Talking Points: Tottenham v Chelsea

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THAT goal....


Did it make a difference to the outcome of the game? Would Chelsea have gone on to win the game so convincingly? It’s almost impossible to say, but there is no doubt that Spurs were forced into chasing the game – switching to the 4-4-2 formation that left them so exposed in defeat to Norwich last week – and were subsequently undone.


There is little point discussing the goal line technology debate – there is no debate to be had, it would be akin to knocking at an open door in terms of lobbying the FA for change – but it is once more a depressing fact that Chelsea’s performance and the game in general has taken a back seat to an exhausted talking point.


For referee Martin Atkinson it represented another bad day at the office following his admission that he saw Mario Balotelli’s lunge on Alex Song but took no action, but he and all referees have been hung out to dry by the powers that be – and it must change soon.


In defence of Spurs


Spurs have a genuine problem at the back, and one that could fully derail their faltering challenge for a top four spot.


The injury to Younes Kaboul was a real problem for Harry Redknapp before the game, as was the long-term injury of Michael Dawson, but news of Ledley King’s return would have vastly helped his belief that his side could make the final.


What transpired was a real eye-opener. Both King and William Gallas were tentative and shaken by the presence of Didier Drogba, while both had their lack of pace exposed numerous times by the runners from midfield.


The form of King is a real worry. Uncertain against Norwich, King’s routine which sees him go nowhere near a football or his team-mates in the build up to a game looks to have finally caught up with him.


Neither full-back covered themselves in glory either. While Kyle Walker made up for his minor failings with plenty of runs forward, Benoit Assou-Ekotto’s apparent lack of positional sense was exposed once more for Ramires' goal –the former Benfica man tormented the left-back all evening.


In the first half both Walker and Assou-Ekotto’s flaws were perfectly encapsulated as first Walker was caught in possession before Assou-Ekotto was caught napping as Juan Mata ran beyond him, only for the Spaniard’s touch to let him down.


Spurs must add reinforcements at the back in the summer, with only Walker surely guaranteed a spot for next season out of the back four that started at Wembley.


Chelsea fans


There weren’t many, but that doesn’t matter – the sound of some Chelsea fans jeering during a silence in honour of those who lost their lives in the Hillsborough disaster was enough to make any football fans heart sink.


In recent weeks the news of Fabrice Muamba’s collapse, Stiliyan Petrov’s illness and Eric Abidal’s liver transplant surgery was enough to make football fans unite despite their allegiances, making those who opted to jeer and chant during the silence seem even more out of touch than ever.


Chelsea issued a statement soon after the game apologising, which was the right thing to do, while saying they were working with the FA to catch the perpetrators, whom they intend to take the ’strongest possible action’ against. Let’s hope that is the case.

Spurs tiring


When Gareth Bale made one of his trademark drives into the Chelsea half, he looked to be in full-flight. When it was snuffed out by David Luiz, the Welshman lay prone on the turf, not moving for a few seconds. Was he injured? No, he then lifted his head, puffed out his cheeks and got back to his feet. He already looked like he was out on his feet.


The same thing happened with Scott Parker and Emmanuel Adebayor later in the game. All three looked to be shattered with the game not even at its half-way point and that will be a real cause for concern for Harry Redknapp.


It wasn’t just the physical exertions that looked to be taking their toll either, Spurs looked mentally tired as their passing lacked the fizz and snap of before Christmas, while their lack of composure on the ball was certainly out of character.


Bale and Luka Modric in particular looked tired and were often on the fringes of the game – and it will come as no surprise that both are amongst the top five midfielders when it comes to minutes in the pitch this season. Redknapp and Spurs have five games to salvage their season – they must muster a reserve of energy from somewhere.


Chelsea power on


Lost amidst the swirl of controversy that surrounded a darkened and damp Wembley was a performance from Chelsea that wasn’t pretty, but once more was pretty effective.


When the same two teams met little more that three weeks ago, it was a similarly cagey affair that the Blues could have lost, but helped by Didier Drogba’s finesse and a slice of luck for the second goal this time they got the win they desperately wanted.


Roberto di Matteo’s side looked the more composed and experienced compared to a frail looking Spurs, and while they didn’t hit their stride until Harry Redknapp’s side were forced to open up they were clinical and deserve their place in the final.


They will hope their exertions do not come at a high price however, with David Luiz stretchered off and both Drogba and Gary Cahill limping towards the end.

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