Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Chelsea
Premier League, White Hart Lane
Goals: Alli (45+1, 54)
Whoever it was it that coined the phrase, “Revenge is a dish best served cold”, certainly had a point. Indeed the night air at White Hart Lane was a bit on the frosty side, but the revenge served up here would best be described as “clinical”.
This was the match that would be a defining moment for both of these big clubs’ seasons. Tottenham badly needed to win to reduce the gap between the two sides and and thus keep in touch with the title race. Chelsea were gunning to set a new record of consecutive Premier League wins. But let’s just rewind a little bit and see why smart pundits had Tottenham as favourites to win this clash well before kick-off….
Reasons to be vengeful
Cast your mind back to last season’s race for the title and, nearing the end of the season, only two teams could still possibly win it – Leicester and Spurs. Both teams had to play Chelsea before the final day, so the points coming from them could make all the difference. Chelsea players came out and stated publicly that they did not want Tottenham to win the league and that they would ensure that Leicester would secure the title. That meant that they would surrender to the Foxes if they needed to. The title race was effectively over by foul means.
It’s this kind of thing that can make the latter day Chelsea a team that is, well, quite difficult to warm to. These things add up over time. Maybe like how the club’s current owner mysteriously came in to the league with billions to spend after dubiously becoming a multi-billionaire by his early thirties, buying the league’s best players to provide instant success. Add to this captain John Terry’s very public indiscretions. Maybe throw in a little bit of the arrogance of Jose Mourinho before his fall from grace on his second sacking there.
And also for Spurs, other things that have been just a bit difficult to take. Like when Chelsea celebrated like they had indeed won the league themselves after managing to salvage a draw at Stamford Bridge in that 2-2 match last season. In reality they celebrated simply because they had spoiled Tottenham’s party.
Dominant Tottenham breathe life back into the Premier League
Much like their win over Manchester City earlier in the season, Tottenham just didn’t allow Chelsea to get going. Even though the statistics may show that the away team had more possession, that possession was mostly under pressure. Chelsea did have their chances to score, but couldn’t convert. In particular, Eden Hazard wasted a wonderful opportunity to connect with a ball that came to him just yards from the Spurs goal. Perhaps it was the intensity that Tottenham put the league leaders under, but something wasn’t right.
Mauricio Pochettino had, as predicted, matched up Conte with three at the back while keeping faith with his excellent wing-backs – Kyle Walker and Danny Rose. This proved just too much for the sub-par Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses.
It was hard to believe that this was the same Chelsea team who had won 13 straight games, such was the manner of their play, but all good things must come to an end. This was a tough assignment and it should be remembered that the Blues had not tasted victory at White Hart Lane for some five years now even before this match.
The two goals in this match were like identical twins. On both occasions, Christian Eriksen was afforded enough space by the Chelsea defence to plant the ball onto Dele Alli’s awaiting bonce. We are used to seeing Alli score goals, but not very often from headers, and these were calmly steered into the back of the net.
Danny Rose was a stand-out performer for Tottenham all over the left side of the pitch, while Victor Wanyama proved to be a pivotal player in the centre of the park. All in all, this was a quality, high-tempo game of few mistakes and the end result is good for the Premier League.
The referee did a good job of keeping the play flowing, while some may have thought some of his decisions bewildering at times. In the end, there was little of the spite that might have been anticipated. If the result of the match had been in Chelsea’s favour, it would have meant a 13 point gap between these two rivals. It’s now just 7 points, giving hope to the chasing pack that it’s still possible to win the 2016/17 Premier League. Don’t write Chelsea off, though, as every team is going to fall at some point.
Fully expect them to go on another run of wins.
Referee: Martin Atkinson