Belfast Telegraph

Alli double puts Spurs back into Premiership contention

Tottenham 2 Chelsea 0

By Jack Pitt-Brooke

Chelsea will have to make do with sharing their place in the record books. Their historic 13-game winning streak ended last night, finally running into a juggernaut of another colour. Tottenham Hotspur did to Chelsea what Chelsea have done to everyone else since October.

They beat them with tactics, with effort, with skill and, above all, with power. If this was a clash of two steamrollers then Spurs brought the latest model, achieving the same result as they did against Pep Guardiola's Manchester City three months ago.

The result leaves Chelsea five points clear of Liverpool and propels Spurs up to third, above City and Arsenal. Mauricio Pochettino's team are certainly playing far better than either of those much richer sides right now.

But this win had deep roots, not just about this season's title but about last year's too. Eight months on from having their own title charge gleefully stopped, Spurs managed to end Chelsea's own historic run.

In one sense this game was similar to that one, as Spurs dominated and raced into a 2-0 lead.

Back in May, Spurs wilted under pressure, Pochettino later blaming it on the players' lack of maturity and experience.

This time, they withstood everything Chelsea threw at them, kept their heads and the three points. There were no scuffles, no red cards and no violence. It was a good clean fight and one that Spurs won by a distance.

The two most-in form sides in the country, the two most intense sides in the country, coached by the two most driven managers: this was always going to be a fizzing, feisty football match, even before you get to the stakes, the rivalry and the enmity which made this one of the most anticipated games all year.

But when the two packs crashed into each other, it was Spurs who had more weight and more force to their game. Even though Chelsea are running away with the league and even though they have had more time off.

It was Spurs who brought more from the first touch of the game.

Pochettino stuck with the 3-5-2 system that had flattened Watford on New Year's Eve, bringing Kyle Walker and Mousa Dembele into what is clearly his best team. And Spurs were so strong that they forced Chelsea back in a dominant first-half display.

Dembele, untouchable again, and Victor Wanyama were a formidably strong midfield pair, and with Christian Eriksen floating in front of them they caused Chelsea problems that they could not solve.

When Eriksen broke forward Chelsea could not pick him up. He whistled one shot just wide, and the next time he was free Gary Cahill took the booking and brought him down. Danny Rose whipped in the free-kick and Thibaut Courtois saved Eric Dier's header.

Rose and Kyle Walker were dominating their counterparts in the wing-back areas, and Chelsea had to resort to kicking Rose to slow him down.

Spurs took their deserved lead just before the break when Marcos Alonso was too tired to get out to Walker. He squared for Eriksen, in space again, and he fired a perfect cross into the box. Dele Alli rose between Cesar Azpilicueta and Victor Moses to make it 1-0.

Chelsea had been pushed back, forced to play on the break in the first half, but after the restart they came flying out at Spurs. Eden Hazard missed a close range header at the far post, Moses went down in the box hoping for a penalty, and it suddenly felt like game on.

Then Tottenham went down the other end and scored a second goal identical to their first.

Chelsea should have been warned and yet this systematic team allowed the same flaws to be exploited a second time.

Again, Walker on the right, free from Alonso. Again, Eriksen, floating in space. Again, Alli at the far post, between Moses and Azpilicueta.

If this header was from closer range that was the only difference.

That made it seven goals in four games for Alli, a total vindication of his new role as a second striker behind Kane. He nearly completed a hat-trick, running in behind but getting his lob just wrong.

One point was no use to Chelsea so Conte went for it. Willian came on for Alonso, making their shape 3-2-5 in attack. But Spurs could drop into a 5-4-1 easily enough, and when Harry Winks came on for Dembele they had even more control.

From that point on, it was clear that as hard as Chelsea tried, they had nothing left in the tank, and who could blame them?

They have done unbelievably well to get this far and it will still probably win the title. But there is another team in London with an eye on that same trophy too.

Tottenham: Lloris, Dier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Walker, Dembele (Winks, 74 mins), Wanyama, Rose, Alli (Sissoko, 86 mins), Eriksen, Kane (Son, 90 mins). Unused subs: Vorm, Trippier, Wimmer, Davies.

Chelsea: Courtois, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill, Moses (Batshuayi, 85 mins), Matic, Kante (Fabregas, 79 mins), Alonso (Willian, 65 mins), Pedro, Costa, Hazard. Unused subs: Begovic, Ivanovic, Zouma, Chalobah.

Referee: Martin Atkinson

Man of the match: Dele Alli

Attendance: 31,491

Match rating: 7/10

Belfast Telegraph


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