x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Premier League: Chelsea hold on against Tottenham at the Bridge

Spurs rally twice but fail to stop the Blues from moving closer to qualification for Uefa Champions League.

Tottenham Hotspur's Emmanuel Adebayor  got a goal and an assist. Gerry Penny / EPA
Tottenham Hotspur's Emmanuel Adebayor got a goal and an assist. Gerry Penny / EPA

LONDON // It is still advantage Chelsea, but less than it really should have been.

Dominant in the first half, Rafa Benitez's side wilted in the second, perhaps feeling the effects of playing their 65th game of the season. A draw means Chelsea lead Arsenal by two points and Tottenham Hotspur by three - with a vastly superior goal difference - with two games of the season remaining.

One win from those final two games, away to Aston Villa and at home to Everton, will secure their qualification for next season's Uefa Champions League. At half time, though, it appeared that the job was done.

Tottenham, meanwhile, seem locked in an eternal battle with themselves. From a position of seeming impregnability, they have won just three of their last seven Premier League games and now, for the first time since the turn of the year, their qualification for the Champions League is no longer in their hands.

The old neuroses, those perceptions that they are a soft touch, lie horribly close to the surface and every game at the moment they seem to go through a process of having to convince themselves that they can win.

On Saturday, against Southampton, it was a brilliant Gareth Bale strike that got them back on track. Last night it was a more general upturn in quality, sparked in part by the arrivals of Clint Dempsey and Gylfi Sigurdsson from the substitutes bench, and an incisive edge added by Emmanuel Adebayor.

The Togo striker has seemed lackadaisical for much of this season, but he came up with a brilliant goal and assist as Spurs sealed a 2-2 draw.

It is to Benitez's credit that so many Chelsea players have improved so markedly under his tuition but their opening goal was more about the quality of a player who has adapted staggering quickly to the Premier League. Oscar is so assimilated he added his second header from a corner in a little over a two weeks, peeling off the back of Scott Parker to nod in Gary Cahill's flick after 11 minutes.

The Spurs equaliser bordered on the ridiculous. Tottenham had been underwhelming for the first 26 minutes, sloppy at the back and drab going forwards.

Adebayor was a surprise starter ahead of Jermain Defoe and appeared to be wearing shorts and socks that were both several sizes too small, emphasising his legginess.

When he picked up the ball 15 yards inside his own half, Chelsea sat off, allowing him to advance until, 30 yards out, he arced perfectly-executed finish over Petr Cech and into the top corner.

Chelsea restored their lead six minutes before the break. Fernando Torres jinked by Tom Huddlestone on the left and slipped a pass through for the advancing Ramires, making his trademark run through the inside-right channel, to jab a first-time finish past Hugo Lloris in the Tottenham goal.

Spurs were a different team after the break. Chelsea had their chances, Eden Hazard firing over and when well-placed and Ramires slipping as Juan Mata slipped him in, but gradually the Tottenham pressure mounted, and they got their equaliser with 10 minutes remaining.

Adebayor, who looked just offside, laid off a Benoit Assou-Ekotto pass for Sigurdsson, who finished superbly in the bottom corner.


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