Existential crisis are probably not good words with which to begin a Terrace Talk but there, I’ve gone and done it.
A visit to Stamford Bridge never seems to be just a game these days and Spurs fans arrived in an almost universal state of pessimism for this latest chapter.
The team hadn’t really seemed to be clicking for some time, and the manner of the meek departure from the Champions League in midweek angered and depressed even the most partisan.
The words “good tonking” were prevalent before the game, along with the phrase “Why do we do this?”
The poor form on the pitch had been supplemented by worrying noises off it; the players seemingly too willing to blame the Monaco venue for bad performances — Moussa Sissoko’s comments about finding it difficult to play away from the pitch he’d spent all of 162 minutes of his life going down a storm and Mauricio Pochettino’s deployment of the old ‘I don’t have the money to compete’ chestnut suggesting that finding excuses was more of a priority than finding solutions.
What was needed on this crisp winter evening in London was character, and Spurs lost no time in showing they still had it.
Snapping into the game from the off, the white shirts buzzed around a Chelsea side unable to get to grips with the power, intensity, and movement.
Memories of last year’s infamous Battle of the Bridge were stirred, but this time Spurs were not only tougher but slicker, the midfield pressing and passing and moving in a manner that enthused the vociferous away support, and this time not falling for the gamesmanship of the blue shirts seemingly dedicated to getting the referee to implement a no-tackle zone around them.
Spurs were back, the Spurs of last season and all too fleeting this; ambitious, urgent, and thrilling to watch.
The away section responded, blasting its support across one of the quietest Bridge crowds in years.
Wave after wave pressed the blue shirts back, Kane scored only to be ruled offside, then Christian Eriksen showed the quality all too often missing this season by curling in a humdinger. All this and only 10 minutes gone.
Pandemonium in the away end and the volume turned up even more.
Spurs still driving at Chelsea, whose moaning and niggling and attempts to play the ref increased, led by whinger-in-chief Diego Costa. Pre-match pessimism seemed a generation away.
And then, with just minutes to go until the break, a sublime piece of skill and exquisite finish from Pedro, and Chelsea were level.
Sometimes you have to acknowledge quality when it goes against you, even from that lot, but the hateful Costa managed to rebalance things by grabbing the ball, pressing it to his groin and pumping it while running towards the away support and snarling.
Half-time took the temperature down, but not in the away concourse, where the decision to turn the heating up to tropical levels had been taken.
This combined with the decision not to serve alcohol, despite zero evidence of the “anti-social behaviour” (thoughts of Costa stirred again) and some especially dozy counter service combined, as it so often does, to make the away visit a less than premium Premier League experience.
Spurs started the second half apparently having had the opposite of a half-time pep talk. Chelsea did to us all we’d done to them, but better.
They went ahead with a scrappy but slickly worked goal from Victor Moses, and could have added more.
Spurs were rocking, but clawed their way back into the game.
It was a proper London derby, a belting battle, and Chelsea’s fans even managed to sing a couple of songs once they were ahead.
In a frantic final 15 minutes, Spurs could have levelled, but while a draw wouldn’t have been unfair, there could also be few complaints.
So the unbeaten record has gone, annoyingly lost to the Classless Ones. Maybe that’s a burden removed.
Defeat at this place always hurts, but the pain was eased a little by a sense the team had rediscovered what it was about.
That’s what needs to be built upon.
Promise restored, and the hope that achievement will follow.
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