Didier Drogba went from hero to villain after his last gasp penalty miss denied Chelsea a first win at Tottenham Hotspur for five years having levelled for the Premier League champions after coming on at half time.
Demoted to the bench after a string of lacklustre performances, few could have placed the blame on the towering Ivorian when his tame spot kick was palmed away by Gomes. Given the fact he had already dragged Chelsea back into a game that should have been beyond them when Ancelotti turned to his misfiring hit man after the hour, Drogba should instead draw confidence from his first goal from open play in two months.
Nicolas Anelka was chosen to lead the line in his strike partner’s absence, but the Frenchman’s lack of desire to run in behind the Tottenham backline stifled any hopes Chelsea had of equalising in the first half. With just three Premier League goals this term, the surly forward is in desperate need of a goal, but did little more at White Hart Lane then make up the numbers.
Compatriot Florent Malouda also struggled to impose himself on the game and for large portions of the match was merely a spectator. Michael Essien was industrious as ever in midfield, but the Ghanaian powerhouse seems to be struggle for rhythm at the moment, and his anxiety after a promising start to the game soon reverberated through the Chelsea ranks.
Harry Redknapp’s unlikely heroes have lit up Europe this season and it was evident that Spurs would try to get in behind their visitors’ often isolated full-backs. Ashley Cole and Paulo Ferreira were pegged back for the majority of the game and without them supporting the attack in the final third, Chelsea are painfully narrow when in possession. Gareth Bale kept his Portuguese counterpart busy for most of the evening as Tottenham exposed Chelsea’s worst kept secret.
Chelsea’s inability and seeming refusal to play the simple ball ultimately denied them any real chance of stealing all three points. When passes were played to feet, first touches were wayward and a constant stream of ping pong football only amplified a rapid tempo that better suited Spurs. But it is incredible how a goal can change a game. After Drogba’s fierce strike was fumbled by Gomes, Chelsea were instantly in the ascendency and perhaps with some more composure in front of goal, would have picked up a vital win.
Chelsea’s rearguard defended well against a formidable Tottenham attack but were left exposed time and time again as the hosts ran riot in the first half. Poor finishing and several cases of do-or-die defending helped keep the deficit to one but with Manchester United and Arsenal next up for Carlo Ancelotti, Chelsea have to assert themselves on the opposition from the off, and act quicker to prevent the opposition isolating their fullbacks.
19 Ferreira – 2 Ivanovic – 26 Terry – 3 Cole
5 Essien – 12 Mikel – Ramires
15 Malouda – 39 Anelka – 21 Kalou
46 – 11 Drogba on for 12 Mikel
68 – 23 Sturridge on for 21 Kalou
77 – 8 Lampard on for 15 Malouda