Three thoughts on a remarkable game at Stamford Bridge that saw Tottenham grab their first win there in 28 years.
1. Eriksen, Alli strike as Spurs end Chelsea jinx
It had been one of the longest barren runs in English football, but Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli combined to help Tottenham seal the club’s first league victory at Chelsea since February 1990 and, at the same time, leave Antonio Conte’s men eight points adrift of the top four.
The last time Spurs won at Stamford Bridge, the world was watching Nelson Mandela’s release from prison. Most of Mauricio Pochettino’s players weren’t even born yet, illustrating that it was a lifetime ago. But it is all about timing in football and the magnitude of this win cannot be over-stated considering the ramifications that the result has for both teams.
Spurs, preparing to move into their rebuilt stadium next season, can now prepare to host Champions League games once again after giving themselves a huge cushion in the race for the top four. Meanwhile Chelsea must now begin to face up to life in the Europa League next term with only seven games left to play in which to overhaul their London rivals.
Tottenham have already put their North London foes Arsenal in the shade under Pochettino, finishing above them in the league for the first time in over 20 years last season. Now, they can begin to call themselves London’s top club after ending their lengthy Chelsea hoodoo.
Questions have been asked of Tottenham’s mental strength in the big games, but they answered them here. And Pochettino, who had won just once in 19 away games against the top six, has also silenced his doubters with this win, which came after the home side had gone ahead through Alvaro Morata’s 29th minute header. Spurs were able to fight back and claim the win, though, with Eriksen’s long-range stunner on the stroke of half-time prior to Alli’s second-half double.
This really was a historic win for Spurs. After 28 years of waiting, they picked the perfect moment to get that long awaited win against Chelsea.
2. Conte let down by his players
Not even Antonio Conte’s staunchest supporters expect him to be in charge of Chelsea next season, but this game suggested that his players already know that he won’t be. The shelf life of most Chelsea managers is short, and Conte will have done better than most if he sees out his second season in charge. However, the players at the club have become so accustomed to change in the manager’s office that they appear to switch off once the inevitable looks set to happen.
After taking the lead through Morata in the first half, Chelsea could have extended their lead but simply took the foot off the pedal instead. Eden Hazard was anonymous once again and the lack of drive and purpose within the team after the half-time interval was embarrassingly obvious.
This was a huge game for Chelsea, one that would have put them within two points of the top four had they won. But only one team had the hunger for the win after the break on Sunday and that was Spurs.
Conte’s players just drifted along, but they all know what happens next. A new manager will come in and players will come and go. That’s life at Chelsea but those who remain will regret the half-hearted performance once those Thursday nights in the Europa League come around.
3. Kane return eases England’s fears and boost Tottenham’s trophy hopes
Harry Kane’s return from injury as a second-half substitute was a big moment for both Spurs and England. For England manager Gareth Southgate, the benefits of having Kane fit and firing in the World Cup are obvious.
England need Kane’s goals if they’re to thrive in Russia this summer and the prospect of the forward boosting his fitness over the final six weeks of the season is a major boost for Southgate. But from a Spurs perspective, it is also crucial to have their talisman back in action.
Spurs should coast home now in the race for the top four, having moved eight points clear of Chelsea with this win, but the FA Cup is still there to be won and Kane’s presence against Manchester United in the semifinal could be decisive.
Pochettino may dismiss the importance of the cup, but Spurs need a trophy and Kane also needs to taste the joy of lifting silverware for this team. His return in this game may have slipped under the radar due to the impact of the win but Kane playing again is a big moment for club and country.