Home » EPL, Latest » Match Report: Chelsea 0 Tottenham 0

The deterrent of Europa League football is clearly not working. Chelsea, faced with a Tottenham team on the slide, knew that victory would bring them within two points of Harry Redknapp’s side. They were the hunters and the quarry was unexpectedly within their reach.

So that made it all the more bafflingly when Chelsea, supposedly reinvigorated by their Champions League heroics, failed to play with any intensity. They had not lost a league game to Spurs at Stamford Bridge since 1990 and only retained that record through some last-ditch defending. Next season’s Champions League is a party to which Chelsea are struggling to get an invite.

Since Roman Abramovich bought this piece of West London real estate in 2003, Chelsea have been in the Champions League every season. You cannot imagine he is thrilled at the prospect of mixing it with the also-rans in the continent’s second tier. Even taking into the context the intensity of Chelsea’s fixture schedule, this was insipid stuff, the players lulled into somnolence by the unseasonal sunshine.

There was no pressing, no speed of pass, no incisive movement off the ball. Spurs, with a packed five-man midfield, were prepared to sit deep, soak up Chelsea attacks and try to hit on the counter. It suited them to keep the game subdued. That Chelsea obliged was hard to explain.

“We were too slow in possession,” Roberto Di Matteo said. “We did not move the ball quickly enough. To be fair to them they defended well, playing very deep.” Di Matteo felt Ramires should have had a penalty for being pulled back by Benoît Assou-Ekotto — a tough one for the officials to see clearly — but there was little else for him to cling to.

With a Champions League quarter-final against Benfica on Tuesday and an FA Cup semi-final against Spurs or Bolton next month, the emphasis seems to be on short-term glory, rather than next season’s status.

To be fair, winning silverware is probably the best chance Di Matteo has of keeping this job.

The closest Chelsea came to scoring was with just under 20 minutes to go. Younes Kaboul had gone surging forward and pulled up injured.

Chelsea countered with Spurs players impatiently signalling for their opponents to put the ball out. Eventually patience snapped and Gareth Bale chopped down Ramires outside the Spurs box.

Juan Mata struck the ensuing free-kick superbly, the flight of the ball deceiving Brad Friedel, who could only watch the ball thump against the foot of his left post. There was some confused communication between David Luiz and Didier Drogba from the rebound and the chance was gone.

That moment jerked Tottenham awake. Suddenly Redknapp was barking orders from the technical area and Louis Saha and Jake Livermore were sent on to provide some energy. There was now a determination about the visitors and they created four excellent chances to win it.

Luka Modric was growing in influence and, in the 77th minute, he bought a free-kick off Luiz in dangerous territory. The Croat took the set-piece himself, his in-swinging cross arriving perfectly for William Gallas. The French defender, selected ahead of Ledley King for his performance in this fixture last season, headed the ball over and immediately buried his face in his hands.

Modric was at it again two minutes later, lobbing a ball in behind the defence. Emmanuel Adebayor went clear. He took the ball around Petr Cech and sentit goalwards, only for Gary Cahill to slide in and divert the ball behind. The England defender had actually played Adebayor onside but his recovery was superb.

From the corner Modric sent in a cross that Bale, unmarked, headed against the middle of the bar. The ball came back out to the Welshman who headed it back into the danger area. Adebayor, just like he had right at the end of the first half, headed on to the roof of the net from close range.

Bale almost won it in stoppage-time. Adebayor received the ball with his back to goal, some 30 yards out, and Luiz needlessly pulled the Spurs striker back. Bale liked the look of the free-kick and his vicious effort bounced awkwardly as it headed for the bottom corner. Cech did well to deal with it.

Tottenham had also gone close in the stoppage-time of the first half when Rafael van der Vaart volleyed straight at Cech and then saw Ashley Cole block his follow up effort. Still, despite missing those chances, Redknapp was pleased to have kept the cushion over Chelsea, even though this stretched their winless streak in the league to five games.

“It was an important point for us,” Redknapp said. “It is not as if we have been playing badly. If we’d been coming in short of confidence every morning I’d have been worried but that’s not been the case.” Not only do Spurs have that five-point advantage but they have much the easier run-in; Chelsea still have to travel to Arsenal and Liverpool. “It is in our favour at the moment but it can all change,” Redknapp said. “We just have to keep picking up results. We have decent games now. We have to make sure we win six out of the last eight.”

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