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Chelsea 0 - 0 Tottenham Hotspur: Visiting Spurs draw against equally cautious Blues

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FBL-ENG-PR-CHELSEA-TOTTENHAM Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Tottenham made the short trip across London to Stamford Bridge Sunday afternoon with more momentum than they’ve had in any recent season. Fresh off of a comfortable 4-0 midweek win over Ludogorets that saw Carlos Vinicius get his first goals in a Spurs jersey and a tactical 2-0 victory over Manchester City last weekend, Tottenham are being discussed — perhaps optimistically — as potential title challengers. Joining them in that conversation are Chelsea, who have the most prolific offense of any team so far this season. (Tottenham are second.) Both sides seemed determined not to concede; as a result, the first eighty minutes of the game were a straightforward draw. As the clock ticked past eighty, Chelsea began to open up and run at the Spurs defense, while Tottenham looked content to see out the game without a goal for either side. The best chance of the match for Spurs fell to Giovani Lo Celso in the last minute of added time, but a bizarre effort from him drifted harmlessly wide and the game ended fairly in a draw.

Joe Rodon won his first Premier League start for Spurs, replacing the injured Toby Alderweireld, but the lineup was otherwise fairly consistent with recent league games. Chelsea attacked vigorously at the beginning, looking to force Tottenham back and deny the visitors the counterattacking momentum that was so successful against Manchester City a week ago. Timo Werner scored from an offside position within the first ten minutes, illuminating a polished Chelsea attack that looked capable of pouncing on a defensive mistake. Yet as the first half wore on, caution prevailed from both sides, as one might expect from a game between teams managed by Mourinho and his former star. Tottenham’s defense settled in after the first quarter of an hour, and the balance of the game shifted to favor Spurs, who looked threatening on the break and won set pieces in advanced positions. They took their feet off the gas toward the end of the half, leaving Chelsea room to get forward and make threats of their own. An opening goal seemed to be there for either side’s taking, but the halftime whistle blew before either could seize the moment. For the first thirty minutes of the second half, Tottenham soaked up pressure, inviting Chelsea to try to find a way through. Spurs defended well and waited until the final fifteen minutes of the half to launch their own attacking forays, which looked threatening but were turned away by a compact Chelsea defense. The game opened up in the last few minutes, with both sides rushing forward and a Joe Rodon gifting Olivier Giroud a chance at one end before a Kurt Zouma error gifted Lo Celso one at the other, but nothing came of either opportunity. Mourinho’s substitution of Ben Davies for Steven Bergwijn late in the half clarified his feelings: he was happy to take a draw here. It makes sense, given that Spurs now have four points and two clean sheets from Chelsea and Manchester City; they’re weathering their hardest run of fixtures yet with reasonable success.

First Half

1’ - Joe Rodon gets an early header under his belt, seeing a cross away safely.

8’ - Tottenham show what they are capable of on a fast break, with Bergwijn swinging the ball wide to Reguilon before receiving it back by way of Harry Kane. Bergwijn fires just over the bar, but it’s an early sign of offensive promise for the team.

10’ - Nearly 1-0 Chelsea: Joe Rodon gets caught slightly out of position, giving Mason Mount a chance to run at the Spurs defense. He slides it wide to Timo Werner and Aurier slips, giving Werner a chance to curve the ball past Lloris. Werner was just offside and the call goes Spurs’ way, yet it could easily have been a first goal to the home side.

13’ - Ndombele displays a series of scrappy pirouettes that recall Moussa Dembele, then finds Kane, who’s playing in a more advanced position so far today.

17’ - Chelsea are pressing high, seeking to stop the Tottenham counter in its tracks. A few bits of skill on the ball by Spurs players deep in their own half have worked out so far, but the visitors need to be wary of losing possession in a dangerous area.

18’ - Compared to City last week, Chelsea are sitting deeper, forcing Spurs to construct a more prolonged attack, rather than winning a few menacing breaks over the course of the game.

26’ - Another moment of attacking potency for Spurs as Sonny and Bergwijn run at the defense with Ndombele wide left. Bergwijn tries to play a quick ball across to the Frenchman but slips. Spurs displaying some attacking fluidity that will be an asset as long as they can retain the discipline necessary to break down the defense.

29’ - Hakim Ziyech brings down Reguilon as the Spaniard dashes forward and Harry Kane stands over a free kick about 5 yards outside the Chelsea box. He fires wide, but Tottenham have looked the more menacing side for the last five minutes.

34’ - Joe Rodon shows a bit of confidence in himself as he carries the ball out of the Tottenham half under moderate Chelsea pressure and finds a pass. It’s a bold move for a youngster on his debut, but all’s well that ends well.

35’ - Abraham twists and turns at Eric Dier, who sees the ball out for a corner. Dier has settled well at center back in recent weeks, but he still seems slightly sluggish in one-on-one situations against quick-footed players.

39’ - Tottenham are just looking a little sluggish now, content to defend the Chelsea attack rather than creating opportunities of their own. They need to see out the half at a minimum, and perhaps make a tactical change in the second to unlock a Chelsea defense that has only been troubled a few times.

40’ - Joe Rodon does extremely well to head away a cross that was bound for Tammy Abraham’s head. He was helped by a good position and quick instincts - he’s certainly not off to a bad start.

44’ - Chelsea have spent maybe two minutes passing the ball laterally in an arc around the Tottenham penalty area, not even attempting a ball toward the Spurs net. It’s not usually the kind of possession you want to allow, but Tottenham’s defense remains solid.

HALFTIME: Things have been pretty balanced so far. Tottenham looked comfortable in defense and asserted themselves offensively for certain periods, while Chelsea started and ended the half with attacking spells. Play wasn’t spectacular from either side, and the question for the second half is how Tottenham can assert their influence on a game that’s there for the taking. Mourinho could make a tactical change, but the tactics haven’t been incorrect. Really, Spurs just need to find a way through Chelsea’s defense and put one in the back of the net. If either team is to be a title challenger, it needs to win from halftime positions like this.

Second Half

46’ - Chelsea have as many back behind the ball when they defend as Tottenham do. Both sides seem desperate not to concede.

48’ - Rhys James plays a perfect cross to Tammy Abraham in one of Chelsea’s best attacking moves so far. Abraham fails to convert, but Chelsea are starting with a bit of momentum.

50’ - James plays another great cross in. Reguilon may need to play a little deeper to defend this threat.

56’ - Chelsea have a free kick near the corner flag after Sissoko puts his hands in the back of Timo Werner. Werner has been a real headache for Spurs all afternoon.

64’ - It’s a familiar first substitution for Tottenham: Lo Celso replaces Tanguy Ndombele.

73’ - Christian Pulisic replaces Timo Werner for Chelsea.

75’ - Bergwijn is playing farthest up the pitch, with Son and Kane sitting slightly deeper in an attempt to confuse the Chelsea defense. It pays immediate returns as Kane finds Son in space for a second before the South Korean is smothered by three blue shirts.

77’ - Spurs are turning up the heat now, looking to mount a last-minute blitz against a Chelsea defense that may have been lulled into complacency by the first half hour of this half.

80’ - Lloris makes his first save of the match since the second minute and it’s a critical one, denying a powerful low shot by Mason Mount that would have tipped the scale of the game.

82’ - Tottenham win back the ball from the corner ensuing from Lloris’s save and immediately drive to the Chelsea goal, with Son forcing a save from Edouard Mendy. The game is opening up for both sides now.

86’ - Lloris comes out of his net to punch away a cross under immense pressure from an onrushing Christian Pulisic. Chelsea are going for it now - will they open up a hole for Spurs?

88’ - Ben Davies replaces Steven Bergwijn in a defensive substitution by Jose Mourinho, who seems to be content with seeing out a nil-nil draw.

89’ - Joe Rodon has a bit of claret on his face after a swinging elbow from Havertz welcomes him to the Premier League. After a shaky start, he’s looked solid for much of the game.

91’ - Lucas Moura replaces Son Heung-min for Tottenham’s final change of the match. Just a few minutes left for Lucas to make a late impact.

92’ - Joe Rodon makes a grave error as he attempts to head a ball into Lloris’s gloves but instead directs it right into Olivier Giroud’s feet. Giroud is denied by his France teammate Hugo Lloris, who has produced a number of important saves in the last ten minutes after an otherwise quiet match.

93’ - Giovani Lo Celso is in space at the edge of the Chelsea penalty area and wastes Spurs’ best opportunity of the game as he attempts to chip the keeper and instead floats the ball harmlessly wide.

Takeaways:

  • I could watch Tanguy Ndombele dribbling around opponents all day long. He’s such a delight.
  • Joe Rodon was out of position for Werner’s disallowed goal and made a horrible header late in the game, but otherwise looked sharp and comfortable on the ball. He wasn’t amazing, but for a young kid debuting in a big game, he showed general composure and a lot of potential.
  • Steven Bergwijn had few attacking touches today; he was more visible tracking back to cover the space that opened up behind Sergio Reguilon. Tottenham are doing very well to involve all of their midfielders defensively, which creates more fluidity and uncertainty when it comes time to build an attack.
  • Not giving up points away to Chelsea is an accomplishment, even if recent form prompted fans to desire more from the game. We’ll take it.