Lampard 45, Kalou 89 – Sandro 19
Football history is littered with matches and seasons which can turn on one crucial moment. Sometimes it is a piece of exhilarating play, sometimes a mistake, and very often on a decision made by an official. If the 2010/11 Premier League title does find its way to Stamford Bridge, then the decision of Mike Cairns, the assistant referee, to give a goal after Frank Lampard’s shot squirmed away from Heurelho Gomes before being clawed back by the Brazilian keeper, will be seen as the moment that turned the title race Chelsea’s way.
Following Manchester United’s defeat to Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium yesterday, Chelsea’s 2-1 win over Tottenham has kept last season’s champions still within touching distance before a potential title decider at Old Trafford next weekend.
Chelsea came into the game knowing nothing less than a win would do as they seek to retain the title, and Carlo Ancelotti made a change to his regular formation, with Salomon Kalou being dropped to the bench to accommodate a strike partnership of Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres. Chelsea reverted to a diamond formation in midfield: Frank Lampard at its point, John-Obi Mikel at the base.
Tottenham lined up in a 4-4-2 formation, with Rafael Vander Vaart slightly withdrawn from Roman Pavlyuchenko in the forward line. Sandro and Luka Modric formed the central midfield, with Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale providing the width.
Chelsea started the game on the front foot, and the midfield was the area they established their dominance, with their four overrunning the two in the middle for Spurs. Despite this Chelsea were restricted to a Drogba free-kick from range in the opening quarter of the match.
Harry Redknapp seeing his side struggle to match the Blues in the middle of the park, desperately tried to relay instructions for Spurs to go with a like-for-like midfield, Sandro dropping to a holding role and Modric to push forward slightly. With his instructions largely being ignored, he was given the perfect opportunity to get his message across after Sandro sprinted to the bench following his stunning 25-yard-strike which gave Spurs the lead, the Brazilian midfielder looking slightly bemused to be given a roasting after such a wonderful goal.
Redknapp’s tactical switch seemed to have worked, as Chelsea then struggled to break Spurs down. However it was his nephew, Lampard and the officials who gave Chelsea a lifeline, as the victim of one of the poorest goal-line decisions of all-time in last summer’s World Cup, this time gained one in his favour to bring Chelsea level.
The second half saw Chelsea press for a winning goal, whilst Spurs who really needed three points to keep their faint Champions League hopes alive, struggle to retain possession. Chelsea made the vital breakthrough in the dying minutes, as Kalou, who had replaced the ineffective Torres on the hour mark, bundled the ball home from close range. The fact that he was offside as he did so only reinforced the feeling that Chelsea were fated to prolong the title race. Judgement Day awaits at Old Trafford next week.