Monday, 16 April 2012

Spurs v Chelsea Semi-Final review

And so it seems that the season is over...for Tottenham at least.  Chelsea progress to their 4th FA Cup final in six years, and more short-term they enter the 1st leg of their daunting semi-final against Barcelona on Wednesday evening full of confidence.

Chelsea did beat Tottenham 5-1. An embarrassing scoreline for all concerned at White Hart Lane, yes the analysis will point to Chelsea's second goal on 49 minutes where the referee Martin Atkinson and assistant referee, Michael McDonough agreed that a shot crossed the line when four players appeared to block the shot including the Chelsea captain, John Terry.

In terms of momentum, that changed the game.  At half-time with the score 1-0 to Chelsea following an unbelievable strike from Didier Drogba - who played like his unstoppable, unbeatable past self - which came against the run of play as Spurs had a header cleared off the line and hit the post.  With the game separated by one goal, the next goal was crucial to the ultimate outcome.

Even though, the referees conspired to gift Chelsea a goal.  Tottenham did respond and make the scoreline 2-1 when Gareth Bale tapped in after Petr Cech upended Emmanuel Adebayor.  Again controversy, should Atkinson have sent off Cech and given a penalty.  Giving Spurs a chance to make it 2-1 whilst Chelsea see out the remaining half hour with 10 men.

Any referee will tell you, the game is about goals.  If a goal can save you from sending off a player, then give the goal and save the integrity of the game.  In this instance, Atkinson got it right.  Yet momentum was lost for Spurs, as a two minute hold up in play as David Luiz was treated for an injury that saw him leave the game allowed Chelsea and interim manager, Roberto Di Matteo to regroup.  The shift and balance of play ultimately left Spurs as Chelsea got the third goal.

And then the fourth and fifth to rub salt into Tottenham's open wounds - Mata releasing Malouda on 77, Lampard striking from distance with a free kick on 81 and then Ramires rounding it off on the stroke of full time.

Credit to Tottenham who saved their arguments and gesticulations for the officials until after the final whistle, whilst Scott Parker did lose his head at being kicked by Mikel in an incident similar to David Beckham's infamous red card against Diego Simeone and Argentina in 1998.

As for seasons end, for many it may feel like it has already finished for Tottenham.  They have five games remaining, all winnable games and they have form in returning from a low ebb.  Two years ago they lost a semi-final to Portsmouth then beat Chelsea and Arsenal consecutively to help secure fourth place, so it can happen and most of these players still exist. The games are QPR (a), Blackburn (h), Bolton (a), Aston Villa (a) and then Fulham at home on the final day of the season, May 13th.

As for Chelsea, the only chance of qualifying for the Champions League next season is to win the tournament, a daunting prospect as they face the formidable Barcelona - then either Real Madrid or Bayern Munich in the final.

Intriguingly, if Chelsea do win the Champions League, they will become England's fourth representative in next year's competition usurping the team that finishes in fourth place.  A place that could fall to Tottenham Hotspur.

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