Premiership: Tottenham Hotspur 2 – 1 Chelsea

Match reports

The Independent, Glenn Moore: “Remember, remember, the fifth of November. Tottenham fans will never forget it as they finally lifted the hex Chelsea have held over them since the pre-Premiership era.”

Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: “The ‘bangs’ reverberating around the Lane after this epic match could have been Jose Mourinho breaking the sound barrier looking for Graham Poll. The Hertfordshire official should have given Hossam Ghaly a red card, rather than yellow, for a nasty elbow on Michael Essien, and John Terry was unfortunate to be singled out for a second yellow for holding when everyone seemed at it.”

The Times, Matt Hughes: “Terry took the first sending-off of his Chelsea career on the chin, removing his armband before he was formally dismissed, but José Mourinho was less impressed, launching a forthright attack on Poll. “Two matches with him and we’ve lost five points,” he said, referring to Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with Aston Villa in September. “One was disallowed and only Mr Poll can say why. I’ve seen it on TV with ten different angles and I don’t know why.

“Mr Poll goes home and we cannot ask him the reason for these decisions. I didn’t ask because they always have some excuse. He will say something like ‘Didier was free to head the goal but I saw a foul 30 yards away.’ He has very good eyesight. I don’t understand why John Terry was sent off. I’ve seen it also on TV and cannot find a reason. He sent Terry off while he was holding King and kept (Hossam) Ghaly on after he elbowed Michael Essien. Referees should come to the press conference and explain decisions, but it would be a fake conference.””

The Guardian, Kevin McCarra: “Chelsea, whose spirit must always be admired, attacked more than Martin Jol’s side and Arjen Robben, with a curling effort, struck the post in the 87th minute. All the same, among neutral observers it would take a curmudgeon to begrudge Spurs success. Jol himself, who had not overcome Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool or Arsenal until now, can claim to be a major influence on the outcome.”

The Herald, Karen Giles: “Dramatic, contentious, thrilling and outrageous from vibrant start to neurotic finish, this game was an explosion of dastardly deed, heroic effort and extraordinary passion.”

Official Chelsea FC Website, Neil Barnett: “Chelsea fought to the end, including through four minutes of stoppage time, but it had felt for some time that Three Point Lane would be No Point Lane this year. Manchester United are now three points ahead of Chelsea at the top of the table. Chelsea remain second. The goals conceded will be one concern. The refereeing decisions will be a major issue.”

The good

  1. The opening 20-25 minutes. We probably played our best football of the season so far, ripping into Spurs with such decisiveness and ease that the game really should have been put beyond them. If Graham Poll had decided to referee the game in front of him and not a preconceived one in his head, then Didier Drogba’s perfectly legitimate goal would have added to Claude Makelele’s wonder strike and the game would have been all but over.
  2. The game as a whole. It might have ended in major disappointment, but you can’t doubt the fact that it was almost on a par with last Tuesday’s encounter with Barcelona at Camp Nou for entertainment value. Credit must go to Spurs for the way they attacked, although they didn’t have a great deal of choice after conceding an early goal.
  3. Our performance with 10 men. The folklore of football says 10 men play better than 11, and more often than not this is the case. It can’t be said that we were any better in the last 20 minutes with 10 men than we were in the opening 20 with 11, but we were nothing short of outstanding after John Terry had been wrongly dismissed. One player was especially brilliant…
  4. Michael Essien. If ever a player is worth his weight in gold, it’s Essien. (Yes, we probably paid the equivalent of his weight in gold for his services, but boy was it worth it.) He seems to have a limitless supply of energy, and at times during the closing minutes was playing 3 different positions, including centre-back and right-back. He’s running Drogba close as my Player of the Season so far.
  5. Claude Makelele. If only for his remarkable goal. It had been coming.
  6. All the players deserve a mention because they were all magnificent, except for two…

The bad

  1. Our right-backs. It is often unfair to single out individual players after a defeat, but on this occasion Paulo Ferreira and Khalid Boulahrouz deserve it. Both were all at sea at times up against Spurs’ wingers and their individual mistakes cost us the two goals. Substitute Boulahrouz was reported to have stormed down the tunnel uttering expletives after being substituted himself, and it remains to be seen if he will start in place of the suspended Terry in Wednesday’s League Cup fourth round tie against Aston Villa.
  2. Which leads to Jose Mourinho’s tactics. For the opening 20 minutes they were perfect. But shortly after we took the lead, Martin Jol switched to 4-5-1 and put Robbie Keane and Aaron Lennon on the left and right wings respectively. From that point on, our 4-4-2 formation and narrow midfield struggled to keep Keane and Lennon in check, which opened up our full-backs to their speed and trickery. Ashley Cole coped slightly better on the left than Ferreira and Boulahrouz did on the right, but the fact that Keane and Lennon had so much joy highlights the problem of playing four central midfielders in Makelele, Essien, Frank Lampard and Michael Ballack. Maybe Mourinho could have countered Jol’s change of tactics?
  3. Graham Poll. It is not sour grapes on our part to say that the outcome of this game was determined by one of the most dislikeable and increasingly poor referees officiating in world football today. In five years’ time, when asked about the day Spurs finally lifted the Chelsea hex, are we going to remember Spurs’ good defensive performance, particularly Michael Dawson, our brilliant opening 20 minutes, poor right-back play, Makelele’s wonder goal? Probably. But not as vividly as we will remember Poll’s performance, baffling and incorrect decisions, and overall influence on the result. And do you know what? I believe this is exactly what Poll wants.
  4. And that’s about it. I think I’ve done quite well to recall all the above considering my beer intake increased exponentially with every passing minute of the second half.
  5. Oh, one more. The result. We lost. To Spurs! For the first time at White Hart Lane in over 19 years. It’s remarkable to think I was in the final year of being a GCSE guinea pig the last time it happened. I’ll admit that yesterday I was more concerned about the record than dropping points to Manchester United.

Man of the Match

Michael Essien.

Final thoughts

Complete this sentence: “Graham Poll…”

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