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Pain at the Lane for Chelsea - at last

ESPN staff
October 18, 2012
Aaron Lennon ended Tottenham's long wait for a league win over Chelsea © PA Photos
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Tottenham endured a turbulent ride across the first 15 years of the Premier League - but, until 2006, there was one constant: they just couldn't beat Chelsea.

When the teams clashed on November 5, 2006, it had been more than 19 years since Spurs had recorded a league triumph over their London rivals. For Spurs fans, the clock ticked ominously towards the unwanted landmark of 20 winless years.

In the intervening period, there had been some successes: in 2001/2, Tottenham mauled the Blues in the League Cup, running away with a 5-1 triumph. But somehow that cathartic win did not precipitate a league breakthrough.

In late 2006 Chelsea came to White Hart Lane as Premier League champions under Jose Mourinho, having beaten Manchester United to the crown by eight points; they ended that season 26 points in front of Spurs, who were beaten to a Champions League spot by Arsenal on the final day of the campaign.

Mourinho had crafted one of the great Premier League outfits, a shrewdly blended team that featured hulking physical specimens - Michael Essien and Didier Drogba - as well as inventive schemers like Arjen Robben and Joe Cole. They provoked fear wherever they went - not least at White Hart Lane, scene of so many glories down the years.

Spurs, led by Martin Jol, were clearly on the path that would, a few years later, see them defeating AC Milan in the Champions League. There were massive talents - Ledley King and Dimitar Berbatov - and a few lesser lights such as Hossam Ghaly, Jermaine Jenas, who would eventually be ushered out in order to make room for the likes of Gareth Bale and Luka Modric.

The grin was wiped from Jose Mourinho's face © PA Photos
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But make no mistake, this was a fixture Chelsea were expected to win - and Spurs' hope seemed to vanish when Claude Makelele, rarely sighted in the opposition half, slammed in a 20-yard half-volley after 15 minutes to open the scoring. Mourinho, always keen to invite the glare of the cameras, was seen sporting an uncharitably broad grin.

And he had every reason to: Chelsea, buoyed by their opener, were tearing Spurs to shreds, with goalkeeper Paul Robinson forced into two excellent stops from Michael Ballack and Frank Lampard.

But on 25 minutes and out of nowhere, Michael Dawson hauled Spurs back into the game with a well-placed header. Belief spread throughout the home side as Chelsea, clearly shellshocked having failed to capitalise on their dominance, found themselves pressed against the ropes.

And with 52 minutes elapsed, the goal that had been 19 years in the making: Robbie Keane bamboozled Khalid Boulahrouz with his footwork, then picked out Aaron Lennon, who took the ball down in the area before finishing calmly.

Chelsea pressed and pressed for an equaliser - but all their composure had left the stadium, summed up by John Terry's sending off with 18 minutes left for two bookable offences. Nonetheless, Robben did send a shot thundering against a post with three minutes left; it was as close as Chelsea would come, allowing Spurs to finally break the hoodoo.

Perhaps more significantly, it was a result that dealt a serious blow to Chelsea's hopes of retaining the Premier League title. Less than a year later, Mourinho was gone.

What happened next?: Chelsea were beaten to the Premier League title by Manchester United, while Tottenham ended fifth. Jol would last just a handful of games in the 2007/8 season before finding himself discarded and replaced by by Juande Ramos, whose reign yielded a cup.

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