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Chelsea frustrated by Bent´s smash and grab raid

Chelsea were forced to settle for a frustrating 1-1 draw against Tottenham on Sunday as Darren Bent staged a smash and grab raid at Stamford Bridge.

Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side dominated for long periods and deservedly went in front through Juliano Belletti’s first half strike.

But Bent punished a mix-up between Frank Lampard and Ricardo Carvalho to poach an equaliser on the stroke of half-time and Chelsea couldn’t break down Spurs again.

While Scolari can have few complaints about his team’s build-up play, their lack of cutting edge in the absence of Didier Drogba needs to be addressed.

Nicolas Anelka was a subdued figure and Scolari must be hoping the Blues can tie up a deal for Real Madrid forward Robinho before Monday’s transfer deadline.

Spurs had won only three of their 14 league matches since beating Chelsea in the League Cup final last season and made the short trip across London bottom of the table after two successive defeats.

They hardly looked like the potential top four challengers many billed them as in pre-season as Luka Modric and David Bentley failed to shine, but Juande Ramos can take heart from the way they scrapped for a point after Bent’s equaliser.

A resolution to the Dimitar Berbatov saga would help. The Bulgarian was missing from the Spurs squad again as Ramos decided he wasn’t in the right frame of mind to play while he continues to demand a transfer to Manchester United.

With Michael Ballack and John Obi Mikel injured, Scolari used Brazilian right-back Belletti as a make-shift holding midfielder.

Scolari’s side made a dazzling start. The tone was set by Lampard in the fifth minute. Joe Cole dummied Deco’s pass to Lampard on the edge of the Spurs area and the England midfielder’s sublime chip forced Heurelho Gomes into a superb tip over.

Anelka should have opened the scoring in the 26th minute when Belletti’s pass disected the Spurs defence but the France striker shot wildly over.

Michael Essien went much closer moments later as he surged forward in typcially dynamic fashion before rattling the crossbar with a fierce drive.

Not for the first time, Ramos threw his arms up in disgust at his side’s inability to stem the tide. Spurs were wilting in the face of Chelsea’s fluid passing and relentless pressing.

They finally cracked after 28 minutes. Deco swung in a low corner and, when Bent made a hash of his attempted clearance, Belletti was on hand to volley past Gomes.

It was only Belletti’s third goal for Chelsea and his first since scoring against Spurs back in January.

But incredibly the visitors went in level at half-time after Bent took advantage of a rare misstep from the Blues in the 45th minute.

Lampard nipped in to tackle Modric in midfield and Carvalho failed to close down Bent quickly enough. The Spurs striker pounced on the loose ball, burst in the penalty area and slipped his shot under Petr Cech.

Despite that setback, Chelsea immediately had Spurs back on the defensive after the break.

Essien picked out Ashley Cole and the left-back flashed a shot wide of the far post. Then Lampard tried his luck with another chip which floated over soon after.

Now they had something to hold onto, Spurs were happy to soak up the pressure. Carvalho headed over from Lampard’s corner but Chelsea were beginning to run out of ideas.

How Scolari must have wished he had Robinho to call on. Instead he sent on Florent Malouda and Salomon Kalou but it made little difference as Spurs battened down the hatches to end Chelsea’s 100 percent start.

Sun 31 August, 2008
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