Spurs dent Blues' title bid
Modric strikes as Chelsea miss out on chance to close gap
By Chris Harvey. Last Updated: 21/03/09 6:06pm
Mod-ern man: Luka Modric celebrates his winner
Chelsea failed to take advantage of Manchester United's slip at Fulham as they lost 1-0 to Spurs.
The Blues, who kicked-off half an hour late at White Hart Lane due to a security scare, knew their title rivals were struggling at Craven Cottage but could not capitalise on the slip, going down to Luka Modric's 50th minute strike.
Guus Hiddink's men looked out of sorts for much of the afternoon and the home side took a deserved lead when the Croatian latched onto Aaron Lennon's centre.
But the Blues piled on the pressure as time ran down and Spurs were indebted to much-maligned keeper Heurelho Gomes for a string of fine saves.
The pick of the Brazilian's stops was a one-handed block to deny John Terry while he was also on hand to snuff out late efforts from florent Malouda and Nicolas Anelka.
Alex also hit the crossbar in stoppage time as Spurs held on.
Harry Redknapp's men were relegation candidates when he took over in October but they are unbeaten in six league games and could be in with a shout for Europe.
Hiddink's men were predictably limited to long shots and Michael Essien, back from a serious injury, forced Gomes into a save which he gathered at the second attempt early on.
At the other end, Jermaine Jenas just cleared the angle of crossbar and near post with a fizzing drive.
The hosts got closer in the 18th minute after Alex failed to deal with a long punt forward, with Petr Cech required to beat away Keane's powerful volley.
Cech stopped Robbie Keane again after Vedran Corluka had raced down the right and pulled the ball back, although this effort was much closer to the Chelsea goalkeeper.
The visitors were being denied space on the ball, with Anelka often dropping into midfield to get involved. That was how the France striker started the move that ended with the ball breaking to him on the edge of the area and Gomes saving at the near post.
Encouraged by Chelsea's limited chances, Spurs attempted to break forward. Cech claimed the ball when Keane cut in and had a shot blocked by Alex and the Chelsea goalkeeper also plucked the ball from under his crossbar from Ledley King's looping header.
King clattered Didier Drogba with his thigh while winning a header and the Chelsea striker looked dazed while receiving treatment and heading down the tunnel, the visitors seeing out the first half with 10 men.
Drogba was fit to start the second half but Chelsea were behind within five minutes of the restart.
Lennon received the ball on the right, feigned to go down the flank but instead he crossed early, between Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard.
Keane could have struck but Modric took control of the situation, crisply finishing from the edge of the area into the bottom corner for his fourth goal of the season.
He almost repeated the trick when he got on the end of another Lennon cross, but this time his effort lacked power.
Hiddink's response was to bring on Ricardo Quaresma for Belletti, moments before Lampard struck the frame of the goal with a header at the far post.
Gomes saved from Drogba at the near post and from Quaresma's long-range effort as Chelsea searched for the equaliser.
Drogba sliced another shot wide, with Hiddink's next move to bring on Malouda for Essien.
Terry forced Gomes into his stunning full-stretch save, then King's block on Anelka was equally important. Alex hit the bar deep in injury-time with a header from a corner but Spurs held on.
|Tottenham Hotspur||Team Statistics||Chelsea|
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|5||Shots on Target||7|
|6||Shots off Target||7|
Barclays Premier League
|12||West Bromwich Albion||1||1|
|16||Queens Park Rangers||1||0|
|18||West Ham United||1||0|