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Premiership - Tottenham Away 21st March 2009 0-1


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Modric delivers knockout blow to Blues’ title hopes

Tottenham 1-0 Chelsea

By Alan McGuinness

Luka Modric struck a second half winner to give Tottenham a deserved victory that deals a massive blow to Chelsea’s title hopes.

The diminutive Croatian was allowed to move into the box unmarked and strike a low shot past the despairing dive of Petr Cech.

Chelsea rallied and had a number of opportunities before full time, but they failed to beat an inspired Huerelho Gomes and missed out on a great opportunity to cut Manchester United’s lead at the top to just one point after Sir Alex Ferguson’s team were beaten 2-0 by Fulham.

Kick off at White Hart Lane was delayed by half an hour because of a suspect package outside the ground. By the time the game got underway, news would have undoubtedly filtered through that United were losing 1-0 to Chelsea’s closest neighbours courtesy of a Danny Murphy penalty.

But even if it did, the news didn’t have a galvanising effect on Guus Hiddink’s team. Tottenham started better and Robbie Keane had their best opportunities during a first half in which Chelsea never got going.

Michael Ballack and Juliano Beletti - deployed on the wing by Hiddink - found things particularly difficult, losing possession and generally appearing off the pace.

Michael Essien and Nicolas Anelka had Chelsea’s only efforts of note in the first half.

Keane forced Cech into a save with a vicious half volley, and also hit two further shots at the Czech international.

Ledley King also worried Cech with a looping header, but he managed to back peddle and collect the ball.

Five minutes into the second half, Tottenham had the lead. Aaron Lennon beat Ashley Cole and whipped the ball into the box into the path of an unmarked Modric, who hit a shot past Cech and into the net.

The goal injected some long overdue urgency to Chelsea’s play, not surprising given the total lack of any beforehand.

Ricardo Quaresma crossed for Frank Lampard to head towards goal at the near post. Verdran Corluka managed to clear behind for a corner.

Didier Drogba then forced Gomes into a save, and Quaresma tried one of his trademark strikes with the outside of his boot. Gomes was able to gather the Portuguese internationals shot with relative ease.

Keane was presented with another chance when Spurs broke down the other end, but his curling effort - reminiscent of his equaliser in the 4-4 draw between these two sides last season - was wide of the post.

John Terry began to amble forward as the clock ticked towards full time, and his high ball into the box found Drogba. The Ivorian took the ball down with an adept first touch but fired wide.

Gomes has been both brilliant and bewildering in equal measure this season - it was the former he displayed with 11 minutes left to play to preserve Tottenham‘s lead. Terry headed towards goal from a free kick but Gomes pulled off a brilliant diving save to deny the Chelsea captain.

Alex hit the bar with a header in a frantic finish to this London derby, but Tottenham clung on and sealed a deserved victory. Guus Hiddink tastes defeat for the first time as Chelsea manager, and may have to admit defeat in this season’s title race as a result.

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