Ancelotti happy to see leading man back in limelight
Published 13/12/2010 | 05:00
didier drogba has been way below par in recent weeks, most noticeably in a lacklustre display at his former club Marseilles in midweek. Not all that surprising really, considering he is suffering from malaria.
However, the combative, controversial Chelsea striker was back to his moody, melodramatic best against Tottenham, giving a 45-minute display that further enlivened this enthralling contest. Drogba stepped off the bench at half-time, when Chelsea were 1-0 down to Roman Pavlyuchenko's well-taken strike and scored a trademark equaliser in which he muscled Michael Dawson off the ball and bundled it through the fingers of Tottenham goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes.
The Ivorian marked the goal by standing in front of the travelling Chelsea supporters like a statue, a response perhaps to the crowd's jeers a week ago at Stamford Bridge when Drogba had attempted to rouse them against Everton. He then had a late chance to win the game in stoppage-time when Gomes fouled Ramires to concede a penalty. Frank Lampard, who came on for the final 13 minutes in his first appearance since hernia surgery in August, normally takes the penalties but Drogba stepped up with Chelsea desperate to win and go top again, only to see Gomes guess right and pull off a simple save.
Ancelotti said: "Didier played well and worked hard. He was very dangerous. He played a fantastic game which was very important for us to draw the game. We could have won with the penalty. Lampard was unable to shoot as he did not have much confidence as he's been out for a long time. Drogba took the responsibility to shoot.
"I changed the team because I wanted to play using counter-attacks, using the speed of (Nicolas) Anelka to create opportunities to score. Drogba was not happy but showed a good reaction in the second half."
The draw extended the champions' winless streak in the Premier League to five games and sees them slip to fourth in the Premier League table. Had they won, they would have gone top. But Ancelotti claimed he had seen enough to pronounce Chelsea's slump now over.
Ancelotti even went as far as to predict his stumbling team will beat Manchester United next weekend at Stamford Bridge.
"The difficult moment, after this game, is behind us," the Chelsea manager said. "We didn't win but it is not important. The performance was good. We tried to do everything to win. We didn't but we are going the right way. When we were down we didn't lose control. We deserved to win."
John Terry, the Chelsea captain, also claimed afterwards that the performance was proof the champions' slump was over, after acknowledging they had lost "passion" in the past few weeks.
"I think we're back to normal. In the second half, we had the hunger, spirit, determination and pressed a lot better," Terry said. "That's what we want from a Chelsea side. You can lose or draw games but when you don't see the passion that's what hurts and we'd all admit that's been lacking.
"I never doubted my players, the manager or the football club. Nothing has changed from last year. He brought in one or two players and some went but we won the Double and were the best team by a long way."
Tottenham manager Harry Red-knapp was content with a point, although he said Drogba had handled the ball before he scored.
"The first goal was handball, he took it on his arm and it would've been harsh if we'd been beaten," he said. "The second half, they were coming to get an equaliser as we would expect. But the 'keeper didn't have a million shots to save. If you look, he's not been overworked. They kept possession and Drogba gave them a threat because he's a powerhouse and more difficult to deal with."
Michael Dawson returned as captain for his first game since September, but Redknapp said William Gallas tore a hamstring in training on Friday and Ledley King may need an operation on a groin tear. "He's coming on well. If he feels okay we will not operate," Redknapp said. "If he has to have it, it will be five weeks. But he's feeling good." (© Independent News Service)