Tottenham 2 Chelsea 1: Title race back on as Spurs stun leaders and move into top four

18 April 2010 12:13
On an extraordinary evening at White Hart Lane, Chelsea lost their captain, their composure and the impressive air of certainty which once attended their challenge for the Premier League title.

And as the significance of the day started to sink in, Harry Redknapp delivered this impeccable summary: 'The championship is wide open again.'

A combination of Paul Scholes' belated goal at Eastlands, the spirited excellence of Redknapp's Spurs and the crass irresponsibility of John Terry have postponed Chelsea's coronation and prepared our finest football teams for a battle to the death.

The only certainty is that this title will be hard won.

Blowing a Bale: Gareth was at his electric best once again, scoring the second

But if Scholes' contribution was dramatic and Tottenham's simply admirable, then Terry's was by far the most disturbing.

Beneath the gimlet stare of Fabio Capello, Terry had spent an uncomfortable, unconvincing hour or so against the pace and movement of Jermain Defoe and Roman Pavlyuchenko. He had conceded a penalty in 15 minutes, moving his arm instinctively, almost involuntarily to a ball inthe area. Having escaped a time or two recently, the Chelsea captain appears to think it entirely legal.

Referee Phil Dowd corrected him and awarded a penalty Defoe convertedwith a gleeful thump.

Terry grew more vulnerable and in 63 minutes he was booked for a crude trip on Pavlyuchenko. And then, three minutes later, the roof fellin. Defoe came stepping nimbly along the left touchline and played a pass into Gareth Bale.

As the Spurs player moved on to the ball, Terry came across at speed,plunging into a tackle which was as self-indulgent as it was reckless. Dowd made the easiest decision of the night when he sent him off.

Paying the penalty: Jermain Defoe smashes Spurs in front from the spot

Terry being Terry, he paused for a menacing word with the blameless Bale. Significantly, the captain's colleagues were not inclined to argue. One wonders just what Capello made of such idiocy. And one wonders if Terry's World Cup place is quite as secure as we used to think.

None of which should distract from Spurs' performance. They pursued their goal of fourth place with style and assurance. They never allowed Chelsea a moment's luxury on the ball, in Bale they had the game's outstanding performer, and they fully deserved the matchwinning advantage which their first-half display secured.

A week which had started with a calamitous FA Cup semi-final loss to Portsmouth was transformed by a distinguished midweek win over Arsenal.

Hard done by? John Terry claimed to have won the ball on both occasions he was booked

Somebody said, with cavalier disdain for cliche, that it all depends which Spurs side turn up.

In fact, they revealed a genuine relish for the task.

They attacked with pace, expressing themselves resourcefully, stretching Chelsea, enjoying the breathing space of the penalty goal.

Chelsea slowly discovered their passing game, forcing Spurs to chase in hope. But again, fortune deserted them in 37 minutes when Florent Malouda's scoring touch was ruled out for a marginal offside.

But the decisive moment arrived seven minutes later. Bale swapped passes with Pavlyuchenko, Paulo Ferreira backed off to a dangerous degree, allowing the Tottenham player time to assess his options. And Bale chose to smash it into the bottom corner.

The old place fairly shook with the noise of celebration.

A touch of farce entered proceedings at the start of the second half.Nicolas Anelka and Branislav Ivanovic came in for Joe Cole and Ferreira. Then, seconds before the restart, Didier Drogba came limping to the sideline with a groin strain.

Chelsea tried to reorganise but with Michael Ballack having already replaced injured John Obi Mikel, all the substitutes had been used. So Drogba had to stay around, while a kind of chaos reigned.

The 53rd minute brought further chaos, when Frank Lampard's tackle onTom Huddlestone provoked a brawl. Deco and Huddlestone were booked, Lampard, obscurely, escaped.

By then, Defoe should have ended all the arguments but his shot was undisciplined and Petr Cech parried it past a post, with Chelsea in total disarray.

Spurs were coming home with some ease, the only interruption to theirprogress being the goal which Lampard accepted in added time.

Even then, Pavlyuchenko should have added a touch of reality to the score, but he managed the miss of the night.

It did not matter. Chelsea were finished.

With a point's advantage and three to play, they must remain favourites. But it will be more difficult, much more pressurised. Nothing is certain. And now they must wait, and wonder.

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Source: Daily_Mail