A special goal for the Scorned One. When William Gallas's winner arrived belatedly, but by no means ill-deservedly for the champions, the effect was extraordinary. It triggered an explosion of emotions after these dark few days.
The French defender's third goal of the season, an effort he claimed to be his best ever, provoked a frenzied celebration with Gallas engulfed not only by team-mates and coaching staff but, in the midst of it all, the man who has dominated media agendas all week, the manager Jose Mourinho.
When the Portuguese eventually extricated himself, he did at least have the good grace to appear slightly abashed by being caught up in such a mêlée, particularly with the contest still in progress. As he regained his composure, it was a bit like the boss caught out snogging his secretary at the office party.
But the body language of the entire contingent said it all. "Yes, we have made mistakes," Gallas responded when asked if Chelsea had underachieved in Europe. "But we're back." The captain John Terry added: "Obviously, we were disappointed with what happened in the week. But we picked ourselves up in training. We came here and got a win in the last minute, but we'll certainly take that."
As for Mourinho, having had his demeanour and tactical awareness brought into focus after his team's limp exit from Europe, one could comprehend his exuberance. The Chelsea manager, still gnawing away at that elimination by Barcelona, will not let it drop. "So, it is curtains on this year's Champions' League," he reflected in yesterday's programme. "It is over and we all know why..." At least he conceded that "we played against a team with great players".
Gallas's most telling contribution, a lethal right-footed drive past the England goalkeeper Paul Robinson from outside the area after cutting inside on the left flank, epitomised a fine performance at full-back. The goal ensured another three points to reduce the number of victories required by the Blues to secure consecutive titles to five.
Before the start there had been a minute's applause in memory of "The King", Peter Osgood, who died last week. Many of his former team-mates were present, including Ron Harris, Charlie Cooke and Alan Hudson. But any concerns that this might turn into more of an Ossie memorial than a London derby receded from the moment Michael Essien won due reward for his side's early dominance with his first goal for the club.
Mourinho had made four changes to the starting line-up from the Nou Camp, the most significant being Shaun Wright-Phillips's elevation in place of the suspended Arjen Robben, and Hernan Crespo, preferred ahead of Didier Drogba. Wright-Phillips seized the opportunity avariciously. In one break, he left Teemu Tainio in his wake on the left before testing Robinson. Regaining possession, the ball found Essien, but his finish was narrowly wide. A couple of minutes later, the Ghanaian made amends. Michael Carrick's crossfield pass was intercepted by Wright-Phillips, this time on the right, and his low cross was diverted with aplomb by Essien.
Chelsea should have profited further. A Paul Stalteri error let in Terry, but he failed with a weak effort, and then a long-range attempt from Robert Huth nearly caught out Robinson. Wright-Phillips and Joe Cole also went close.
Yet, from nowhere, Martin Jol's men came back in contention on the interval. A Carrick free-kick, and Michael Dawson beat Huth in the air for Jermaine Jenas to turn the ball home for an unlikely equaliser.
The second half was an examination of the substance of both teams; Chelsea, after a week which has left them out of Europe and losing what friends remained, and of Spurs' ability to live in such a refined atmosphere. A Terry header was pawed away by the Tottenham goalkeeper before Mourinho acted, introducing Damien Duff and Drogba. But it was the visitors' Jenas who spurned the best chance. He was found by a magnificent ball from Ledley King, but Petr Cech reacted admirably to save.
Mourinho's men were nothing if not persistent. Two minutes from time Drogba shot against a post. But Chelsea were not to be denied. It was over a minute into added time when Gallas struck. "We're still upbeat and very optimistic. We lost out to a wonder strike," declared Jol's assistant, Chris Hughton. From Mourinho, the sound of silence. Words were superfluous.Reuse content