Gallas Stopage Time Blast Dulls Spurs

Coming off the most disappointing week in what should eventually be Chelsea FC’s most triumphant season, the squad, with the help of a pinpoint strike by William Gallas, emerged victorious over bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur. The 2-1 win, which allowed Chelsea to remain 16 points clear at the top of the table, was sweetened by the fact that recent days at Chelsea had been so tainted by controversy and loss.

Peter Osgood, “King of Stamford Bridge” and perhaps Chelsea’s greatest player, died while attending his uncle’s funeral only two weeks ago. Last week, the loss to Barcelona in the Champions League brought into question the drive of the team, the ability of the manager, and the willingness of the owner to splurge for premium talent. Where football teams commonly brush off adversity as a product of the media, the desperation of the Chelsea team to defeat the hated North London outfit Spurs was apparent. After a fine and fitting tribute to Osgood, Jose Mourinho made four changes to the squad that started against Barcelona only days before.

But before delving into the semantics of the match, it should be well documented that this fixture with Tottenham had all the makings of a final nail in Chelsea’s coffin. As if all the pixy dust in Mourinho’s magic wand had suddenly vanished, the media has been quick to point out his stubborness and lack of results with Chelsea in Europe. Tottenham, only five times defeated in the Premiership this season, seemed to play the perfect executioner – the mischievous child that would unravel Chelsea’s sweater of dominance and expose their holes to the world. However, with one rocket of a strike from Gallas with time about to expire, the dark cloud that hovered over the Blues for the past few weeks was vaporized.

Tottenham fielded a team brimming with English internationals. They stormed out of the gates, determined to defeat Chelsea in a league match for the first time in 16 years. Their dynamic forwards Mido and Robbie Keane looked poised to score, but it was Michael Essien who drew first blood. After Shawn Wright Phillips took advantage of a poor pass by Spurs midfielder Michael Carrick, Essien broke towards the net and finished a perfect setup from Chelsea’s speedy winger. It was Essien’s first goal of the season after his much hyped summer transfer from French club Lyon. The lead wouldn’t last long.

One of the four changes made by Mourinho was the replacement of defender Ricardo Carvalho with German Robert Huth. Faced with a Tottenham setpiece near the end of the first half, Chelsea prepared for Carrick’s bender into the box. Huth’s man, Tottenham’s Dawson, outjumped him and flicked the ball to storming midfielder Jermain Jenas for an equalizing goal. William Gallas, Chelsea’s eventual hero, was at least somewhat responsible for Jenas having the room he did to put away the goal. The teams entered the break tied 1-1.

While the first half was characterized by blistering pace, the second half saw Martin Jol’s Spurs sit on their laurels and play for a draw. A tie at Stamford Bridge would’ve been a terrific result for fourth place Tottenham, and it seemed to be playing out that way until Chelsea striker Didier Drogba ripped one off goalie Paul Robinson’s fingertips, ringing the Tottenham post. The strike seemed to wake the Chelsea giants from their two-week long slumber, and just as time was about to expire in the game, William Gallas murdered a searing bullet into the back of the net from the corner of the box. I went crazy, and so did the capacity Stamford Bridge crowd.

Gallas ran like a madman to an open armed Mourinho. Damien Duff, Lampard and the bunch swarmed him, and Gallas would later call his strike the greatest goal of his career. A stalwart of consistency possessing the ability to play anywhere on defense, Gallas has been a key member of the Chelsea team for the past few years. His value, perhaps, had never been more aparent.

Gallas was left by Mourinho to face the media, and amonst other quips, the classy defender stated the team’s love for their manager and their desire to win the Champions League next season. Gallas personified the team spirit and heart that has been Chelsea’s MO, and his goal reflected the skill and ability of the Chelsea team to rebound from adversity.

All was right again in the land of the Blues.

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