Sports Mole brings you live coverage of tonight's crucial Premier League clash between Chelsea and Tottenham as both sides look to take a step towards a top-four finish.
By Barney Corkhill, Assistant Editor Filed: Wednesday, May 8, 2013 at 18:45 UK
Last Updated: Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 06:54 UK
Tottenham Hotspur travelled to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea in a match that would have huge implications on the race for Champions League qualification.
Chelsea took the lead after just 10 minutes when Oscar nodded in from close range, but Spurs were soon level courtesy of a sublime Emmanuel Adebayor strike.
Ramires poked Chelsea back into the lead before the break, but Adebayor was involved again in the equaliser, flicking the ball on to Gylfi Sigurdsson, who calmly curled the ball into the bottom corner to secure a point for his side.
You can read how an entertaining 90 minutes of football unfolded with Sports Mole's live play-by-play coverage below.
6.45pmGood evening! Thank you for joining Sports Mole for what is a huge match this evening between two sides desperate to finish in the top four at the end of the season as Chelsea take on Tottenham at Stamford Bridge.
6.47pmNeither set of fans need me to tell them just how important it is. The result of this match will have a huge impact on whether one of these sides is playing Champions League football next season or not. It is arguably both sides' biggest game of the season.
6.49pmLet's start by looking at the hosts, who currently sit in the driving seat in terms of a top-four spot. The Blues are third, three points clear of fifth place with three games - including tonight's - remaining. A win this evening would increase that gap to six points with two games left, which would surely see them in Europe's premier competition next season.
6.51pmRafael Benitez's men are in good form too. They have won their last four games in all competitions, a run that has seen them progress to the Europa League final as well as maintaining their position in the Premier League. Their unbeaten run stretches for six games, while they have lost just once in their last eight league games.
6.53pmThe boo-boys that hounded Benitez's appointment, and lasted for quite a while afterwards, are significantly quieter now. The Spaniard has done a good job at the Blues since replacing fan-favourite Roberto Di Matteo.
6.55pmHowever, even a Europa League trophy and third place in the league will not be enough to save his job. Benitez will be leaving at the end of the season and it looks increasingly likely that his replacement will be an old foe in Jose Mourinho. Chelsea fans would welcome 'The Special One' back with open arms, of course, but Benitez's contribution should not be forgotten.
6.57pmSpeaking of managers, the day's news has rightly been dominated by a bombshell from Manchester this afternoon. Long-serving manager Sir Alex Ferguson will retire at the end of this season after a truly remarkable and legendary career. Fans from these two teams will secretly be delighted, but no matter who you support, you must respect the job Ferguson did. He is simply the greatest club manager of all time.
6.59pmBack to today's match, however, and we are in the enviable position of watching a match this evening that both teams need to win. If one side needs to win it any more than the other, though, then it is probably Spurs. A loss would see them remain two points behind Arsenal with two games left, while a win would lift them above the Gunners and put them in pole position to claim fourth place.
7.01pmSpurs look destined for a spot in the top four when they beat Arsenal a few weeks ago, but since then they have lost against Fulham and Liverpool, as well as dropping points against Wigan and Everton.
7.03pmTheir recent form hasn't been particularly bad, but Arsenal's has been so good that the chasm that seemed to separate the two North London clubs has not only closed, but Arsenal now lead Spurs. They have gone five league games without defeat and they will be desperate to extend that run to six this evening.
7.05pmTEAM NEWS: Right, the team news is in for both sides and the headline from the home camp is that Fernando Torres starts ahead of Demba Ba. Frank Lampard is left on the bench as David Luiz moves into midfield, while Mata, Oscar and Hazard will support Torres. For Spurs, Gareth Bale starts as expected, but there is no place for Clint Dempsey or Jermain Defoe. Full team news coming right up...
7.14pmSo, what can we make of those starting lineups? Well, the main surprise from Benitez is the inclusion of Torres ahead of Ba. The Spaniard has certainly improved his form as the season has gone on, but doubts still remain over his attitude, and in a match this big you need all 11 players to pull their weight for the whole 90 minutes. I also thought Lampard may get the call to start given his penchant for delivering in the big games, but Luiz is more than capable of dominating the midfield and Lampard can be a deadly sub to bring on.
7.16pmTheir main attacking threat will come from the triumvirate of Oscar, Juan Mata and Eden Hazard. For me, Mata has been one of the best players in the league this season - certainly Chelsea's best player. I would put him fourth behind Bale, Suarez and Robin van Persie in the players of the season. Oscar has also had a fine campaign and will only get better, while Hazard's spot in the PFA Team of the Year should tell you all you need to know about his quality.
7.18pmChelsea have goal threats throughout their side, however, so Tottenham will not be focusing their attention on a group of players in particular. Luiz has got a taste for goals recently - and spectacular ones at that - while Ivanovic and Cahill can be very dangerous in the air from set pieces.
7.20pmAs for Tottenham, it is a slight surprise to see Adebayor starting ahead of Defoe. The former Arsenal striker has not been anywhere near his best for large parts of this season and, while Defoe hasn't exactly set the world alight either, he is much more likely to snap up any chances that come his way.
7.22pmTheir main threat will, of course, be Gareth Bale. The newly crowned PFA Player of the Year, PFA Young Player of the Year and FWA Player of the Year has carried Spurs on his back at times this season. While I would stop well short of calling them a one-man team, his goals have certainly earned the North London club a lot of points this season. Like Luiz, he is also a player who has hit a number of magnificent goals this season, and I wouldn't bet against him to get another one tonight.
7.24pmOther than Bale, the likes of Aaron Lennon should cause Chelsea problems tonight. The England international has pace to burn and has been in fine form for most of the season. He comes up against one of the best in the business in Ashley Cole tonight, but he will fancy his chances in a foot race with the full-back.
7.26pmSo, the form is pretty even, and the quality both sides possess is also pretty even, but what about the history of this fixture? Well, for Chelsea fans, they will be happy to know that Spurs haven't beaten them at Stamford Bridge in the league in their last 22 attempts.
7.28pmIt has also been over three years since Spurs beat Chelsea at home or away. During that time there have been six matches, with the Blues winning three and drawing three. The last two meetings have resulted in pretty humbling defeats for Spurs, with a 5-1 defeat in the FA Cup last season being followed by a 4-2 loss at White Hart Lane earlier this season.
7.30pmA quick reminder that you can also follow this game from the point of view of a Chelsea fan or a Spurs fan. Both have had some choice words to say about team selections and the history between these two sides! Pick your choice of commentary here: Regular (neutral) | Chelsea perspective | Spurs perspective
7.32pmThese two London rivals have played each other 129 times over the years, with Chelsea coming out on top on 55 of those occasions compared to Tottenham's 43. The remaining 31 ended as draws.
7.34pmOf those 129 meetings, there won't have been many that are as important as tonight's game. A place in the Champions League next season could very well depend on this result, and that does not just bring increased revenue to the club. Teams in the Champions League are able to lure the world's best talent to their club with the promise of football at the highest level.
7.35pmPREDICTION: We're 10 minutes from kickoff at Stamford Bridge, which can only mean one thing - it's prediction time! Both sides will be desperate for a win tonight so I can see plenty of goals and (hopefully) a good, attacking game. However, as much as they will want to win this game, they will also know that a loss - for Spurs in particular - could be very damaging. I think it will be 2-2.
7.37pmThe bad news for Tottenham fans is that Chelsea's home record this season is very good. They have amassed 37 points in 17 games - the fourth best record in the league - and have only lost twice in front of their own fans.
7.39pmSpurs aren't bad on their travels, though. Their tally of 30 points from 17 games is the fourth best away record in the league this season, with only Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea themselves being able to top that record.
7.41pmThe various records and sub-plots to this game make it even more intriguing. When it comes down to it, though, past results will have very little impact on the 90 minutes today. And what a 90 minutes we should have in front of us.
7.43pmOne such sub-plot is the return of Andre Villas-Boas to Stamford Bridge. The young Portuguese manager will feel that he didn't get a fair crack of the whip at Chelsea, which will make him even more keen to get a result today. He has done a superb job at White Hart Lane, and Chelsea may yet regret letting him go.
0 minKICKOFF: Here we go! Arguably the biggest 90 minutes of both sides' seasons is started by Chelsea kicking us off.
1 minIvanovic pings a superb long pass forward to Mata, who brings under his spell with an equally-impressive first touch, but the linesman has his flag up. The replay shows that it was a generous call, however, as the Chelsea man looked on.
3 minTorres and Adebayor have both taken their fair share of criticism this season, but with both playing up front alone this evening it could be a great chance to silence their respective doubters.
5 minChelsea are enjoying most of the ball in these earlier stages, but the Tottenham backline is being very disciplined and the linesman has been busy flagging the Chelsea strikers offside so far.
6 minHuddlestone spreads the ball to Bale on the left as Tottenham enjoy their best spell of possession so far. The Welsh winger cuts onto his right foot and floats a cross towards the back post, but he doesn't put enough on it to reach Lennon.
7 minSHOT! Chelsea have the first sight of goal, and it is Mata who flashes a shot just over. Torres slips the ball to the little Spaniard inside the box and, with Walker standing a couple of yards off him, Mata takes a touch before hitting a half-volley on the turn.
8 minHuddlestone has Tottenham's first effort on goal of the match, but it is never going to trouble a keeper of Cech's quality. The Spurs midfielder had more time than he thought then, he seemed to rush his shot and, as a result, didn't catch it very well.
11 minFirst blood to Chelsea! Mata swings a corner in from the right and Cahill rises highest to nod it goalwards. At first glance it looks like the England defender has simply nodded the hosts ahead, but the replays show that Oscar got the final touch, heading the ball over the line from close range. Tottenham have it all to do now!
13 minSpurs have responded quite well to going behind here. Lennon runs towards the box but Ashley Cole cleverly ushers him inside onto his weaker left foot. Lennon manages to get a cross in, but it is cleared away with ease.
15 minSHOT! Spurs are starting to see more of the ball, but so far they have been restricted to long shots. The latest of these comes from Holtby, who flashes a low effort a couple of yards past the post.
16 minCHANCE! Spurs fall asleep from a quickly-taken short free kick. Chelsea move the ball out to the right flank where Azpilicueta has plenty of space to pick out Mata inside the box. The Chelsea midfielder lost his marker by simply standing still, but he can't keep his first-time shot down. Not the easiest chance, but a player of Mata's quality will bee annoyed at not hitting the target.
18 minBale has been little more than a spectator so far this evening. Spurs need to get him on the ball more but, to do that, they need to wrestle possession off Chelsea more often than they are doing. The hosts are dictating this game so far.
20 minChelsea have a free kick about 35-40 yards out here in a very central position. Most people wouldn't dream of shooting from here, but David Luiz has hit a couple of worldies recently and is looking very interested.
21 min...but he hits the wall. It was an odd decision to have a wall that size for a free kick that far out, but I suppose I have to bow down to Lloris's superior judgement as it worked!
23 minInterestingly, the latest possession stat to come up shows that Spurs have actually had more of the ball. I wouldn't have thought that, but it just goes to show that they aren't using it well enough. Chelsea have had 47% of possession so far but in control and deservedly lead.
24 minBrilliant defending by Dawson who elads by example with a very brave block. Hazard cuts inside Kyle Walker before hammering a powerful shot goalwards. The ball is really travelling but Dawson doesn't give a second though to throwing his head in the way to block.
26 minOh my word, what a goal! Out of nothing, the much-maligned Adebayor gets just his fourth league goal of the season in some style. Spurs break on the counter-attack and Adebayor carries the ball from his own half into Chelsea's third. The defence just keep backing off until Adebayor is about 25 yards from goal, and then he just curls a delicious, inch-perfect strike into the top corner. Cech had no chance. What a strike, and what a time to get it.
28 minThat goal has got the Tottenham fans singing! Spurs had not really been in the game at all until that point, but now it really is game on.
30 minScott Psrker is down and receiving treatment as we get to savour that Adebayor strike once again. What a way to silence your critics (one of which was our resident Tottenham man - you can find his version of events here.)
32 minThe balance of play has shifted a little since that equaliser. It is a lot more even now and neither side are dominating.
34 minChelsea corners are causing Tottenham come problems at the moment. The latest one is met by an unconvincing Lloris punch which only falls as far as Azpilicueta on the edge of the box. The full-back gets ahead of Lennon to try to head the ball past the back-tracking keeper, but he puts it wide.
35 minBale has his best moment of the match so far as he drifts from the left flanks for the first time. He pops up on the right before skipping past Cole and firing a shot goalwards that Cahill does well to block.
36 minAdebayor has a chance to add an equally-spectacular second goal to his personal tally, but this time he gets it all wrong. Jan Vertonghen picks out the striker's run with a fine pass, but Adebayor is always stretching for it and his ambitious first-time volley goes well over.
38 minSHOT! Spurs have been very slow to react from Chelsea free kicks on a number of occasions today, and this latest instance sees one played short to Ramires, who proceeds to smash it just over the bar.
40 minChelsea are back in front! It is good work by Torres on the right as he holds on to the ball before slipping a cute little pass inside Vertonghen, instantly taking the Tottenham man out of the picture. Ramires races on to the pass and toe-pokes first time it past Lloris into the bottom corner. Good finish from the Brazilian.
42 minCHANCE! Kyle Walker has a chance to level the scores for Spurs, but he scuffs his shot wide! The full-back cut inside from the right before exchanging a one-two with Adebayor, but his eventual shot on his weaker left foot was not good enough. He should have tried to curl it into the far post, but instead looked to catch Cech out at the near post.
44 minSAVE! Good build-up play from Chelsea, there. Oscar holds the ball up in the area before finding Azpilicueta on the overlap. The full-back stands a cross up towards the back post, and it eventually falls to Hazard, who tees up Oscar again, but the Brazilian's shot is straight at Lloris.
45 minWe will have a minimum of two minutes added time at Stamford Bridge.
45+2 minScott Parker looks to come up with something right at the end of the half as he finds space to shoot from about 25 yards out, but his curling effort goes high and wide.
8.36pmThe referee brings an end to what was a thoroughly entertaining half of football. Chelsea will be the happier of the two sides at the break, going in as they do with a slender lead courtesy of goals from Brazilian duo Oscar and Ramires. The moment of the match so far falls to Adebayor, however, who equalised for Spurs with a beautiful curling strike into the top corner.
8.38pmOther than that, though, Tottenham fans haven't had much to cheer. Their goal came against the run of play and they haven't tested Cech since. Chelsea have been the better side so far and deserve their lead at the break.
8.42pmIt's fair to say that Spurs have struggled to deal with Chelsea from set pieces this afternoon. The likes of Ivanovic and Cahill will always cause trouble for opposition defenders, but Spurs are cause themselves problems too. The opening goal came from a corner and Villas-Boas won't be happy with the marking from his players, while there have also been a couple of quick free kicks that they have been very sluggish to react to.
8.44pmMuch was expected of Bale tonight due to the incredibly high standards he has set for himself so far this season, but he hasn't had much impact on the game at all. The Welshman started switching positions towards the end of the half and I expect him to play a completely free role if Spurs remain behind for much longer as he will be key if they are to get back into this one.
8.46pmI would expect that to be the general gist of Villas-Boas's teamtalk at the break. His team have not threatened anywhere near enough going forward which, given Tottenham's attacking prowess, is not good enough. "Give the ball to Bale", he will be saying.
8.48pmThe players are back out for the second half, and a huge 45 minutes awaits both sides. Can Spurs come back into this match or will Chelsea hold out?
45 minKICKOFF: Here we go again, Spurs get us back underway.
47 minChelsea have a corner and, although the initial ball into the box comes to nothing, Ramires picks it up on the edge of the box and looks to build another attack. Bale is out to meet him quickly, however, and wins the ball to set up a Tottenham counter-attack. Walker picks it up on the left and bursts towards the Chelsea goal, but Azpilicueta shows good pace to keep up with the Tottenham full-back and put it behind for a corner.
49 minTottenham are trying to force the issue now, and I don't think they need to just yet. Bale drops deep to pick up the ball before giving it short to Huddlestone. The Spurs man goes for an amibitious long ball towards Lennon, but it is over-hit straight into the arms of Cech.
51 minHalf-chance for the hosts as David Luiz makes his way down the right flank. He looks to be going nowhere, but he manages to squeeze a low cross into the area. Torres is on his toes and gets in front of Vertonghen, but he doesn't get enough on his shot as it dribbles tamely into the arms of Lloris.
53 minAnother half-chance for the Blues, but this one comes from a Tottenham mistake. Dawson gives the ball away and Mata looks to take immediate advantage. He is forced wide, however, and settles for a cross into the box that Assou-Ekotto does well to come back and clear over his own crossbar.
54 minCLOSE! Azpilicueta almost scores his first goal for Chelsea in fortuitous circumstances. The ball balls to the full-back who tries to whip a dangerous cross into the box. Instead, his effort flies towards the top corner, narrowly missing with Lloris beaten.
55 minCHANCE! Big chance for Chelsea to put some breathing space between themselves and Spurs. The visitors are again caught in possession in a dangerous position and the ball is slid through to Hazard. The winger has a tight angle, so fakes a shot to sell Walker and improve his sight of goal, only to blast his effort over the bar! Big chance.
57 minChelsea have been on top in this second half, there is no doubt about it. Tottenham just haven't turned up to this one yet, and something will need to change soon for Andre Villas-Boas's side. They have been toothless in attack and dodgy in defence, very unlike them.
59 minBale slips the ball to Walker who is steaming down the right flank before being brought down. Spurs have a free kick in a good crossing position, and Huddlestone is standing over it.
60 minHuddlestone chooses to drill a low cross into the box, presumably due to Chelsea's significant aerial presence in the box, but it is cleared by Luiz.
61 minCHANCE! Oh what a chance for Ramires! One ball forward releases Mata down field, and the Spaniard draws two defenders to him before squaring the ball to Ramires. It isn't the best past and causes the Brazilian to put the breaks on, but he slips at a vital moment and the danger passes. To add insult to injury, Ramires hit his head on the ground on the way down and is still hurt!
62 minSPURS SUB: Our first change of the day is made by Villas-Boas as Aaron Lennon makes way to be replaced by Sigurdsson. Lennon can be a real handful on his day, but he hasn't affected the game at all this evening.
64 minAssou-Ekotto buys a cheap free kick on the left, and Spurs have another chance to whip it into the box. Huddlestone is over it again, and this time his cross better. So good, in fact, that two Tottenham players want to get on the end of it and in the end Jan Vertonghen, going for a bicycle kick, gets in the way of Holtby at the back post and the ball goes wide and over.
66 minBale picks up the ball in a dangerous area and immediately looks to take on his marker. It is Ashley Cole on this occasion, and the winger pushes it beyond the full-back before running into him and going down. He wants a free kick right on the edge of the box, and it is a borderline decision, but the referee waves play on.
68 minTottenham are renowned as one of the best counter-attacking teams in the league, but it is Chelsea who are having the bigger impact on the break at the moment. This time, the ball is given to Mata down the left, but for once the Spaniard doesn't produce the goods as his cross is way too heavy for Torres, who was waiting in the middle.
70 minSPURS SUB: Spurs have good depth on the bench, and that is shown by the introduction of Dempsey in place of Holtby. No Defoe still, but I can't imagine it will be too much longer before we see the striker.
72 minCHELSEA SUB:Rafael Benitez makes his first change of the night, and that is the last we will see of Hazard in this one. He jogs slowly off the pitch to be replaced by Victor Moses.
74 minBale goes down under a challenge but the ball breaks to Huddlestone in the middle so the referee plays advantage. It isn't much of an advantage, however, as Huddlestone's attempted cross is woefully over-hit and goes out for a goal kick.
75 minDempsey has a slight hint of an opening as he picks the ball up on the edge of the Chelsea box, but his shot is blocked by Ivanovic and the ball goes over the top for a corner.
77 minThe latest Tottenham corner again results in a Chelsea counter as Mata looks to find Moses. The sub mis-controls the pass which slows the attack down, but he manages to retain possession and eventually wins a free kick.
78 minYELLOW CARD! That's the first yellow card of the night, and it is a very harsh one. Vertonghen puts an excellent tackle in on Torres, who was threatening to break free, but Mike Dean blows for a foul. That decision prompts Vertonghen to kick the ball away in disgust, for which he is shown the yellow. I sympathise with him there, that was a fine challenge.
80 minWow, this is really game on now! Adebayor has only done two good things all game, but they could be the two most important things he has done this season. This time he produces an excellent flick into the path of Sigurdsson, who curls the ball past the despairing dive of Cech into the far corner. What a final 10 minutes we have in prospect!
82 minMoments after the goal, Adebayor looked to be through on goal again, but the linesman incorrectly flagged for offside. However, there was a hint of offside about the goal itself, although it was incredibly tight and the benefit of the doubt should go to the attacking team.
84 minCHELSEA SUB: The Chelsea fans are not happy with this sub as Yossi Benayoun replaces Oscar. I wonder what a certain Mr. Lampard thinks about that decision.
85 minJust before that sub, Bale went from a trademark wondergoal from range, but his shot flew quite a way over the bar. It would just be typical of his season for him to get the winner in this match.
86 minYELLOW CARD! Ramires's dynamism in midfield reminds me a lot of the likes of Patrick Vieira. He makes a powerful run through the middle and is only stopped by a lunging challenge from Bale, who picks up a yellow card for the cynical tackle.
88 minThis match is balanced so precariously going into the closing stages. Does either side risk going for the win? Three points would do wonders for both sides, but a loss could be as damaging as a win is positive.
89 minHuddlestone has another chance to put the ball into the box from a set piece, but again he gets it all wrong. His delivery from free kicks and corners so far today has been poor on the whole.
90 minThere will be a minimum of four minutes of added time here. Can either side find a dramatic late winner?
90 minSAVE! Dempsey makes a strong run down the right side of the Chelsea box before drilling a low shot towards goal. The angle is always against him and it is easy enough for Cech.
90+1 minYELLOW CARD! Bale cuts inside from the right and is brought down about 25 yards from goal. Ramires kicks the ball away in frustration and gets a yellow for his troubles, but more worryingly for the Blues Bale is standing over a free kick in a very dangerous position. This could be his crowning glory in a fabulous season...
90+2 minHe gets it on target, but there is nowhere near his usual dip and pace on the ball, and in the end it is easy for Cech to catch. That was an anti-climax!
9.40pmThe referee ends an entertaining 90 minutes, and a draw does nothing much for either side. Spurs remain in fifth place, but have closed the gap to fourth-placed Arsenal to just one point with two games left. Chelsea, meanwhile, are still in pole position to finish third, and a win against Aston Villa in their next match should be enough to secure Champions League football for them.
9.42pmAs far as tonight is concerned, a draw may not have been the desired result for either side, but both managers will be content with a point. As far as Chelsea are concerned, everything is still in their hands, and for Tottenham they were forced to come from behind twice to pick up a point at Stamford Bridge, which is no easy task.
9.44pmThe Chelsea goals came courtesy of Brazilian duo Oscar and Ramires, while Emmanuel Adebayor scored a stunner for Spurs before setting up Gylfi Sigurdsson's second-half equaliser. I am happy to be on target with my 2-2 pre-match prediction, I just wish I had put some money on it now!
9.45pmRight, that's it from me this evening. Thank you for joining Sports Mole for what was a thoroughly entertaining match, whether you've been following this commentary, the Chelsea commentary of the Spurs commentary. Or even all three! I will leave you with Jack Prescott's match report, and be sure to stick around for analysis, which should be on site within half an hour. Until then, it's goodnight from me!