Saturday, April 30, 2011

EPL: Chelsea 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur: Blues Win Thanks to Gomes and Controversy

Two controversial goals from Frank Lampard and Saloman Kalou were the difference between winning and losing and seeing their title challenge end for Chelsea against Tottenham Hotspur. Harry Redknapp's side had taken the lead against the run of play when Sandro scored a screamer from fully 30-yards before the latest in a long line of howlers from Heurelho Gomes allowed the Pensioners back into the game.

Frank Lampard's speculative shot, right on the stroke of half time, was straight at the haphazard 'keeper who allowed the ball to squirm through his hands and between his legs to agonizingly roll towards the goal. Gomes then dived to save the ball before it rolled over the line only for the linesman to rule that a goal had been scored. Television replays then proved that the goal should not have stood as the whole of the ball did not cross the goal line.

To rub salt into Spurs' wounds, Kalou then popped up to score an offside goal to win the game, keeping up the Blues' hope of catching Manchester United but also condemning the Lilywhites who now have virtually no chance of finishing in the Champions League positions.

When all is said and done, Chelsea may have deserved to take something from the game but they won it thanks to two goals that never should have stood.

Both sides needed the full three points to keep up their respective challenges and went with attack minded sides.

Fernando Torres was restored to the starting line up following his debut goal at the 10th game of asking and was partnered with the in-form Didier Drogba as Chelsea looked to take their game to Spurs.

Harry Redknapp, to his credit, started with the most attack minded team he could muster as Aaron Lennon was restored to the right, joining a midfield that comprised, of the PFA Player of the Year, Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, Sandro, and Rafael van der Vaart.

With the line-ups in mind the game started exactly as you would have expected with both teams going at it like prize fighters with nothing to lose.

The Blues were first out of the blocks and forced Gomes into making a string of top class saves from Drogba, Essien, and Malouda. The first of which, from the Ivorian striker, was a superb diving one handed save that tipped the ball onto the crossbar.

Chelsea was enjoying the ascendancy and were tearing through Tottenham's midfield like it wasn't even there and only the heroics of Gomes denied them from taking a deserved lead.

Harry Redknapp, frantic on the sideline, started to issue orders as his team regrouped and with the smart positional sense of Sandro in central midfield they began to work their way back into a game that was in real danger of getting away from them.

Minutes later and the young Brazilian was wheeling away celebrating after he had scored one of the goals of the season.

Van der Vaart's instinctive over head flick found the ex-Internacional midfielder and with one touch he killed the ball before unleashing an unstoppable thunderbolt with his right foot. The ball rocketed into the top corner of the net as Petr Cech dived full length but to no avail.

Not to be put off, Chelsea re-doubled their efforts and all that was standing between the Blues taking the lead was Heurelho Gomes. First he saved smartly from Lampard before Torres and Essien were also denied. Except this time around, Spurs started to catch Chelsea on the break and actually looked more like adding to their lead than being pegged back.

The game swung from end to end as each team went in search of goals, Sandro and Kaboul stopping Lampard and Drogba with phenomenally timed last second tackles in the box that drew screams from the home support at Stamford Bridge in search of penalties.

And just as Spurs started looking comfortable and like they could repel anything, Gomes let in an absolute clanger. Lampard's speculative shot should not have troubled a 'keeper of any standard but somehow Gomes, once again, contrived to drop his team in it.

The Brazilian's body shape and hand shape were all wrong as he was two steps ahead of himself, already thinking about who he was going to throw the ball out to, instead of concentrating on the issue at hand.

The ball edged towards the goal as he scrambled back to make the save but the linesman adjudged, from an impossible angle, that a goal had indeed been scored.

Queue, wails of derision from the travelling Tottenham support and the Spurs team as they chased the referee around the pitch, but his decision was final and the goal stood.

Ex-referee Dermot Gallagher, was sitting in the crowd as the referee inspector for the match and within five seconds had made the decision that the goal should not have stood, but he had the benefit of video replays.

Spurs and Gomes walked off at halftime as if the bottom had dropped out of their world. They had battled bravely in the face of adversity and deserved to lead following their disciplined performance but once again they had given into fragility and lacked concentration when they needed it most.

This has been a very sobering season for Spurs following the elation of playing in the Champions League and they have found that at the highest level even one slip in concentration can have lethal consequences.

Gomes for his part has been susceptible to lapses in concentration more than any other player and has actively contributed to six goals against his team this season.

The apologies would be forthcoming at half time but the damage had been done.

Sensing blood, Chelsea tore into Spurs right from the start of the second half, with Drogba forcing Gomes into an early save but his body language betrayed a man who perhaps knows that his career at White Hart Lane is at an end.

The Blues continued to dominate but thanks to superb performances from Modric and Sandro they could not get a handle on the all important area of central midfield.

Fatigue began to set into Spurs as wave after wave of Chelsea attack pushed them back but the only chances the Pensioners could produce were long distance shots.

One such effort from Drogba, from 40 yards, saw Gomes decide to fist the ball back out rather than catch it, when he really should have gathered the ball without even thinking.

As the two tired defences began to stretch, Ancelotti and Redknapp exchanged substitutions geared towards pace as Defoe and Anelka were introduced to play.

Neither player had much of an impact and with just two minutes to go and with Spurs sinking deeper and deeper under the growing pressure, Redknapp brought Jermaine Jenas on for the attack minded Rafael van der Vaart.

The impetus was all Chelsea's now, and the decision to take off van der Vaart basically freed up another Chelsea player to attack.

As time ran out, and with Spurs defending desperately, Didier Drogba fired at goal. His mis-hit effort caught everyone off balance, except for the offside Saloman Kalou who fired home the winning goal.

Spurs' players sank to their knees in defeat. But it should have been oh so different.

A dignified Harry Redknapp acknowledged that Chelsea were the better side on the day but that the goals needed to be analysed.
"You've got to look at the two goals. The first wasn't over the line and the second was offside. The first goal changed the game. Technology has got to come in. It would take five seconds to sort out what happened. It's so difficult - impossible - to see from where the linesman is looking from. The linesman had an honest guess, but he's got it wrong."
While Carlo Ancelotti gave perhaps the most pertinent and depressing description of the controversial decisions.
"I think we got the benefit of two fortunate decisions. You can see that, yes, we were lucky with the goals - but that is football and the referee doesn't have the benefit of TV replays. 
"That is football."
Yes it is...

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