A match that ought to have been a spectacle fizzed out on a summery day in west London. Chelsea failed to close the gap on their north-London rivals Tottenham, who maintain a five-point gap for the coveted last remaining top four spot. Tottenham will be the side happiest with a point overall, but it would prove to be a tough day for Chelsea, who probably would be the happier side to see the full-time whistle blow. Tottenham grew more and more into the match as it wore on, but a drab draw saw no goals, with fans simply enjoying the Saturday afternoon sunshine.
With an eye on Benfica on Tuesday, Roberto Di Matteo made changes. Terry came in for Luiz, whilst Bosingwa was drafted in for the injured Ivanovic. Essien, Sturridge and Drogba made the starting XI, with Mikel, Meireles and Torres dropping to the bench.
Chelsea started brightly under the Sun’s watchful eye. It could have been shining down on Chelsea’s future, but as the Sun was beginning to set towards the latter stages of the match, so were Chelsea’s Champions League ambitions. A forgettable first-half saw Frank Lampard and Dider Drogba involved in a mix-up as to who would get on the end of a cross. In the end, neither did, and Tottenham cleared their lines.
The Englishman had a penalty claim waved away too, when former team-mate, who was booed all match, William Gallas, got Lampard’s foot and none of the ball as the 33 year-old was poised to shoot, but Atkinson waved away immediately.
That set the tone for the remainder of the half, with both sides clearly cautious and evidently happy to play out for a draw.
But for the fans who went into the half-time refreshment bar early, dismayed at the performance, they were to miss the best opening of the entire half. Modric found Van Der Vaart in the centre, but the Dutchman could only volley into Cech. Regaining his footing, he tried for a second time, but found Ashley Cole make a stunning goal-line block. Adebayor got to the rebound first, but could only head the ball over. The move aptly summed up a cagey, nervy, calculated first-half.
Was the second half to get better for Chelsea? Well no. Tottenham had an early chance, Walker was unmarked and had acres of space, but opted to try to beat Cech at his near post, eventually beating the post too.
Under a frustrated home crowd, Di Matteo made his first change, Bosingwa off for Luiz to inject some attacking impetus. The deadlock could have been broken by another creative Chelsea player: Juan Mata, but his sublime free-kick cannoned off the post in the 72nd minute, to the relief of the away end.
It was approaching desperation time. Torres came on for Essien, but whilst in theory having a Drogba-Torres-Sturridge front three might make some Chelsea fans lick their lips in delight, in reality, the players ended up getting in the way of one another. And with a holding midfielder out, it was win or bust time for Chelsea.
And it could have so nearly been bust. Adebayor raced onto a Modric pass, and though initially it was just a one-on-one situation, Gary Cahill raced back. The striker rounded Cech, but was unbelieving when he saw Cahill, who had the best game of his Chelsea career thus far, make a last-ditch clearance. From the resulting corner, Bale crashed his header against the bar.
Tottenham were getting more and more into it. Lampard had a long-range drive that stinged Friedel’s fingers but nothing more; the north London side quite content with restricting them to long-range strikes.
In the 88th minute, Kalou came on for Sturridge, to hopefully inject some width. But it was too little too late. Cech might have kept a clean sheet on his 250th Premier League appearance, but it looks more and more likely that Chelsea will have to win the Champions League to quality for the competition next year. And even that does not look very likely.