England captain John Terry produced a typical block to spare Chelsea defeat in a 1-1 draw against Tottenham Hotspur in his first match since he was charged by UK prosecutors with racial abuse.
Chelsea centre-back Terry blocked a goal bound shot from Emmanuel Adebayor in stoppage time to ensure a point for the visitors at White Hart Lane on Thursday.
The draw left Spurs third in the Premier League table, two points in front of their London rivals, after Adebayor’s opener was cancelled out by an equaliser from Chelsea striker Daniel Sturridge.
And it meant Spurs were nine points adrift of leaders Manchester City and Chelsea 11 shy of the table-toppers.
The build-up centred around Terry, charged on Wednesday with racially abusing QPR defender Anton Ferdinand during Chelsea’s loss at Loftus Road in October.
But Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas, speaking after Thursday’s point, praised Terry’s resolve.
“Since the situation he has improved,” he told Sky Sports.
“He has grown in terms of performance. He’s a reference point for this team. It shows his character and strength and personality.
“His effort for the collective is extraordinary,” the Portuguese added.
Meanwhile Spurs boss Harry Redknapp was happy enough with a draw.
“In the end there were chances, some great chances at the end but certainly a point is a fair result,” he said.
Tottenham got off to an ideal start as Togo international Adebayor took advantage of Chelsea skipper Terry’s slipshod defending eight minutes into the match by slotting home before Sturridge levelled midway through the first half.
Terry was booed by the bulk of Spurs fans as he began his pre-match warm-up but was applauded by the away contingent.
He was jeered again as he led Chelsea out ahead of kick-off — and with every touch of the ball. But apart from his mistake to let in Adebayor, he delivered an assured performance.
Chelsea had failed to beat Spurs on their last five visits to White Hart Lane and the hosts had them on the back foot from the first whistle.
And after seven minutes Spurs were ahead — and Terry was partly at fault, after Sandro took the ball off Sturridge in midfield and sent Bale on a run down the left.
Gareth Bale sped toward the byline and just before crossing the ball into the box, Terry peeled off Adebayor to give him enough space to meet the Wales star’s centre, missed by Chelsea keeper Petr Cech, for a close range tap-in.
Juan Mata came close to levelling for Chelsea three minutes later but his stinging shot was palmed into Sturridge’s path by Brad Friedel and the Blues striker spooned the rebound over the bar.
Sturridge made amends in the 23rd minute as he turned in Cole’s cross.
The goal was met with vehement protests from Spurs players, who claimed the England left-back had handled in the build-up.
Five minutes later Didier Drogba came close to firing Chelsea ahead, as he acrobatically controlled Jose Bosingwa’s wayward cross before volleying against the post.
Chelsea was forced into a reshuffle at the back on the half hour as Branislav Ivanovic came off with what looked like a thigh injury.
Their injury problems were compounded soon afterwards when Nigeria international Jon Obi Mikel limped off the field.
After the break Chelsea continued to dominate and Ramires ran onto Drogba’s through-ball only to be denied by Friedel.
Tottenham had the ball in the net two minutes before the hour mark as Adebayor headed in William Gallas’s flick from Luka Modric’s free kick, but the ‘goal’ was ruled out for offside.
A rare mistake from Ledley King in the 73rd minute almost resulted in a second for Sturridge after the Tottenham defender’s weak headed clearance fell to the striker, but Friedel was able to keep the ball out.
Cech saved his side from a loss six minutes from time when he managed to tip over Sandro’s shot, which took a wicked deflection off Raul Meireles’s heel.
And in injury time the Chelsea keeper managed a full-stretch save to tip wide Adebayor’s shot from just inside the area. — AFP