It’s amazing how at times Chelsea’s bench can look ordinary, especially when they fail to deliver. Players like Kalou and Malouda who can admittedly be match winners, are inconsistent enough to seem unfit for the team with the classic short-termisim glasses on, just after they have had a bad day. For Malouda it is clearly is the last chance to prove himself before the next transfer window. Kalou may have more longevity because he does come up with the occasional late winner and is a player who can be afforded to ‘sat’ on the bench in the company of stars. Today both failed to come and have the impact and in the absence of Ballack and Drogba and even SWP, Chelsea may have been left thinking about who wasn’t, instead of who was.
Most of the game went as per plan for both managers. The pattern of the game remained possession from Chelsea and resistance from Spurs much as you would have anticipated. Yes Belletti as holding midfielder was an anomaly but irrespective of the circumstances in which it happened, it shows Scolari’s trust in Essien’s attacking prowess, an aspect that both Mourinho and Grant had largely suppressed.
As the Scolari era unfolds, it is a pleasure to watch fullbacks in blue advance forward. Another big change again from the days past. Unfortunately, Ashley got conquered as the game progressed and Bosingwa thought well but executed poorly throughout, else there would have been more spectator joy.
The first half was action packed but largely Chelsea. The one good move Spurs had, saw Belletti beaten for speed by dos Santos and Bent managing a shot, but apart from that Spurs were happy to keep Chelsea out. Modric saw little of the ball, Zokora was involved but erratic with his passes and Jenas and dos Santos were without much impact. What was good from Spurs was the shape that the defence kept and the drive that Bentley showed.
There were moments of brilliance in the first half – Frank Lampard chips on goal, Deco passes, a beauty from Balletti that landed at the feet of Anelka who trapped beautifully and missed shockingly. And then Essien’s brilliance from deep within his own half, the ball taken to the edge of the Spurs box through brute force and exquisite skill and a glorious shot on goal which hit the bar. Fittingly Chelsea’s goal came through the corner that followed through Darren Bent missing the ball completely and Balletti putting the ball into a mysteriously empty near post. Spurs had been momentarily positive before the goal and were completely bogged down after it, till they scored a freak goal as the first half ended. A 50-50 ball which Lampard won over Modric got deflected to the feet of Bent who did his job by putting it past the goalkeeper in the only one-on-one Spurs had during the game. Chelsea could have won it if they had been equally efficient. Kalou missed another in the second half to add to Anelka’s folly from the first.
With Chelsea it was apparent today why they will find it very hard to play the Arsenal game. With each player willing and indeed able to take charge of the ball every time, their eventual success is driven quite often by moments of individual brilliance, which surprisingly enough are not hard to find. I’m not implying that Chelsea don’t play as a team. Their passing and understanding is brilliant. It is great to see them attempt the most outrageous of long passes and make them successfully. The first touches and the trapping are exquisite and so is their shooting prowess. Today we also got to see a number of dummys and back-heels. There are a number of distinct strengths they have over a team like Arsenal, not least being their ‘strength’ itself, but what they lack is the movement.
And as the game progressed in the second it became more and more apparent that the individual moments of brilliance had drained from the starting eleven and they needed either to move and pass their way around the Tottenham defence a la Arsenal or get a new miracle maker. And this is where Malouda and Kalou fail(ed) to inspire confidence. Ramos on the other hand got on Huddlestone in the centre who had a positive impact and the shuffle that brought around saw Spurs create a little more in the second. But by and large it was largely up to Chelsea to get a second which they failed to do.
The Spurs equalizer was down to a piece of luck but the Chelsea reaction was unimpressive. Apart from injury time in the second half they didn’t look like they wanted it too bad which could be a change that the team does not want to see. As for Spurs, they’ll be happy with the first point of the season, but they’ll know that there wasn’t much more than that they gained. Away from home, against big name opposition, they’ll not always be able to not stay behind. Now that they have a point on the board, maybe they will look to win when such a fixture comes up next.