EPL Report: Controversy at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea Heat Up Title Race

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EPL Report: Controversy at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea Heat Up Title Race
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In a week marred by controversy in the Spanish capital, Stamford Bridge in the English capital was the venue for more of the same.

On Saturday, title-contenders Chelsea hosted Champions League hopefuls Tottenham in a massively important game for both sides. With both clubs chasing the three points, this London derby was primed as one of the key remaining fixtures in the Premier League season.

Manager Carlo Ancelotti picked both Fernando Torres and Didier Drogba in his starting 11, with the latter pushed out to the right flank. The Blues set out in a rather unbalanced 4-3-3 formation, lacking natural width down the right as Drogba frequently pushed inside.

Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp was forced to pick an under-strength squad, missing the likes of Assou-Ekotto and Huddlestone through injury. The strong and adventurous Kaboul filled in at right-back, with Corluka sliding over to left-back, and Sandro was deployed in his familiar holding midfield role.

Playing in their 4-5-1 formation, the attack-minded side had Bale and Van der Vaart fully fit and up for the challenge.

The Blues looked dangerous from the onset, as their £50 million Spaniard showed increasing confidence in the final third. The former Liverpool striker was more precise in his movement and looked threatening when in possession.

In the 14th minute, a thunderous free-kick from Drogba almost opened up the scoring for the home side. From 35 yards out, the Ivorian used extraordinary technique to create a powerful, swerving dynamic on the ball.

Drogba's effort forced a heroic save from Tottenham goalkeeper Gomes as the Brazilian pushed it over the bar.

After absorbing constant pressure and shots on goal, Tottenham scored the opening goal through a tremendous right-footed strike from Sandro. Much against the run of play, the Brazilian midfielder latched onto a Van der Vaart flick and struck a venomous volley past Chelsea's Cech from 30 yards out.

The Blues goalkeeper had no chance as it flew into the top left corner.

Chelsea responded to the goal by piling more pressure on the Tottenham backline. Essien forced another save from Gomes, and with the goal at his mercy Torres was caught flat-footed and spoiled a promising chance with a weak header off target.

With the Blues' determination and drive to attack, the home side looked destined to break the Tottenham defense.

In the waning seconds before half-time, England midfielder Frank Lampard struck a dipping shot from 25-30 yards out. Tottenham's Gomes attempted to catch Lampard's strike, but spilled the shot horribly. The ball slipped between his legs and forced the Brazilian keeper to dive back in order to stop the ball from crossing the line.

To the despair of Tottenham supporters, referee Andre Marriner awarded the Blues with a shocking goal. With a poor viewpoint of the incident, the referee's assistant claimed that the whole of the ball crossed the whole of the line. However, upon video replay, it is clear that Gomes' outstretched arm stopped the ball on the line.

There is no doubt that the referee's assistant made a monumental mistake and awarded a controversial goal to the home side.

While the referees will be harshly criticized by Tottenham supporters, there is plenty of blame to share. Not only is Gomes at fault for failing to catch or parry the ball cleanly, the defense was poor in closing down Lampard.

Although the replays show it was clearly not a goal, Tottenham unfortunately put themselves in such a vulnerable position. It was never a goal and Tottenham were absolutely wronged by the referees, but the side should have prevented the initial danger.

In the beginning of the second half Torres showed signs of continued improvement, but the Spaniard failed to make a significant impact in attack. Ancelotti chose to bring on winger Saloman Kalou for the striker in the 63rd minute. This substitution saw Drogba move into his familiar central striker position, with Malouda and Kalou patrolling the flanks.

Taking off the Spaniard seemed a questionable decision, as the striker had scored his first goal with the club against West Ham and showed glimpses of good form during the match. Ancelotti's change was vindicated by Drogba's free-kick in the 64th minute.

The Ivorian once again tested the Tottenham goalkeeper with an exceptional strike from 40 yards out. Drogba's swerving strike forced Gomes to parry the ball back to Kalou, who had no time to react as the ball is launched over the bar. The keeper wore his nervous emotions on his sleeve, as he looked noticeably uncomfortable with efforts from long range.

Minutes later, the referee was the center of controversy again as Malouda went down in the box. The Frenchman looked to have been taken down by Kaboul. In real-time, it looked a sure penalty, as Chelsea supporters voiced their discontent as Marriner ignored the protests.

Replays have shown that Kaboul got the slightest touch on the ball in his last-ditch tackle and that the referee was correct in rejecting penalty claims.

The Blues pushed on in attack, sacrificing defensive solidity while seeking a late winner. Their constant pressure and waves of attack finally proved too much for Tottenham, as the home side broke through in the 89th minute.

Drogba burst through the box and maneuvered for a left-footed shot on goal. The Chelsea striker scuffed the shot, which landed at the feet of the substitute Kalou who netted the winning goal.

Tottenham players were furious with the referee for failing to flag for offsides. Kalou was clearly offside by half a body length when the ball was played. Tottenham's protests fell upon deaf ears as the referee awarded the decisive goal. The referee's assistants once again made a horrific mistake in favor of the home side.

The visitors will feel gutted as both goals they surrendered were clearly refereeing howlers. Although Tottenham never looked threatening in attack, they defended valiantly and earned a better result.

This loss will be a significant turning point as the club's search for Champions League football next season looks in doubt. Human error is part of the beautiful game; however, these are the moments when it hurts the most.

Tottenham deserved a positive result from their display at Stamford Bridge. Instead, human error has put their hopes of European football in jeopardy.

In a week full of controversy, Tottenham have suffered a significant setback.

Chelsea's controversial victory turns up the heat on Manchester United atop the Premier League table. With the two sides set to meet at Old Trafford next week, it is all to play for heading into the final weeks of the season.

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