Terry to the rescue

Chelsea skipper ignores barrage of abuse to deny Spurs with dramatic late intervention

TOTTENHAM 1 vs CHELSEA 1

CHELSEA manager Andre Villas-Boas hailed his under-fire captain John Terry after the embattled Blues stalwart rescued a point with a dramatic injury-time clearance – virtually the final act of a pulsating London derby.

Daniel Sturridge’s 23rd minute equaliser cancelled out Emmanuel Adebayor’s early opener, as both sides were forced to settle for a point that did little to advance either’s hopes of hauling in the two Manchester giants.

Terry, meanwhile, was subjected to a torrent of abuse from the White Hart Lane faithful following Wednesday’s confirmation that the England skipper would face criminal charges over alleged racist comments he made to Anton Ferdinand during October’s 1-0 defeat against QPR.

Villas-Boas had no hesitation in selecting his skipper, who has always maintained his innocence, and his faith was rewarded with a typically full-blooded display in the face of significant adversity.

“Since the situation he has improved,” said Villas-Boas. “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.”

Nothing typified that glowing testimony more than the dramatic sliding intervention that prevented Adebayor from winning the contest in injury-time, after the Togo striker had latched onto Gareth Bale’s pass and steered his shot beyond Petr Cech.

The same four players, coincidentally, were involved in the conception and execution of the opening goal which arrived in the eighth minute.

Bale sped past Jose Bosingwa and flashed a low, inviting centre across the face of the six-yard box. Terry failed to track the run of Adebayor and the former Arsenal striker was rewarded for his bravery, a quality lacking in Cech’s goalkeeping, by prodding the ball home, almost inadvertently.

The lead, however, lasted just 12 minutes. Spurs stopped in their tracks when they clearly felt Ashley Cole should have been penalised for controlling the ball with his hand.

Referee Howard Webb allowed the play to go on and when the England left-back crossed into the six-yard box, Daniel Sturridge, who had missed an earlier chance to equalise from similar range, was on hand to convert a ninth league goal of his increasingly prolific season.

Injuries to Branislav Ivanovic and John Obi Mikel, replaced by Paulo Ferreira and Oriel Romeu, respectively, seemed to disrupt the flow of a match which exploded into life in the closing stages.

Ramires, with Frank Lampard watching on from the substitutes’ bench, wasted Chelsea’s clearest opportunities. The Brazil midfielder was first denied by a sprawling Brad Friedel and then almost inexplicably headed wide from no more than seven yards after a floated cross from Raul Meireles found him completely unmarked.

At the other end, Adebayor’s near miss aside, William Gallas narrowly failed to divert Bale’s cross past Cech at the near post and the Chelsea goalkeeper also produced an agile save to divert Sandro’s deflected effort, which looped up off Meireles outstretched leg.

There was time for refereeing controversy too, with Webb failing to spot a Benoit Assou-Ekotto handball, which came after his assistant had denied Adebayor by wrongly adjudging the forward to have been offside.

Despite the loss of two points and losing pace in a title race he believes his side are embroiled in, Spurs manager Harry Redknapp insisted he was happy with the outcome of the match and the position his side find themselves in.

“If you’d have said at the start of the year we’d have 35 points by this stage of the season then you’d have jumped at that,” he said. “After losing the first two games to have come back as strong as we have is fantastic. I couldn’t be more pleased.

“We are looking forward to the second-half of the season – you’ve got to continue that form if you want to finish in the top four.

“All the teams in the top six are all good teams, difficult to beat. It’s going to be a real scrap for those top four places.”