The unanswerable case for video technology was made yet again here yesterday evening as Chelsea benefited from two goals that all available evidence suggested should not have been allowed. It could not be said with any certainty that the whole of the ball had crossed the line for Frank Lampard's equaliser on the cusp of half-time after the latest howler by the accident-prone goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes.
In fact, the verdict from all the camera angles available to Sky Sports in their live coverage was that it had not done so. To compound Tottenham's sense of injustice, Salomon Kalou was narrowly offside as Didier Drogba set him up for the winning goal a few minutes from the end of a typically frantic derby. Thus can some of the season's biggest issues be influenced, in this case potentially costing millions of pounds.
Spurs will certainly be out of pocket if, as now seems likely, they miss out on Champions' League football next season. Stranded four points behind Manchester City, whom they visit on 10 May, they are even vulnerable to sixth-placed Liverpool, who could deprive them of a place in the Europa League. Two days before that game, Chelsea undertake their own trip to Manchester, hoping that Arsenal have done them a favour at the Emirates today by beating United and keeping the gap at the top to three points.
Carlo Ancelotti employed the politics of compromise in picking both Fernando Torres and Drogba to start and although the latter was formidable, Torres again achieved far less and was withdrawn after an hour. There was little indication that having finally scored last Saturday after more than 12 hours in a Chelsea shirt it had made a new man of him. The one benefit of his arrival has been to inspire Drogba, whose shooting made Gomes a nervous wreck. "Didier played for the team," his manager said, after admitting: "We were lucky. The decision [for the first goal] was wrong."
Lampard pointed out that after the even worse mistake that cost him a goal for England against Germany at the World Cup, "I was due one of those". His uncle, Harry Redknapp, was dignified in his acceptance of the error while making his frustration clear: "The linesman has had a guess and guessed wrong. Until we get technology it's going to keep happening."
Spurs played well, with Luka Modric excellent and Rafael van der Vaart deeper than usual, in a line of four across the midfield. The Dutchman played an important role in a stunning goal after 18 minutes. Gareth Bale directed a throw-in towards him to hook adroitly over his shoulder for Sandro, who took a step forward and from 30 yards hammered the ball past Petr Cech.
That all happened after Drogba was denied one of the goals of the season when he lined up a free-kick 35 yards out and thudded it against the bar. Spurs seemed to be heading to the dressing room with their lead intact after Gomes touched Michael Essien's header over the bar. In added time, however, Gomes fumbled Lampard's drive towards his line in familiar hapless fashion, then grabbed it back. After brief consultation, the referee Andre Marriner indicated Chelsea had their equaliser.
Drogba had obviously decided to capitalise on any lingering unease in the goalkeeper's mind. When he hit another ferocious shot seven minutes into the second half, Gomes was not sufficiently confident to attempt a catch, but grateful that it was at a comfortable height to parry away.
Ten minutes later the Ivorian audaciously struck a free-kick at least 40 yards out and Gomes did little more than pat it away at Kalou, who with his first touch after replacing Torres, could not control his shot.
Kalou made amends soon after Sir Alex Ferguson had left the stadium, but again the replays suggested the goal should not have been allowed, for he was offside as Drogba knocked the ball forward.
Referee: Andre Marriner
Man of the match: Drogba
Match rating: 7/10