LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 22: Gareth Bale of Tottenham Hotspur takes a shot at the goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea at White Hart Lane on December 22, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Chelsea brought some of their best in the second half, but Tottenham Hotspur did enough to hang on for a point in a 1-1 draw. While Spurs were the dominant side in the first eight minutes and deserved a goal, but Chelsea were perhaps the slightly superior side from then on out. They found one goal, but Tottenham fought hard and defended well to grab a point. And even though the Blues were the better team in the second half, it was Tottenham who had the best chances to win the game at the end.
John Terry was criminally charged with racist abuse of Anton Ferdinand just over 24 hours before this match, but like he has in the past, played his best in a time of controversy. Terry was arguably the man of the match for Chelsea, making three key blocks and playing fantastic defense after Branislav Ivanovic went out with an injury.
However, his midfield gave him almost no help to start the game. Tottenham were all over Chelsea at the kickoff and had all of the ball and all of the chances early. The goal finally came in the eighth minute on a move started by Sandro, who made a brilliant tackle in the center of midfield. Gareth Bale picked up the ball after the tackle and ran down the left flank, getting himself into enough space to play a brilliant cross. Emmanuel Adebayor was there to finish it off, and Spurs got off to a dream start with an early 1-0 win.
Chelsea almost equalized instantly. In the 10th minute, Juan Mata ripped a spectacular shot from the outside of the area that Brad Friedel could only knock away. His save pushed the ball directly into the path of Daniel Sturridge, who skied his shot over the bar. Sturridge looked terrible throughout the first 20 minutes or so, but would eventually redeem himself.
The equalizer came in the 23rd minute, and though there was some questionable officiating in the build-up, Tottenham only have themselves to blame. Drogba started the move by releasing Ashley Cole down the left hand side, and the Chelsea left back looked to control with his arm. He then played a brilliant cross across the face of goal that was tapped in by an unmarked Sturridge. Cole extended his arm towards the ball, but Spurs had plenty of other opportunities to stop the goal from happening. Kyle Walker was skinned by Cole, while Benoit Assou-Ekotto was nowhere to be found at the back post.
Didier Drogba almost grabbed the go-ahead goal in the 29th minute with an incredible bit of skill. The Ivorian chested down the ball in the box, then hit a fantastic volley at the near post. Unluckily for him, he hit the post instead of the back of the net. From that point until the end of the half, things would go downhill for the Blues.
Chelsea would suffer two injuries before the end of the half that forced them into substitutions. Branislav Ivanovic was taken off in the 32nd minute after injuring his hamstring, replaced by Paulo Ferreira. With David Luiz injured and Alex frozen out of the side, Chelsea had no natural central defenders available and Jose Bosignwa was forced to move inside. They were forced into the second change just before the halftime whistle, when John Obi Mikel had to come off for Oriol Romeu.
Rafael van der Vaart had a poor first half, and according to some at the match, he picked up a slight knock as well. With Bosingwa in the center of defense and VDV not playing well, it was understandable that Harry Redknapp wanted to bring on a true striker. Unfortunately, the only one he had available was Roman Pavlyuchenko. Pav was poor, while the move forced Luka Modric wide. That aspect of the substitution crippled Spurs, and Chelsea were better in the midfield in the second half by a wide margin.
The second half continued to be entertaining, though less wide open than the first. Chelsea controlled the midfield, but did not create a high volume of clear-cut chances as all of Brad Friedel, Ledley King and William Gallas played superbly. Chelsea created 22 shots and seven on target in the game, most in the second half, but could not score a second goal.
Things really picked up in the final six minutes of regulation and stoppage time, and it's incredible that the match ended 1-1. Both teams had clear chances to win that they inexplicably failed to put away. Sandro started the madness with a deflected shot in the 84th minute, but Petr Cech made a remarkable save to keep the score tied. Just two minutes later, Ramires should have had the winner but missed an absolute sitter, putting an uncontested header wide right.
From then until the end it was Chelsea pushing forward until the second minute of stoppage time, when Tottenham created their second best chance of the game. On a fantastic counter attack, Bale laid off a ball on the edge of the box for Adebayor. He had time and space to line up his shot and it looked like he was about to score, but Terry got across to get a small piece of the ball, causing it to dribble just inches wide of the far post.
Though both teams had plenty of chances to win the game, both will likely look back on the match and feel happy with the point. It was fairly even and very well played, despite the questionable late finishing. Both teams will have to get healthy and re-focus themselves quickly, as they both play on Boxing Day.