A controversial red card to Fernando Torres marred an impressive Chelsea fight-back as they came from behind to draw with London rivals Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 at White Hart Lane.
Tottenham bossed the first half and deservedly led at the break through Gylfi Sigurdsson’s tidy finish, but Chelsea roared back and Terry nodded in with 25 minutes to go to level the scores.
Torres was sent off with nine minutes to go despite replays showing it was a harsh decision and Spurs couldn’t take advantage to grab a winning goal.
All the attention before kick-off were on both Andre Villas-Boas and Jose Mourinho as they were once close confidants on the FC Porto coaching team before falling out, but it was their decisions to exclude certain players that flummoxed fans in the stadium. Tottenham has beaten Aston Villa in the Capital One Cup with Jermain Defoe getting both goals in a 2-0 win, but the veteran striker could not find his way in the starting eleven for this league game.
Meanwhile, Mourinho chose once again to leave Juan Mata on the bench alongside Samuel Eto’o while Willian, who Chelsea nicked to the transfer of ahead of Spurs in the summer, couldn’t even make the match-day squad.
It was the man who Villas-Boas turned his attentions to after failing to sign Willian that ran the show for the home side in the first half as Chelsea failed to deal with the threat of Christian Eriksen. The Danish midfielder showed some classy touches as Spurs controlled the possession before finally taking the lead in the 19th minute.
Eriksen did brilliantly to spin away from the tackles of Ramires and Frank Lampard before chipping in a cross for Roberto Soldado and the Spanish striker linked up well with Sigurdsson. The former Swansea City man strode past David Luiz into the penalty area before slamming in past Petr Cech for his third goal of the season. It was a well-worked goal and Soldado’s link-up play will be a testament to Villas-Boas’ decision to stick with him rather than the form of Defoe.
It could have been 2-0 right on the verge of half-time, but the travelling faithful were left thanking their luck as the woodwork saved Chelsea from falling further behind. Andros Townsend broke forward from midfield and played in a nice pass for Paulinho to race on to, but the Brazilian’s powerful low shot thumped back off the post and away to safety with Soldado unable to react quick enough.
Despite their dominance, Spurs could have been pegged back with the last kick of the half but a wasteful header from Terry cost Chelsea. Ramires did well to get a cross in that the big centre-back got his head to from six yards, but the skipper couldn’t keep his effort down and the ball flew into the stands. It was a great chance, but Chelsea were thankful to still be in the game after a poor first half.
The second half proved to be a different game and it hinged on Mourinho’s decision to introduce Mata as a half-time substitution. The change meant Chelsea had more of a driving midfielder to get forward and it showed as their tempo picked up and they created more chances. Torres was unlucky in the 53rd minute when he used his pace to race past Michael Dawson into the penalty area and went for goal, but Hugo Lloris made a terrific save with his feet to keep the effort out.
Lloris could do nothing about Chelsea’s equalising goal when it came twelve minutes later and unsurprisingly, it was Mata who got the assist with a terrific free-kick. The cross was inswinging with the perfect amount of height and pace for Terry to guide his header down and past the French goalkeeper, with the ball settling in the bottom corner. It was a really well-crafted strike and it was the perfect example of how to make the most of your set-pieces.
The battle between Tottenham’s Jan Vertonghen and Chelsea’s Torres was bubbling over all game and in truth, the Chelsea striker was lucky to still be on the pitch after clawing at the defender’s face earlier in the game. He would have the opposite type of luck with his actual sending off as both men went down following what looked like a clash of heads. It was a harmless aerial battle, but Torres was shocked when the referee showed him a second yellow card in a decision that understandably angered Mourinho on the touchline.
Tottenham had nine minutes to force in a winning goal, but failed to do so with Sigurdsson’s dipping volley wide being the closest Villas-Boas’ side came. The full-time whistled signalled a point for each team and it was a fair result as for all Tottenham’s dominance of the first half, Chelsea’s second half comeback was impressive.
Match Report by Kyle Dixon (@kyledixon95)