In the lap of the Gods
Hey Tottenham. When you're able, do you mind taking my heart out of my mouth and placing it back into my chest? Whenever you're ready. I'd like to return to normality and enjoy the tranquillity until the next time we play.
The game at Stamford Bridge didn't quite play out as I expected. But then, what did I actually expect? A tight high intensity affair not too dissimilar to the game at the Eastlands back in 2010 (a genuine play-off for a top four place)? What we got instead was a far more frantic affair. This wasn't quite 'winner takes all' but rather 'winner takes the advantage'. In the end, neither did but Chelsea are a win away from consolidating Champions League whereas we have to a) win our two remaining games b) rely on the other side in the equation to lose/drop points. Our fate is now in the comforting lap of the Gods.
I spent the latter part of the game shaking my fist towards the heavens demanding that for once those biased old men with white beards pull on a Spurs shirt and shine some love down on us rather than look the other way, which traditionally is the usual lack of interest they bestow.
The early parts of the game illustrated the harsh fact that as good as we can be with a full strength side, no season goes by when you have all the players available to select from. Lose one or two in key areas and you'll struggle. Or you'll suffer against sterner opposition when matched up pound for pound. Chelsea, with their trickery and pace through the middle, had no trouble facing up to our midfield which meant for the most part they comfortably out played us.
No Dembele, meaning no physicality and dynamism so we had to rely a little on Chelsea not hitting the target too often and us playing on the counter. Not ideal. We could have set ourselves to play deeper, invite them into a congested field of play and then hit them out wide with pacey width. The game was far more open and they took advantage of it.
It's an all too familiar consequence of injuries/lack of depth in key areas. It's actually a ridiculous comparison when you look at them with Mata, Hazard and Oscar and you look at us and scratch your chin in deep thought how much of a difference one of three would make to our midfield. Although that thought might be eclipsed by the one regarding the massive monster of a hole that Sandro would usually fill.
Holtby hassled and worked hard. Walker determined. Bale and Lennon we're contained with relative ease. Adebayor however was surprisingly assured and composed, leading the front line. He had direction and purpose with his movement.
Still, no hope at the back for the 1-0 to the hosts. Cheap goal, cheap defending. Cahill with all the time in the world to get his head on it and flick it on towards Oscar, accepting the gift-wrapped opportunity. Wish our organisation and focus at corners wasn't so frustratingly lacklustre. An ominous start. Then Adebayor scored. What a goal. A genius moment from the maligned forward, getting a header in at the
back, challenging for the ball and then bursting with pace across the
Stamford Bridge turf before his sublime effort from twenty-five yards for the 1-1. Credit to Lennon and his run that consumed the Chelsea minds in the build up.
We retained possession well but Chelsea always looked the more likely in offensive positions to score again. And they did, with Ramires toe-poking their second not long before half-time after more cheap defending, this time Dawson and Vertonghen allowing too much space at the back for the run and shot.
You'd think that would be our cue to collapse and cave in. Nope. This is a non-choke resolute robust Tottenham that just won't give in. Ramires could have, should have completed his brace in the second half but fell on his face after slipping in the penalty area. Was that a little wink from the heavens? Sigurdsson replaced Lennon, Dempsey replaced Holtby. Carroll almost got subbed on, shame he didn't because the game could have done with his touch and vision to aid us with seeking out the equaliser. He didn't make it on because of our equaliser.
The Benny pass. The Adebayor backheel. Siggy's placement. 2-2. Ten minutes left. Surely the Gods are not reaching out in an attempt to embrace little olde Tottenham, are they?
I loved those final tense ten minutes. The comeback, yet another comeback, really drums home the fact that this team has strong fortitude and belief in their ability even if the execution in play isn't always clean, crisp and concise across the full ninety minutes. No faulting the endeavour of Adebayor who reminded us just how influential he can be when he's on this type of form, something we've missed for practically the entirety of the season.
Chelsea still attacked us. Still carved up chances. But so did we. And when Bale had that free-kick late on, you thought...maybe, just maybe. The Gods however would much prefer our suffering is prolonged for another game.
2-2, final score is not the result we needed. Chelsea's effort far more evident early on but our reaction, twice, was enriched with fighting spirit. The character we displayed is heart-warming and there is no dismissing the trait to compete but we still lack that all-round refinement to allow us to dominate the initiative and dictate. That broken record plays again, songs about players we've not replaced and the injured. I hope our chairman can hear the tunes as strongly as we whistle to them.
In the end, a good point. Our defending has to improve. Dawson didn't have the best of evenings. Huddlestone involved but at times erratic with his distribution when it mattered most, although still our top performer with his completion rate. We should accommodate someone like Carroll more often in games to make up for the lack of pace (vision is hardly an understated commodity and shouldn't be treated like one). Parker's relentless ethic so vital in the last twenty minutes, driving the tempo towards something suitable for our push for the points. Holtby seems to have only one setting currently - 1000 mph. Firmly believe we won't see a more cultured side to his ability until next season when we start afresh.
Adebayor was sensational. Sigurdsson the difference (impact substitution from Andre Villas-Boas). We rode our luck a little but this was a semi-functional Spurs side against a fully functional Chelsea and yet some how managed to have more possession than they did. Top marks also to the away support, glorious in surround sound, belonging and supporting throughout. Low mark for Mark Dean and his preference for free-kicks against us.
In the grand scheme of things, the two defeats against Liverpool and Fulham will prove to be the ones that punctured our momentum. There were other moments involving the woodwork. The loss to Everton away. Late dropped points. Such a fine margin. A point here, a point there and injuries and squad issues would not have mattered. Even with those injuries and ongoing squad issues, there is still no shame in how we've performed across the season but there is frustration and plenty of it because even though we're not as good as we can be we have still been as good as we needed to be to finish top four. Well, almost.
So, the lap of the Gods is where our fate sits, purring whilst stroked until said God places it into a box with attached weights and chucks it into a river.
Come on you Spurs.