Sunday afternoon’s top-four London derby was the tight affair many would have predicted between two in-form teams, but without the goals expected from sides who are, with Liverpool, the Premier League’s top scorers.
Chelsea, in the second half especially, were the better side but without creating many good chances.
The first half was a cautious affair, with Tottenham content to wait for counter-attacks and the Blues determined to prevent those. We did have the ball in the Shed End net off the boot of Timo Werner but that was disallowed. Edouard Mendy saved from Serge Aurier in Tottenham’s best moment before the break.
Chelsea had defended well however when called upon, and there was less work to do at the back after the interval as we managed to pin Tottenham back and probe for an opening. Mason Mount came the closest to breaking the deadlock with a shot saved with 10 minutes to go, and both sides traded misses in added time, the game’s drama saved for the very end.
The point leaves us third, two points behind Spurs who move ahead of Liverpool on goal difference.
There were no surprises with the three players Frank Lampard brought back into the team. Hakim Ziyech was restored to the starting line-up and Reece James was at right-back, with N’Golo Kante asked to patrol central midfield. All three had begun on the bench for the midweek Champions League victory in France.
Chelsea against Tottenham is never less than a massive game, but this meeting, even if it was in front of no fans, felt especially important ahead of kick-off with both sides in very good form, on the longest unbeaten runs in the competition, and with top spot in the Premier League the reward for the winners.
Before the main event however, there was a moment to remember the legendary Diego Maradona with a minute’s applause from those who could be inside the stadium today. His visit to Cobham back in 2008 was shown on the video screens.
Sunday afternoon stalemate
What followed in the opening 45 minutes will not live long in the memory however, as the game settled into a very tactical encounter. Both teams managed one shot on target in the first half.
Hakim Ziyech struck a dipping effort from outside the box straight at Hugo Lloris, in an opening in which Chelsea dominated possession without much action in our attacking third. Tottenham looked happy to sit back and wait for their moments to spring forward, one of which came in the ninth minute but that counter-attack ended with Steven Bergwijn scooping his shot over the bar.
It was Chelsea who broke just as sharply two minutes later, with Tammy Abraham carefully releasing Mount, who supplied Timo Werner to the left of him for a superb finish off the far post, but the German had strayed marginally offside.
Tottenham full-back Aurier had slipped to allow Werner space in that attack, but he made a better contribution soon after when he forced Mendy into a save low down to his right.
By the midway point in the first half, possession was closer to being equally shared and Jose Mourinho was likely to have been satisfied with the little threat to his goal so far.
With Blues being kept at arm’s length, Zouma tried a long ball forward which was cut out and suddenly Son and Bergwijn were threatening a breakthrough on the edge of our area. That was a warning that discipline and shape were vital in this derby.
Abraham did as well as anyone to force the issue with a forceful run past white shirts and into the area from out wide. That won a corner and, along with Chilwell shooting well over and Ziyech seeking out Werner with one of his balls to the far post, it was the best we had to show for the remainder of the first half, although in the last few minutes before the whistle there were signs of an increase in the pace of our passing and ability to find some space around the Tottenham penalty area.
Reece James tests Tottenham
Ziyech, as he had done at the end of the first period, floated a ball over to Werner at the start of the second one. It looked hopeful but the striker as he swivelled was crowded out. In quick succession, James then hit the best two cross of the game and Abraham was close to exploiting both of them. The Chelsea improvement just before the break was continuing.
Later in the half, on 64 minutes, a cross towards our centrally located striker came in from the other side from Ziyech. This one he couldn’t throw his head at but Spurs looked vulnerable as the ball went wide, and soon after came a genuine chance as Chilwell capitalised on a mistake but Ziyech flashed wastefully over.
Late chances at both ends
With 15 minutes left to play, Christian Pulisic was introduced for his first football of November after injury, with midweek winning-goalscorer Olivier Giroud following soon after, but it was Mount who properly tested Lloris with a well-struck shot that was heading for the bottom corner until the Frenchman intervened.
In the four minutes added time there was agony for both sides as they failed to capitalise on mistakes. It suddenly opened up for Giroud after Joe Rodon dithered but his attempt to chip Lloris lacked height, and then Lo Celso shot wide after a Zouma mistake, and that was that.
Thwarted but unbeaten run goes on
Lampard’s side extend our unbeaten run to 11 games in all competitions since we were eliminated on penalties by Tottenham in the Carabao Cup. Our only defeat in 90 minutes in our 16 games this season was against Liverpool. These were Tottenham’s first dropped points away from home in this league campaign.
The Premier League-Champions League alternation of fixtures continues with Chelsea in southern Spain on Wednesday for our fifth group-stage game. We have already reached the knockout stage, as have hosts Sevilla. A win in Andalusia for either side would confirm them as group winners, while a draw would extend the suspense until the last round of games are completed.
In the Premier League, our next game is against Leeds United on Saturday, when some fans will be welcomed back inside Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Mendy; James, Thiago Silva (c), Zouma, Chilwell; Kovacic, Kante, Mount; Ziyech (Havertz 83), Abraham (Giroud 79), Werner (Pulisic 74).
Unused subs Kepa, Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Jorginho.
Booked Ziyech 29, James 53, Zouma 55, Mount 76
Tottenham (4-2-3-1): Lloris (c); Aurier, Rodon, Dier, Reguilon; Sissoko, Hojbjerg; Son (Moura 90+2), Ndombele (Lo Celso 65), Bergwijn (Davies 89); Kane
Unused subs Hart, Sanchez, Bale, Vinicius
Booked Bergwijn 50, Reguilon 88
Referee Craig Pawson