London, Dec 23: Chelsea captain John Terry withstood a torrent of jeers from Tottenham fans following his charge for racist abuse to protect a vital point for his side on Thursday.
After Emmanuel Adebayor's shot had beaten Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech in stoppage time, Terry diverted the ball away from goal—a decisive deflection that earned his side a 1-1 draw at White Hart Lane.
“He anticipated the situation at the end—it was a big opportunity for Tottenham,” Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas said. “It shows his character and strength and personality.”
A day earlier, Terry became the first footballer in England to receive a criminal charge for racially abusing an opponent. He will appear in court in February after he was alleged to have used racist language toward Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand in an October Premier League match.
“His performances have increased since the incident happened,” Villas-Boas said. “His commitment, quality and talent are never in doubt. He's completely focused to the cause of this football club.”
With chants raining down from the White Hart Lane stands, even Chelsea's official Twitter feed described Terry as its “under-fire skipper.”
So denying Tottenham a victory was all the sweeter, after Chelsea striker Daniel Sturridge canceled out Adebayor's eighth-minute opener.
“I am very proud of the players under a lot of adversity—there was a good spirit of resistance,” Villas-Boas said. “It is a moral win.”
But Chelsea remains fourth in the standings, two points behind Tottenham and just a point above Arsenal. Leader Manchester City is 11 points ahead of Chelsea.
In north London, the Blues, though, had to recover from initially being completely overwhelmed at a ground where they have not won since 2005.
Back after missing Sunday's win over Sunderland through injury, Gareth Bale easily went past Jose Bosingwa on the left flank and sent a loss cross into the penalty area.
Cech, who was at fault for the equalizer Chelsea conceded at Wigan at the weekend, failed to grasp the cross, allowing Adebayor to beat him to the ball and score his sixth goal in as many games.
After allowing Chelsea to regain a foothold in the game and taking the sting out of Tottenham's attack, the equalizer came after 23 minutes.
Rafael van der Vaart's attempted sliding tackle diverted the ball onto Ashley Cole's arm and it fell kindly for the Chelsea full back, who crossed for Sturridge.
The England striker easily evaded his marker, Ledley King, to rush forward unchallenged and score his 10th goal of the season. Tottenham's appeals for handball against Cole were waved away by referee Howard Webb.
“It certainly bounced up on to his hand,” Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp said. “Sometimes you get them, sometimes you don't.”
Branislav Ivanovic was soon forced off with an apparent thigh injury. With Alex out of favor and not even on the bench, Paolo Ferreira had to come on at right back with Bosingwa shifting to central defense alongside Terry.
Chelsea was forced to make a second change just before half time, with John Obi Mikel limping off with a groin problem and replaced by Oriol Romeu.
“It doesn't look serious—muscle injuries—and we'll see the amount of damage they have,” Villas-Boas said. “Hopefully they can recover quickly.”
Chelsea, though, remained assertive after the break, with Drogba heading over and Terry's header blocked early on.
“Our passing game exploded today to wonderful levels,” Villas-Boas said.
Tottenham, though, were sorely missing right winger Aaron Lennon and striker Jermain Defoe, who are sidelined, while Van der Vaart came off with a hamstring problem.
“We lost Rafa at half time and we really lost the balance of our team,” Redknapp said. “Without Aaron around it's difficult to find a balance to your team.”
Adebayor did find the net again in the 58th with the top of his shoulder, but the goal was disallowed for offside, and minutes later the Togo striker headed wide.
Chasing a win, Fernando Torres was brought on in place of Drogba to make his first appearance in two weeks but couldn't produce his first league goal since September.
And Tottenham maintains the edge over Chelsea in third place.
“We came to Tottenham who are title challengers,” Villas-Boas said. “It's always a good point to get. We have been in a worse situation before.”