Tottenham 1 Chelsea 1: Four talking points as AVB & Mou share spoils
Tottenham 1 Chelsea 1: What lessons did we learn as Spurs and the Blues shared the spoils at White Hart Lane?
In-form Sigurdsson cements starting spot
With the influx of new talent at Tottenham Hotspur this summer, Gylfi Sigurdsson’s future at White Hart Lane appeared far from secure. But the Iceland international has forced his way into Andre Villas-Boas’ first-team and has become a central part of their recent run. The 24-year-old scored a double in Tottenham’s 2-0 victory over Norwich City last weekend and continued his goal-scoring run against the Blues. Christian Eriksen, who is showing signs of a blossoming partnership with his Baltic colleague, picked up the ball in midfield and darted past Frank Lampard. The Dane fed the ball into Roberto Soldado’s feet and the Spaniard picked out Sigurdsson’s superb run as the midfielder finished past Petr Cech. Tottenham’s opener bore similarities to Sigurdsson’s first goal against the Canaries last week which saw Eriksen pick out another late burst into the area by the Icelandic man. If Sigurdsson continues his run of form, Villas-Boas will find it hard to justify his omission in favour of club-record signing Erik Lamela.
Torres undoes star performance with red card
Fernando Torres was handed a rare start ahead of Samuel Eto’o at White Hart Lane as Chelsea adopted a more direct approach. In a throwback to Jose Mourinho’s first reign at Chelsea, the Blues were content to pump long balls up to Torres as the Spaniard was tasked with bringing team-mates into the game. In the first half, the 29-year-old was left largely isolated against Michael Dawson and Jan Vertonghen as Eden Hazard, Oscar and Ramires struggled to support their striker. Chelsea persisted with the long-ball routine after half-time but Torres started to have some joy. The former Liverpool striker produced a 48th-minute burst down the right wing past two Spurs defenders before producing a low cross for Oscar – but the Brazilian screwed his effort wide. Minutes later and Torres was at his direct best again as the Blues forward drifted past two challenges and drew a top-class save from Hugo Lloris. He showed his prickly side, too, as he clashed with Jan Vertonghen. He was fortunate to escape a red card when he scratched at the Belgian’s face, picking up a caution, before he was harshly issued with his marching orders for an aerial challenge. It was a disappointing end to an otherwise outstanding performance.
Mata comes to Chelsea’s rescue
Much of the pre-match focus was on Mourinho’s treatment of Juan Mata, and true to form, the Spaniard was on the benched for the London derby. But a hazardous first-half performance from some of Chelsea’s seniors such as Branislav Ivanovic, Frank Lampard and John Obi Mikel, forced Mourinho into a half-time change. Mata replaced the Nigerian midfielder and the move paid dividends for the west London side. The 25-year-old brought striker Torres to life as the pair combined to seemingly break the deadlock before an offside flag was raised. In the first half, Chelsea failed to make the most of set-piece opportunities against one of Europe’s meanest defences. That changed after the interval as Mata produced a series of dangerous deliveries – and it was from a free-kick that the Blues conjured a leveller in the 65th minute. The Chelsea No10 manufactured a precise set-piece which found skipper John Terry, who could hardly miss a matter of yards for Tottenham’s goal. Whether Mata’s done enough to earn a starting spot for Chelsea’s must-win Champions League clash against Steaua Bucharest.
Mourinho and Villas-Boas stalemate
Villas-Boas admitted he was no longer friends with Mourinho ahead of this clash despite working for the Portuguese coach at Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan until embarking on his management career. Meanwhile, the Chelsea boss branded the 35-year-old a coward for his remarks ahead of the derby. But there was no real winner at White Hart Lane. Spurs were impressive in the first half and Eriksen, signed after the north London side missed out on Willian, was the influential figure in midfield. Trailing 1-0, Mourinho showed his tactical prowess to withdraw Mikel for Mata and alter the momentum in the match. The former Valencia man made Chelsea’s leveller and the visitors enjoyed a sustained period of dominance until Torres’ 80th-minute sending off. Even then, Mourinho acted swiftly to cement at least a point from the derby. There’s no doubt Chelsea and Spurs are title contenders with the strength of their respective squads, and we’ll have to wait until the return fixture at Stamford Bridge to see who lands the first blow in the battle between the master and his apprentice.