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Chelsea good fortune keeps hopes alive

A third rate goalkeeper and a clutch of incompetent match officials made up the lamentable cast of fall-guys on an evening of high drama at Stamford Bridge, as the increasingly jaded subject of goal line technology reared its ugly head once again.

Frank Lampard was the victim of the lack of a camera monitoring the goal line as England were denied an equaliser against Germany in last summer's World Cup finals, yet this time the Chelsea midfielder on the right end of decision that was as poor as has been made in the Premier League this season.

The fact that hapless referee Andre Marriner and his uncertain side kick Mike Cairns took ten seconds to decide whether Lampard's long-range effort had crossed the line after it leaked through the hands of flapping Tottenham keeper Heurelho Gomes confirmed that they were uncertain over the validity of their decision.

However, the goal that should never have been was eventually awarded after the Chelsea fans piled the pressure on assistant Cairns, who offered an embarrassed nod when asked whether the ball has crossed the line. It was clear that he didn't know whether the ball had crossed the line, but that did not stop him giving a goal.

The officiating horror did not end there. With the clock ticking down on Chelsea's belated title charge, Salomon Kalou was allowed to score a dramatic late winner to break Tottenham hearts, even though TV replays confirmed he tapped in from close range while standing in an off-side position. This time, it was assistant referee Martin Yerby who had made the wrong call.

If the Premier League title is ultimately influenced by the appalling decisions offered up by Marriner and disastrous side-kicks, then football will be the loser and yet Spurs boss Harry Redknapp somehow managed to offer up this cheerful and sympathetic view of horrific refereeing performances that all but ended his side's hopes of a return to the Champions League for next season.

"Anyone who understands football will know that we need to have TV replays, yet this debate has been going on for years and the powers that be just won't help the officials," said Redknapp, who covered himself with glory as he sympathised with the mistaken trio who had cost his side so dearly at Stamford Bridge.

"The linesman has guessed whether Frank's first half strike has crossed the line because it is impossible for him to judge when he is standing 18 yards from goal. Sadly for us, he has got it wrong. Obviously, he shouldn't be guessing whether a ball has crossed the line and on that point he is wrong, but he had a punt and got it wrong.

"Then they make another mistake on their winning goal to compound their error. It was a close call on the off-side, but he was off-side and that should not have been allowed either. They are big decisions and they have got them wrong.

"It takes five seconds to get the right decision on a TV replay and yet we continue to gives goals that were not goals and everyone can see that. Then their winner was off-side, which does little to make us feel any better about this situation.

"Unfortunately, the referees have made big mistakes today. They are honest mistakes, but they are big mistakes. What can we do about it? Nothing is the answer and that makes it hard to swallow. The crowd called for goals and the officials gave it to them. It's not good enough, but this will continue to happen until goal line technology is brought in."

In many ways, accident prone Spurs keeper Gomes got all that he deserved as his latest disastrous slip saw the Lampard's long-range shot creep through his grasp and trickle towards the goal line with ominous intent as the half-time whistle loomed large.

After the highly impressive Sandro fired Spurs into an 18th minute lead, Chelsea were rocked onto their heels until Gomes and the match officials contrived to invent an equalising goal, with the ten second delay between the ball failing to cross the line and goal being incorrectly awarded.

With Redknapp leading the protests, Lampard celebrated his goal and inspired a searing sense of injustice as the visitors left the field continuing to protest with uncertain officials who had gambled in their decision and lost.

Marriner tried to even up the woeful decisions when he failed to give Florent Malouda a penalty when he was hauled down in the box by Younes Kaboul mid-way through the second half, but a missing off-side flag came to Chelsea's rescue in the end as a relieved Carlo Ancelotti admitted his side were lucky to still be in the title race.

"We would rather beat Spurs with a different method, but we were fortunate to get the three points," admitted the Chelsea manager. "We will take this luck and see where it takes us in the final games of the season.

"Now we are just three points behind Manchester United and we will see how close we will be by the time we play them at Old Trafford next weekend. Sometimes you get bad decisions against you, but today we got the benefit. It's not nice to win like this, but we will take it."

Ancelotti and his troops will not complain if they are hailed as lucky champions when the final whistle is blown on this Premier League season, but it will not only be Tottenham who will feel the burning sense of injustice if blue turns out to be the winning colour once again next month.

Divine intervention appears to have stepped in to help the Chelsea cause and now it's up to Manchester United to ensure it will not be the deciding factor in the title race.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Sandro
Tottenham's powerhouse midfielder blasted a stunning goal and turned in a tireless performance as he battled in vain against Chelsea and their 12th man, the match officials.

INTERNET DISASTER: Reporters were left helpless as Chelsea's flaky internet server refused to connect amid the drama at Stamford Bridge. Surely a club of this stature should have better facilities for the working media?

REFEREE SHOCKER: Andre Marriner and his two assistants should be called to book after their disastrous performance at Stamford Bridge. Their mistakes may just have cost Tottenham at £20 million Champions League bonanza, as well as playing a major role in changing the face of the title race.

TOTTENHAM VERDICT: So long as second rate performers like Gomes make their way into the Spurs line-up, they will never become serious title challengers. However, they did not deserve to lose this game after a gritty performance.

CHELSEA VERDICT: They say champions win games when they are not at their best and that was certainly the case for Carlo Ancelotti's men on this occasion. Good fortune is certainly trying to help them in their pursuit of another Premier League crown.

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