Hasselbaink keeps the dream alive

Tottenham Hotspur 0 Chelsea 1
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The Independent Online

On the basis that Tottenham had not beaten Chelsea in 14 years, the outcome at White Hart Lane yesterday was entirely predictable. Whether, for Chelsea, it proves enough to give them a sprint start into Tuesday's Champions' League match against Arsenal is much less predictable. They stuttered to succeed yesterday, but in the end their victory closed the gap on Arsenal in the Premiership to a more attainable four points.

On the basis that Tottenham had not beaten Chelsea in 14 years, the outcome at White Hart Lane yesterday was entirely predictable. Whether, for Chelsea, it proves enough to give them a sprint start into Tuesday's Champions' League match against Arsenal is much less predictable. They stuttered to succeed yesterday, but in the end their victory closed the gap on Arsenal in the Premiership to a more attainable four points.

For Claudio Ranieri, voted March manager of the month, the not impossible prospect of depriving Arsenal of the title and removing them from Europe must provide him with enormous motivation. Could Chelsea seriously sack a man who is so dedicated to the club that he could say last night: "We are very close to doing something for Chelsea. Everything is in our hands. We are looking only at ourselves, and we are in good condition for the last matches''?

Spurs had the disconcerting memory of a 4-2 defeat by Chelsea earlier in the season, when Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink tormented them with the fourth goal. His recent hat-trick in 13 minutes against Wolves added further confidence in anticipation both for yesterday's game and Tuesday's against Arsenal, yet in truth it had been a flattering 5-2 win.

Spurs' own tentative European ambitions had largely been carried off in back-to-back defeats by Southampton and Manchester United. The continuous and disruptive rumours about the person who is to take over from David Pleat next season have hardly helped. Fabio Capello, of Roma, is a target but Chelsea could offer him more. Giovanni Trapattoni keeps being mentioned, but not by him. And that could leave the next candidate as Ranieri himself.

Among the brightest of the talents that anyone taking control of Spurs would inherit is, of course, Jermain Defoe. England's most promising contributor against Sweden was an immediate thorn in the defensive construction of a Chelsea side familiarly searching for early cohesion. The constant changing of their starting line-up makes understanding difficult to apply in an instant.

For some 20 minutes Hasselbaink waited in vain for good service from his midfield players, who seemed more concerned about releasing the ball quickly to avoid trouble than searching for openings. As a consequence Spurs had the better chances, including one created by Michael Brown, whose forward ball Defoe turned into a firm, low drive that Marco Ambrosio grasped well.

Moving the ball effectively on a wide front, with Brown and Stephen Carr linking well down the right side and Christian Ziege staying on the left, Spurs maintained a constant threat. Against the trend, Chelsea suddenly caught Spurs static in their own half. Damien Duff, who until that 38th minute had been struggling to get possession, moved brightly on the left, looked up and across the penalty area, where Hasselbaink stepped into an opening and comfortably turned the ball past Kasey Keller, who had previously rarely been troubled.

The replacement of Ziege with Frédéric Kanouté for the second half gave the centre of the Spurs attack greater height, but meant Robbie Keane had to take responsibility for sustaining the pressure from the left side. Spurs felt aggrieved when the referee waved away penalty appeals for handball by John Terry, but the linesman had already spotted an offside infringement. The disappointment only stirred Spurs to further attacks, but at the same time they began to allow Scott Parker and Frank Lampard too much freedom. In the 57th minute, when Hasselbaink saw that Lampard had moved unmarked into the Spurs penalty area, he found him with a short pass, only for Lampard to stumble over the ball and make poor contact with a two-yard shot that Keller managed to stifle.

Tottenham's sense that this was not a day on which luck would favour them surfaced again when Jamie Redknapp (having only recently returned from a sixth-month absence) had to leave the field with a facial injury caused in a clash with his cousin, Lampard. He was taken to hospital and received plastic surgery which could cost him the rest of the season.

Spurs were denied another powerful penalty appeal when Terry tripped Keane, but it seemed more accidental than malicious. Pleat saw a replay and insisted it was a "clean penalty".

Thanks in large measure to the industry of Lampard and Parker in the midfield area, Chelsea managed to play out the match in a slightly more controlled way. Even so, there remained a lack of deep resolve that should give Arsenal cause to feel that, if on Tuesday they can sustain their determination for the full length of the game, they should prevail.

Tottenham Hotspur 0 Chelsea 1
Hasselbaink 38

Half-time: 0-1 Attendance: 36,101

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