London rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea slugged out a 1-1 draw in an exciting derby at White Hart Lane on Thursday as the home team held on to third spot in the Premier League.
Both sides were left to rue missed chances that could have edged them closer to leaders Manchester City and champions Manchester United and,worryingly,both enter the festive programme with injury problems.
Emmanuel Adebayor gave Tottenham the perfect start when he turned in a Gareth Bale cross after eight minutes but having dominated the opening exchanges the hosts were forced to retreat by a stirring Chelsea fightback.
The visitors,in fourth spot,equalised after 23 minutes through the lively Daniel Sturridge and had the better chances.
In a thrilling second half Ramires wasted a glorious opportunity for Chelsea and Adebayor was denied a dramatic late winner by a sliding John Terry clearance in stoppage time.
Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas praised his side for their second-half dominance and said they could still win the title despite being 11 points behind leaders City.
In some ways I think we lost two points today but getting a point here is still excellent,the Portuguese told reporters. In terms of our title challenge it keeps it alive.
Our passing game exploded today to fantastic levels,outstanding,it was remarkable. A fair result would have been a Chelsea win.
Going into the busy Christmas programme Tottenham have 35 points from 16 games,with Chelsea two points behind having played a game more than the north London club. City have 44 from 17 games,two ahead of United.
Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp said a draw was a fair result after injuries hampered his side.
Dutchman Rafael van der Vaart sustained a hamstring injury that Redknapp said could rule him out of the Christmas and New Year programme of fixtures while defender Younes Kaboul suffered a similar fate in the warm-up.
It was a tight game,Redknapp said. The first 25 minutes we dominated but then they scored and got stronger and the second half it was difficult because Rafael did a hamstring and we had no one who could play on the right.
They outnumbered us in midfield and it was hard work for us.
Tottenham began the game as if they were determined to underline their new-found status as London’s highest-placed club.
Bale caused havoc with his pace down the left and it was no surprise he proved the architect of the opening goal.
Sandro dispossessed Sturridge and played in the Wales winger who accelerated past three defenders to fire in a devilish cross that Adebayor touched in as keeper Petr Cech hesitated.
Sturridge should have equalised with Chelsea’s first attack,lifting his shot over the bar after Spurs keeper Brad Friedel parried Juan Mata’s fizzing low shot.
Forward Sturridge,tipped for England duty at Euro 2012,levelled against the run of play when Ashley Cole charged down the left and crossed for the unmarked former City player to guide a close-range volley past Friedel.
The goal changed the complexion of the contest,as Chelsea grew in stature and Tottenham lost their early spark,with Didier Drogba lashing a shot against the crossbar.
Chelsea also had injury problems with defender Branislav Ivanovic and midfielder John Obi Mikel hobbling off in the first half.
The 2009-10 league champions controlled the early stages of the second half with Ramires forcing a superb save from Friedel.
Tottenham attacked sporadically and Adebayor had a header ruled out for offside while Sandro flashed another chance wide when well placed.
In a breathless finale Ramires somehow failed to find the net when a Mata free kick picked him out on his own,six metres from goal,but he skewed his header wide.
Terry,booed by Spurs fans all night after the Crown Prosecution Service opened a case against him for alleged racial abuse of Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand,showed why Chelsea fans love him so much with a last-ditch deflection of Adebayor’s goal-bound shot.
His commitment is never in doubt and his quality and talent is never in doubt,said Villas-Boas.