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Tottenham 1-0 Chelsea


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Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 Chelsea F.C.

Saturday 21 March 2009, Premier League, White Hart Lane, North London

José Bosingwa challenges Luka Modric for possession at White Hart Lane.

Luke Modric scored a stunning winner as Chelsea dropped points in a pulsating London derby.

The Blues went behind when the Croatian midfielder drilled the ball home beyond Petr Cech from 19 yards after Aaron Lennon had beaten Ashley Cole out wide. The defeat is Chelsea's fifth in the Premier League this season and a damaging one at that, as Liverpool can now move three points clear of the Blues into second place, whilst cutting the gap behind leaders Manchester United to a single point after their defeat at Fulham.

For Chelsea, however, it was a familiar story of disappointment, with them slipping up when gifted the chance to apply pressure on the champions. But when Spurs stopper Heurelho Gomes pulled off a stunning save from a John Terry header moments before the end, and Alex's stoppage-time effort cannoned off the woodwork, it was clear fortune was not on the visitor's side, as Guus Hiddink's unbeaten run as boss came to an abrupt end.

The omens were good for Chelsea, who had lost only once in their last 37 encounters with their opponents at White Hart Lane, but with Tottenham's youth team disposing of Chelsea's youngsters 5-0 earlier in the day, a repeat performance from the Spurs first team looked just as likely. Buoyed by their recent form, which has seen them go five games unbeaten in the Premier League, the North London outfit are now 9th in the league table - and 9 points off the relegation zone.

The game started at breakneck pace despite a delayed kick-off at the Lane, with Michael Essien fashioning the first chance of note after playing an intelligent one-two with French forward Nicolas Anelka, who was operating out wide. The Ghanaian's shot skipped off the surface and Gomes was forced to make a smart low save, but an inspired Modric performance, along with the tenacious play of Wilson Palacios in the centre of the midfield meant that Chelsea were restricted to few chances.

Didier Drogba was an isolated figure up front, with Anelka and fellow winger Juliano Belletti peripheral figures out wide. Frank Lampard was quiet and the out-of-form Michael Ballack was also ineffectual, with only Michael Essien and Ashley Cole offering support to the Ivorian forward. Spurs had an excellent chance when Robbie Keane - scorer of a stunning equaliser in last season's corresponding 4-4 draw - launched a stinging half-volley that Petr Cech did brilliantly to tip around the post, before making more comfortable stops from Darren Bent and Jermaine Jenas.

Anelka had a good opportunity for the Blues but his effort from 16 yards was beaten away by Gomes, before Spurs created a deserved breakthrough goal. Chelsea were playing suicidal football inside their first half, and Michael Ballack's sloppy pass gave Aaron Lennon the chance to beat Ashley Cole, which the winger did with ease, before supplying a cut-back for Modric, who expertly rifled the ball beyond Cech. It was no more than the hosts deserved.

Chelsea were on the back foot, and Modric went close with another long-range effort before Ledley King headed over when unmarked in the box following a Spurs corner. But the goal seemed to galvanise the visitors, who had been lacklustre at best thus far. Guus Hiddink responded by bringing on Ricardo Quaresma, and the Portuguese winger gave Chelsea the width they desperately needed, and his introduction nearly bore immediate fruit as his cross was met by the forehead of Lampard, who could only watch on in disbelief as Corluka cleared his effort.

Fate was clearly smiling on the hosts, but they were not without chances later on as Robbie Keane curled an effort inches wide with Cech scrambling, before Didier Drogba forced a good reaction save out of Brazilian goalkeeper Gomes. Drogba then wasted a good chance when he steered his header from a Lampard corner wide, before Lampard himself shot wide from close range. At the other end, Lennon spurned the opportunity to set up Darren Bent to seal the victory as Chelsea desperately searched for an equaliser.

But when John Terry's header seemed destined for the top corner, Gomes trailed out a right hand to palm the ball away in what must be a contender for save of the season, and Chelsea's back luck was underlined when Alex's header bounced off the turf and against the woodwork, with Gomes parrying the ball to safety. A poor all-round performance had cost the Blues their last chance to join the final stretch of the title race. They think it’s all over. It definitely is now.


The TalkChelsea.net Man of the Match award goes to...


Luka Modric, Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham: Gomes, Corluka, Woodgate, King, Assou-Ekotto, Lennon (Zokora), Jenas, Palacios, Modric (O'Hara), Bent, Keane

Chelsea: Cech, Bosingwa, Alex, Terry, Ashley Cole, Essien (Malouda), Ballack, Lampard, Belletti (Quaresma), Drogba, Anelka

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