Monday, February 25, 2008

Tottenham win League Cup over Chelsea: tale of the missing manager

Tottenham Hotspur have ended their 9 years without a trophy with a 2-1 win over London rivals Chelsea yesterday in the Carling Cup final at Wembley.

Jonathan Woodgate proved the hero as the January transfer window signing proved in the right place and a touch lucky to pull Tottenham ahead just minutes into extra time.

It’s an unusually high number of mistakes from Chelsea keeper Petr Cech this season, a testament to the increased amount of pressure he has been under as clubs are attacking Chelsea more.

Chelsea were listless in the first half until Didier Drogba scored from a 40th minute free kick. Chelsea took control of the match for a while but Tottenham were resilient (2 words you don’t see next to each other very often) and battled back to earn a penalty 20 minutes from time. It should have ended at the 90 minutes but for Didier Zakora’s comic enterprise in front of goal: with only the keeper to beat he shot directly at Cech and then ballooned the ball over the bar on the rebound.

The win guarantees Tottenham UEFA Cup football next season, a competition that Tottenham manager Juande Ramos had won twice consecutively with Sevilla.

It was a tale of the missing manager

Jose Mourinho left Chelsea early in the season and was replaced by Avram Grant, a Russian billionaires puppet. Ever since, Chelsea have been lucky they have a very professional group of players because it could have gone much worse. That extra 2% Mourinho brought was missing from the side as they often looked void of ideas.

If you look at Cheslea’s fortunes this season under Grant you might suggest he deserves some credit, maybe a bit for stabilizing the side, but nothing else. Chelsea are no longer feared and tactically don’t really look any more attacking under the Grant regime than under Mourinho. The formation has not really changed and the team is not scoring any more often, but what they have been is much more vulnerable in defense and seem incapable of beating teams of similar means in the Premiership.

A listless draw against Olympiacos serves to suggest the club is in decline as their mortality surfaces again and again.

Here is the stat of stats: Mourinho ‘s record. Seven Cup Finals from FC Porto to Chelsea, played seven and won seven. Avram Grant is 0-1.

Avram Grant has inherited one of the best squad in the world but he can’t and won’t make it count. Anelka out wide? Come on.

In the end Tottenham deserved their victory. They out-fought their bigger rivals and held on. Chelsea were left surrounding the referee at the end of the game, when they should have surrounded their owner and manager for taking Mourinho away.

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