Chelsea maintained their unbeaten record against London rivals Tottenham Hotspur as they came from behind to earn a point at White Hart Lane. Tottenham took the lead after 20 minutes with a goal from Gylfi Sigurdsson and went into halftime leading. However, the introduction of Juan Mata after the break gave Chelsea the incisive finish they had been missing, and the Spaniard’s free kick allowed John Terry to level the score with a trademark header.
Controversy rarely stays away from games between these two sides, and an ongoing battle between Jan Vertonghen and Fernando Torres was cut short after 80 minutes when the Chelsea striker received his second yellow card of the match.
A draw is a fair result from an entertaining grudge match that more than lived up to its billing, and there were plenty of talking points.
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Torres’ goal and assist against Swindon Town gave him the nod over Samuel Eto’o in the starting XI today. He took some time to get going but once he got involved his movement was excellent. More importantly, he seems to have regained the spark that commanded his enormous transfer fee, although that hunger became his downfall.
Although he could arguably have been sent off for clawing at Vertonghen’s face in the first half, he will feel aggrieved at the challenge that saw him receive his second yellow card. A 50/50 aerial duel ended with him and Vertonghen in a heap on the floor. Despite the Belgian having a firm hold of the striker’s collar, it was Torres who saw red, leaving him banned for the Norwich City game at least
Chelsea were playing possession football in the first 45 minutes whilst failing to really test Hugo Lloris in the Spurs goal. Mata had been omitted from the starting XI again despite an excellent performance against Swindon Town. He replaced John Obi Mikel at halftime as Mourinho tweaked his tactics, and had the ball in the net within 10 minutes. This effort was correctly ruled offside, but Mata kept going and got the assist for Terry’s equaliser with a superb free kick.
Mourinho has never doubted the Spanish playmaker’s ability. He made it clear that his talent was obvious, but he needed to adapt to become a great team player, and Mata has taken this challenge with relish. A below average performance from Eden Hazard will see Mata recalled to the squad for their Champions League group stage clash with Steaua Bucharest on Tuesday.
Chelsea began the first half looking as sharp as they did in the UEFA Super Cup defeat to Bayern Munich. They worked as a unit and used their possession to pressure Tottenham. Although they failed to test Lloris until the second half, the teamwork on show at White Hart Lane was impressive.
This was the first occasion they have had to come from behind in the league so far this season and the backs to the wall spirit that Mourinho loves will serve them well.
As neglected as Mata has been so far this season, Hazard and Oscar have been amongst the first names on the teamsheet. However, both were below average today as they struggled to make any real impact. Their passing was sloppy, with Oscar managing an accuracy of 68 percent and Hazard finding his man 60 percent of the time.
Mourinho is a man of his word and, on this performance, the duo who have been so secure in their starting berths should be looking over their shoulders.
The home side were dominant in the middle of the park, with Mousa Dembele’s man of the match performance overpowering Frank Lampard and John Obi Mikel. Lampard looked his age today as he struggled with the physicality of the match, while Mikel was also quiet, failing to make a single tackle.
Things improved for Chelsea when Ramires moved back from the wing, but a growing injury list will give Mourinho cause for concern in the coming weeks.
Terry was always going to play a key role in this game. His years of experience in heated derbies between these two sides have taught him valuable lessons, and he was the key to Chelsea's organised performance at Spurs.
Even before he headed home the equaliser, Chelsea's captain, leader, legend, was crucial to keeping his teammates calm. Mike Dean even went so far as to beckon him from across the pitch to have a word with Branislav Ivanovic.
In addition to his goal, Terry made seven vital clearances to keep the Blues in the game to earn a point that could prove vital at the business end of the season.