Dele Alli brace in space of four minutes end a 28-year wait for Tottenham Hotspur as they beat Chelsea 3-1 on Sunday at Stamford Bridge.
Defeat for the hosts all but ends Chelsea’s hopes of Champions League football next season as Spurs opened up an eight-point lead over their closest challengers for fourth place.
Ending their long wait for a win at their London rivals is just the latest sign of the progress made under Mauricio Pochettino as Spurs look set to seal a place in the Champions League for a third straight season.
And it was even more impressive as they came from behind after a huge error from captain Hugo Lloris gifted Alvaro Morata the opening goal. Christan Eriksen’s wonder strike levelled in first-half stoppage time, before Alli took centre stage to end a barren run by his standards with two smart finishes just after the hour mark. “It’s a fantastic weekend for us, massive three points, and we are in the best way to achieve the top four at end of the season.
That is our challenge,” said Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino. “We are so happy for our fans after 28 years to win again at Stamford Bridge.” Spurs could even afford the luxury of doing the damage without Harry Kane, who made his return from a three-week layoff with ankle ligament damage 16 minutes from time. Alli was pushed into a more advanced position than his usual roving role behind Kane and had the first chance but couldn’t direct Eriksen’s cross goalwards.
Chelsea were the side far more in desperate need of the points and that began to show as the first half developed. Willian and Victor Moses forced Lloris into comfortable saves, whilst Marcos Alonso also saw a goal ruled out for offside. However, the French number one was clearly at fault when the opener arrived on the half hour mark.
Morata hadn’t scored in the Premier League since Boxing Day, but no one has scored more headed goals in the league this season and he was left with the easiest of tasks to nod into an empty net as Lloris flapped at Moses’s cross. – Symbolic Spurs win – Eriksen’s shooting ability from long range had been Spurs’ only real threat before the break.
Willy Caballero, deputising for the injured Thibaut Courtois, got a strong hand to the Dane’s first warning shot. However, Caballero was helpless when Eriksen’s fierce dipping effort clipped the bar on its way past him in first-half stoppage time. The Argentine goalkeeper was forced into a brilliant save from another long-range effort, this time from Son Heung-min, on the hour mark as Spurs started to take control.
And two minutes later they led when Alli brilliantly controlled Eric Dier’s long pass before slotting inside Caballero’s near post. Alli had scored just two goals in his previous 19 games in 2018 but soon had as many in four minutes as Spurs set the seal in a hugely symbolic win. Son was again denied by Caballero but Alli pounced on the pinball inside the Chelsea area before slotting into the bottom corner.
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte kicked a water bottle into his dugout with the frustration of a man who knows his days in charge look numbered. Failure to make the top four is likely to seal the Italian’s fate no matter what comes of Chelsea’s run to the semi-finals of the FA Cup. However, Spurs too are in the last four and on this evidence are more likely to end their wait for a trophy under Pochettino, particularly with Kane back to lead the line.
So back Chelsea go to the Europa League. It is Hades for top teams. Arsenal and Manchester United both discovered that in recent seasons. With Liverpool and Tottenham having improved so much in recent seasons there is simply no way for contending teams in the top six to be allowed to stumble and stutter into the Champions League like in seasons gone by.
The stakes are too high and the price of failure spelt in a season of Thursday – Sunday fixtures. Chelsea will find out all about that next season, whether Conte is here or not.