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Gylfi Sigurdsson scored a late equaliser as Tottenham Hotspur twice came from behind to draw 2-2 at Chelsea on Wednesday, to keep the race for the final UEFA Champions League places alive.
Tottenham's hopes of finishing in the top four of the Barclays Premier League suffered a setback, however, as the result keeps them in fifth place behind Chelsea, in third, and a point behind fourth-placed Arsenal with two games left.
Ramires' 39th-minute goal looked as though it had earned Chelsea three points that would virtually have secured the team a place in Europe's elite competition for an 11th straight season, but Sigurdsson placed a low, curling shot into the corner with 10 minutes remaining.
The pick of the goals was unquestionably Emmanuel Adebayor's superb finish in the 26th minute following a run from inside his own half, which had cancelled out Oscar's early opening goal.
It was a result that will have gone down well at Arsenal, who now know they can qualify for the Champions League by winning their final two games — against Wigan Athletic and Newcastle United, while Chelsea, who are three points ahead of Tottenham with a vastly superior goal difference, are well placed ahead of their final matches against Aston Villa and Everton.
In an open match the hosts started well with Juan Mata and Oscar combining to create the opening goal. Mata whipped in an inviting corner that was headed goalward by the unchallenged Gary Cahill, and Oscar headed the ball in at the far post from a yard out.
Tottenham equalised against the run of play when Lewis Holtby dispossessed Ramires and set Adebayor free. The striker, preferred to Jermain Defoe in the starting line-up, ran unchallenged to the edge of the area before curling a sumptuous shot over goalkeeper Petr Cech and into the far corner.
Ramires restored the lead for Chelsea by running on to Fernando Torres' pass and toe-poking past Hugo Lloris and the hosts' appeared dominant at the start of the second half when they created several chances.
Eden Hazard, who later hobbled off, and Mata passed up presentable opportunities but Spurs began to throw men forward in the final 20 minutes as their need for points became more desperate.
Their attacking resolve was rewarded when Sigurdsson raced into the area, collected Adebayor's deft flick and bent a low shot beyond Cech. In added time Spurs were afforded one last chance to win the contest, only for Gareth Bale’s free-kick to waft straight into the arms of Petr Cech, leaving the honours even and the intriguing battle for Europe in the balance.
Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez: "The second half was too open. We gave them the opportunity to counterattack in the first half but when we were winning the game we should have had more control.
We had four or five counterattacks to win the game and we didn't do it. They were pushing and pushing. Credit to Tottenham. On the counterattack you have to do more. We had chances to score the third goal and didn't do it."
"We are still in position where have been before – we have to win one game to get in the top four. We will try and win both."
Tottenham Hotspur manager Andre Villas-Boas: "We wanted to win obviously. The feeling is that a point is not bad, but it is not dependent on us now. Someone will have to drop points. The task was to win here.
"Our focus will be to continue to do our job and hopefully with the teams Arsenal and Chelsea have to play, fighting for survival, something can happen. Anything can happen. The Premier League is completely unpredictable. Chelsea have a difficult game against Villa at the weekend. We have a difficult game against Stoke as well who are also fighting. This fixture before the emotions of the last day can be decisive."
|11 May 2013||v Aston Villa (A)|
|19 May 2013||v Everton (H)|
|07 Dec 2013||v Stoke (A)|
|14 Dec 2013||v Chelsea (H)|
|23 Dec 2013||v Arsenal (A)|
|26 Dec 2013||v Chelsea (H)|