Mata Proves A Point As Chelsea Battle To Derby Draw At Spurs

Posted by Mark Worrall

In a game of two tempestuous halves and one referee, John Terry's second-half headed goal cancelled out Gylfi Sigurdsson's well-crafted earlier strike for Tottenham in a game the home side initially dominated but which ended with a 1-1 draw.

Much of the build-up to Saturday's game between Spurs and Chelsea had focused on the stand-offish relationship that allegedly now exists between respective managers Andre Villas-Boas and Jose Mourinho. But they were like a couple of pussycats compared with their tempestuous charges, who went toe-to-toe and shoulder-to-shoulder in this fractious and pulsating London derby, in which referee Mike Dean dished out yellow cards like confetti and sent off Fernando Torres for no apparent reason when the Blues looked as if they might steal all three points.

The biggest surprise about Jose Mourinho's starting XI was the curious fact it was almost identical to the lineup fielded by Roberto Di Matteo in last October's corresponding fixture. On that occasion Gary Cahill played instead of John Terry, who was out injured, and Juan Mata, who was then a permanent fixture in the Chelsea team, featured, with Frank Lampard having to make do with a place on the same bench where Mata found himself at the start of this game. The Blues won that match 4-2.

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Privately, Mourinho maybe opted to go with those players who know this derby fixture well. Publicly he would point to the Spurs game falling between the recent League Cup tie with Swindon Town and this coming Tuesday's Champions League match in Bucharest. Wherever the truth may lie, new signings Andre Schurrle and Samuel Eto'o found themselves amongst the substitutes, whose number somewhat predictably did not include £32 million man Willian, whom Mourinho had controversially persuaded to join Chelsea despite the Brazilian having looked set to become a Spurs player.

Right from the off, Spurs took the game to Chelsea with impressive Danish international Christian Eriksen linking up well with Icelandic midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson and Spanish striker Roberto Soldado; it was this cosmopolitan trio who combined to open the scoring for Spurs in the 19th minute. Skipping down the left, Eriksen split the Blues' defence with a through-ball that found Soldado. With a deft first touch, the Spaniard laid the ball off to Sigurdsson and the Icelander evaded the attentions of Terry to drill the ball past Petr Cech.

Chelsea might argue they should have had a free kick in the passage of play which preceded the move, with referee Dean failing to spot Kyle Naughton's foul on Fernando Torres, but this should not excuse the way Spurs parted the Blues' defence with ease.

The goal served to awaken Chelsea from the torpor they might have been feeling because of the early kickoff, Eden Hazard in particular proving a handful for the Spurs' defence and going closest to pulling the Blues level. The home side could have doubled their advantage just before the interval had a blistering Paulinho shot found the net instead of striking the post, but the score remained 1-0 and Blues manager Mourinho was already on his way to the dressing room when Dean blew for halftime.

It has never been a failing of Mourinho to recognise the need to make a change and implement it swiftly, and so it was at White Hart Lane: Juan Mata replacing Mikel for the start of the second half, a switch that met with the vociferous approval of Chelsea's travelling support. With Mata on the pitch, the Blues immediately looked a more potent proposition, Torres, as he had done against Swindon, looking lively and benefiting from the presence of his fellow Spaniard who had tucked into his favoured No. 10 slot with Oscar switching to a wide role.

When it came, there was an inevitability that Chelsea's equaliser would be engineered by Mata. Taking a free kick conceded by Jan Vertonghen, Mata chipped the ball into the penalty area and found the head of Terry, who skimmed the ball past Hugo Lloris.

With Chelsea in the ascendancy, the game in which neither side had given any quarter descended into controversy in the 80th minute when Dean sent Blues striker Torres off for a second bookable offence following the Spaniard's muscular yet innocuous-looking midair clash for a 50-50 ball with Vertonghen.

Both men had been skirmishing with each other all afternoon, Torres having been booked earlier for squaring up to Vertonghen after the Belgian had tripped him, but the second yellow he received looked harsh and the decision changed the shape of the game with Chelsea now down to 10 men and Mourinho needing to shuffle the pack accordingly. Having already deployed Schurrle for Hazard, Mourinho sent on Cesar Azpilicueta for Oscar and the Blues shut up shop.

Neutrals will say that a draw was a fair result in what was a rumbustious London derby. Spurs fans will bemoan their side failing to further capitalise on the chances created in a first half they dominated. Blues supporters will argue that Torres should never have been sent off and wonder how the game might have turned out had Mata been on the pitch from the start. As for the two managers, both men will be happy to have avoided defeat.

Tactically, sorcerer Mourinho may have just shaded it over his former apprentice Villas-Boas with the effects of his in-play changes being more noticeable, but there wasn't much in it.

Excluding any possible cup meeting, their two sides will collide together again at Stamford Bridge next March. Villas-Boas will have further honed his new-look Tottenham, the question is will Mourinho still be fielding an old-look Chelsea? Whatever the answer, one thing's for certain, his players will be as committed to the London derby cause as ever, as Winston Churchill once famously said: "Never give in, never, never, never."

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