Dele Alli double helps Spurs end 28 years of hurt at Chelsea
Stamford Bridge of sighs is finally ended as Pochettino’s side look to lock in top four slot
Tottenham’s Dele Alli celebrates scoring their second goal with Son Heung-min during the Premier League game against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Photograph: Peter Nicholls/Reuters
Chelsea 1 Tottenham Hotspur 3
Tottenham Hotspur had been waiting over 28 long years for this moment. Not since 1990 had their travelling supporters been able to revel in this arena at Chelsea’s expense, and bounce their way gleefully and victoriously through the post-match delight while the locals skulked away muttering in livid frustration. They have seen title challenges wrecked in these parts, and far too many humiliating thrashings for comfort. In that context, this must have felt exquisite.
It was Dele Alli, on his 100th top-flight appearance, whose second-half brace reinforced Spurs’ position in the top four at their hosts’ expense.
Mauricio Pochettino and his coaching staff kept their own celebrations relatively downbeat on the visitors’ bench at the final whistle, but a second away win in 20 games against the top six will have done wonders for this team’s belief.
It is Chelsea who feel shattered, a team who have been wheezing since the turn of the year and a club destined to lose their head coach. This whole campaign has prompted serious questions about long-term strategy. They had been made to look second best here, and that will left them smarting.
This had actually been a nervy occasion from the outset, a reflection perhaps of the depth of feeling between the rivals, with Spurs pressing without any real conviction and Chelsea content to soak up pressure and spring up-field on the counter.
Their approach play had carried menace whenever Eden Hazard or Willian scurried into enemy territory at pace and would yield a lead on the half-hour mark, though sloppiness in stoppage time at the end of the opening period would damage them irrevocably. The hosts should have shepherded the ball safely away after regaining possession deep inside their own half, only for Victor Moses’s sloppy pass to offer Tottenham their route back to parity. With it came a key shift in momentum.
The ball was shifted easily to Christian Eriksen, alone in a pocket of space around 25 yards out with N’Golo Kanté reluctant to engage. The Dane collected, sized up his options and belted a right-foot shot which Willy Caballero initially appeared to envisage soaring over the bar. Instead, the ball dipped viciously as it arced over the goalkeeper before kissing the underside of the crossbar and billowing the net.
The concession visibly deflated the home players, whose success in stifling Spurs up to then had had the visitors pining for Harry Kane, still shuffling uncomfortably on their bench. Tottenham retired buoyed by the 16th Premier League goal Eriksen has converted from outside the area, more than any other current player, and confidence restored.
Chelsea had simply not seen that coming. Aside from a mistimed Alli header, and a similarly optimistic attempt from Eriksen from distance, the defending champions had stifled effectively enough and even merited the advantage handed to them by an uncharacteristic misjudgment from Hugo Lloris. Antonio Rüdiger had liberated Moses down the right with his centre missed by the Frenchman, attempting to punch, and the leaping Davinson Sánchez for Álvaro Morata to guide a seventh headed goal of term into the empty net. Lloris would make amends of sorts by pushing away Marcos Alonso’s low cross-shot, with Jan Vertonghen scrambling clear before Morata could poke in a second.
Had they led at the break and been able to maintain that counter-attacking strategy, Antonio Conte’s team might still have prevailed. Instead, back level, they seemed diminished. The onus had always been on the home side, embroiled in their game of catch-up with the top four, to chisel a winner though there was too much anxiety in their pursuit, and the better chances were Spurs’ thereafter.
Moses’s stumble on the edge of his own six-yard box summed up the hosts’ fragility, the wing back lucky the ball did not rebound to either of the opponents lurking on his shoulder. Caballero, diving full length to his right, did well to turn away a fine curled attempt by Son Heung-min moments later, though Chelsea’s vulnerability was clear and, eventually and inevitably, would be exploited.
A straight pass lofted by Eric Dier from inside the centre-circle would unpick them, the ball by-passing the hosts’ back-line for Alli, darting between Andreas Christensen and César Azpilicueta, to control wonderfully on his right boot with his first touch and finish emphatically with his second. It was a flash of brilliance to encapsulate the midfielder’s qualities, and a reminder of his capabilities after a difficult week with the national team. He celebrated it with gusto in front of the Shed end, though he had more pain still to inflict.
Just four minutes later, Eriksen’s cute flick sent Son darting beyond Alonso and in down the right. Caballero smothered the South Korean’s attempt, but the ball was never properly cleared in the confusion which ensued. Both the goalkeeper and Christensen were unable to repel it from the goal-mouth as Son attempted to hack it home, with Alli “a calm head amid the mayhem” eventually finding enough space to prod away his shot.
The gleeful pandemonium in the away section was an outpouring of relief and ecstasy, and shared by those on the visitors’ bench. With seven games to go, Spurs are eight points clear of their fifth-placed rivals. It is Chelsea who have been left licking their wounds. – Guardian service