EPL: All square in love and war

Tottenham Hotspur's manager Andre Villas-Boas (L) speaks to his Chelsea counterpart Jose Mourinho following their English Premier League soccer match at White Hart Lane in London September 28, 2013.

TOTTENHAM                1
(Gylfi Sigurdsson 19)

CHELSEA                      1
(John Terry 65)

What does a day like this do to the relationship between Jose Mourinho and Andre Villas-Boas?

A bad-tempered afternoon at White Hart Lane on Saturday ended with an unwilling share of the points and a harsh red card for Fernando Torres.

But, instead of escalating their personal war, the two managers - once friends, now rivals - exchanged what appeared to be good-natured words at full-time.

Perhaps they have both acknowledged the futility of their feud.

Torres could easily have been sent off early in the second half, when an apparent scratch of Jan Vertonghen's face went unnoticed by referee Mike Dean.

But that didn't justify Dean's decision to dismiss the striker for a nothing challenge in the air with Vertonghen in the 81st minute.

Tottenham, having been on the back foot all second half after dominating the first, rallied but couldn't snatch a winner, despite the best efforts of Gylfi Sigurdsson and substitute Jermain Defoe.

It was Sigurdsson who opened the scoring in the 19th minute, putting the finishing touch on a gloriously- crafted goal.

Christian Eriksen turned Frank Lampard and roared away like a speedboat evading a clunking tug. Reaching the edge of the area, he slipped the ball to Roberto Soldado, whose first touch put Sigurdsson through on goal.

Despite the very best efforts of John Terry, the Icelandic midfielder slipped the ball past Petr Cech for his third league goal of the season.

It could have been worse. Four minutes later, it took a gallant saving tackle from Branislav Ivanovic to prevent Spurs from doubling their lead.

Mourinho was mercilessly abused by the home crowd throughout the game. "You're Not Special Any More," they sang.

That proved to be a rather premature diagnosis. Having been bested by his former pupil from the start, the master turned the tables after the break. It was the introduction of Juan Mata that changed the game.

Sidelined since Mourinho's arrival, he came on at half-time for the hapless Jon Obi Mikel. The Nigerian midfielder never got to grips with Eriksen and paid the price.

Ramires dropped back, the attacking midfielders shuffled and Mata took his place on the left. Inevitably, it was Mata who created the equaliser.

The little attacking midfielder, derided in some quarters as a man who lacks the intelligence or speed of thought to play in this team, lofted a cross into the penalty area and John Terry did the rest.

How many times has the former England captain smashed a header into the back of the net from that position. For all the chaos and upheaval that Stamford Bridge has witnessed, he remains an enduring variable.

Tottenham were electric in the first half, with Andros Townsend roasting Chelsea down the right flank, but they couldn't repeat that good work after the break.

Mourinho proved once again that when it comes to changing a game, there are few who can rival him. Even his former students.

And what of the pre-match handshake, almost as eagerly awaited as the match itself?

It was brief, lukewarm and came without even a hint of eye contact. It is hard to believe that this feud has been caused simply by Villas-Boas' desire to prove himself as a manager in his own right.

Perhaps we'll have to wait for both men to write their autobiographies, before we can satisfactorily clear up the mystery. Perhaps they both laughed about it over a glass of red wine after the match.

However this soap opera ends, the real story remains unchanged. Chelsea and Tottenham continue to stand as serious contenders for the Premier League title.

Neither are good enough to be counted as favourites, neither have slipped up enough to be written off as pretenders.

In the battle of the managers' egos, no collateral damage was caused.

Both teams live to fight another day.


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