CHELSEA must wait to secure a Champions League return as Tottenham kept their hopes of a top-four finish alive by twice coming from behind to draw last night’s Barclays Premier League clash.
Scorers: Chelsea - Oscar 10, Ramires 39; Spurs - Adebayor 26, Sigurdsson 80
Referee: Mike Dean
In a pulsating contest with plenty at stake, Europa League finalists Chelsea deserved their half-time lead courtesy of goals from Oscar and Ramires, either side of an exquisite Emmanuel Adebayor shot. Tottenham had not won at Stamford Bridge in 23 years but levelled in the 80th minute through substitute Gylfi Sigurdsson to deny Chelsea a seventh successive Premier League home win. The Blues are now third by two points ahead of Saturday’s penultimate match of the campaign at Aston Villa, while Spurs sit one point behind Arsenal, with an inferior goal difference, and must rely on their London rivals slipping up in the final two games to secure a top-four finish.
Rafael Benitez is close to completing his mission as Chelsea interim boss with a return to the competition the Blues won 12 months ago, but was disappointed his side let their lead slip twice last night.
“The second half was too open,” he said. “We gave them the opportunity to counter-attack in the first half but when we were winning the game we should have had more control.”
A win at Villa will all but seal Chelsea a top-four place, before they face Benfica in the Europa League final next Wednesday, but Benitez said his side would go out to win both their final two league games.
“We are still in a position where we have been before – we have to win one game to get in the top four,” he said. “We will try and win both.”
Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas remains hopeful they could yet snatch a Champions League place. “The feeling is that a point is not bad, but it is not dependent on us now,” he said. “Our focus will be to continue to do our job and hopefully with the teams Arsenal and Chelsea have to play, fighting for survival, something can happen.”
The consequences of missing out on a place in Europe’s elite are numerous, with Tottenham facing the prospect of Gareth Bale leaving if they fail to qualify. Bale’s performance did not reach the heights of Eden Hazard last night and his stoppage-time free-kick did not test Petr Cech.
Chelsea were on top during a frantic opening and took the lead after Tom Huddlestone made an off-the-ball block on Hazard, who was lively on his return from a calf injury.
Juan Mata’s free-kick went out for a corner and the Spaniard’s inswinging cross found Gary Cahill, whose header was going wide of the target until an unmarked Oscar turned it in.
Out of nothing, Spurs levelled in the 26th minute when Scott Parker won the ball on the edge of his area and it broke for Adebayor. The Togo striker ambled forward unopposed as Chelsea’s defence appeared preoccupied by Bale peeling away on the right and Adebayor, with time and space as Cahill backed off, unleashed a delicious curling shot into the top corner.
Bale and Adebayor had half chances and Ramires shot over before restoring the lead.
Fernando Torres, back in the starting XI and without his protective face mask, cut in from the right wing, breezed by Huddlestone and fed a ball past Jan Vertonghen and Michael Dawson to the rampaging Ramires, who tucked in.
Torres was unable to cleanly connect with crosses from David Luiz and Hazard early in the second period as his wait for a first Premier League goal of 2013 continued.
Hazard fired over and Ramires slipped when Mata played him through one on one as Chelsea kept up the pressure. Bale ran in to Ashley Cole as he tried to surge into the penalty area, but referee Mike Dean saw no infringement. Hazard was then replaced by Victor Moses 17 minutes from time and immediately went down the tunnel for treatment.
Seven minutes later Spurs were level. A loose Luiz pass was picked up by Huddlestone, who fed Benoit Assou-Ekotto and the left-back found Adebayor in the area. Adebayor flicked the ball to Sigurdsson, who found the bottom corner.
Chelsea: Cech, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Ivanovic, Cole, Ramires, Luiz, Oscar (Benayoun 84), Mata, Hazard (Moses 73), Torres. Subs Not Used: Turnbull, Lampard, Terry, Ba, Ake
Tottenham: Lloris, Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Assou-Ekotto, Parker, Huddlestone, Lennon (Sigurdsson 62), Bale, Holtby (Dempsey 70), Adebayor. Subs Not Used: Friedel, Naughton, Defoe, Caulker, Carrolly