Published: 5 January, 2017
by DAN CARRIER at White Hart Lane
SPURS 2, CHELSEA 0
SPURS saw off London rivals Chelsea with a well-deserved 2-0 win – and blew the title race wide open.
Two pieces of magic from a combination of Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen won Spurs all three points in a hugely entertaining encounter with goals either side of half-time – pushing Spurs up to third in the table.
Chelsea headed to the Lane on the back of 13 successive wins and 10 points ahead of their hosts. But Spurs could point to a good run of form over Christmas and confidence-building 4-1 wins back-to-back at Southampton and Watford.
Manager Mauricio Pochettino, speaking after the game, said his players were enjoying the victory but added that they knew it meant nothing if they did not keep playing to such a standard.
He said: “Our performance showed we can be competitive and we can achieve big things. We’re happy for the victory, but it’s only three points. It’s only one game.
“We need to be regular and consistent during the whole season. If we want to fight until the end of the season for big things, for trophies, you need to keep that intensity. That is always the challenge.”
After an opening 15 minutes where both sides balanced each other out as they settled, Spurs begin to find some joy through Danny Rose threatening down the left. Victor Wanyama hit one shot off target and Eriksen sent a drive narrowly wide.
Up the other end, Eden Hazard spawned a good chance to test Hugo Lloris, while on 35 minutes, Diego Costa found a bit of space but shot wildly over.
It looked like the first half was set to be frustrating for both teams, with neither keeper having a genuine save to make. But as the referee Martin Atkinson checked his watch, Kyle Walker found Eriksen and the wily Dane floated over a cross for the lurking Alli to meet. His well-guided header put Spurs a goal to the good on the stroke of half-time.
The second came on 54 minutes and was a carbon copy of the opener: Eriksen was again the creator and his drifted cross to the back post saw Alli again first to get on the end of it.
It was two chances created, two taken. In return, Chelsea could not get into their rhythm, Spurs were comfortable in possession and when they broke they looked dangerous.
This was a professional job by Spurs on the league leaders, a well deserved victory and one that sends their title rivals a message that on their day, Pochettino's team are as good as anyone.
IT was striking how completely un-Spurs-like this performance was. Go two goals up and close the game down? That’s just not how we operate, surely.
In the “good” old days such a lead would prompt a sense of disbelief on both the pitch and terraces, and prompt a weird, tangible, creeping air of doom to sneak into everyone’s minds. Balls would be smashed away in the hope of running the clock down with half-an-hour to go, last-gasp tackles would be made nowhere near the Spurs penalty box, and whatever character or talent used to get us into the lead would mysteriously disappear into N17’s cold night air.
The thought of actually winning such a derby would all be too much for everyone to psychologically handle.
But not on Pochettino’s watch – not with this group of young footballers. Instead, this was a thoroughly professional performance by the players (granted, the fans still didn’t feel truly safe until the final whistle went. It’s happened too many times...).
And this was no fluke. There was no one playing out of their skin in ways they’ll never replicate again. No, this was a job done on the league leaders, and gives Spurs belief that they can genuinely push on and make the spring very interesting indeed.