WEDNESDAY 4th JANUARY, 2017
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2(1) CHELSEA 0(0)
Alli, 45, 54
Referee:- Martin Atkinson
Assistants:- S. Child & G. Beswick
Fourth Official:- J. Moss
Spurs (3-4-1-2):- Lloris (Capt.); Dier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen; Walker, Wanyama, Dembele (sub Winks, 74), Rose; Eriksen; Alli (sub Sissoko, 86), Kane (sub Son, 90+2)
Subs not used:- Vorm; Trippier, Wimmer, Davies
Booked:- Wanyama( foul on Hazard), Alli (over-celebrating), Rose (foul on Azpilicueta)
Chelsea (3-4-2-1):- Courtois; Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Cahill (Capt.); Moses (sub Batshuayi, 85), Kante (sub Fabregas, 79), Matic, Alonso (sub Willian, 65); Pedro, Hazard; Diego Costa
Subs not used:- Begovic; Ivanovic, Zouma, Chalobah
Booked:- Pedro (foul on Rose), Cahill (foul on Eriksen)
Brace yourselves Spurs fans! Dele has put us in the hunt!
Two great headed goals by Dele Alli (both set up by Christian Eriksen) gave Spurs a crucial win against Premier League leaders Chelsea. This Spurs win brought an end to Antonio Conte's 13 match winning run, thus ending their hopes of beating Arsenal's record of 14 successive Premier League wins (achieved over two seasons in 2002). It was also the first time that Chelsea have failed to score since they lost 3-0 at The Emirates Stadium as long ago as September.
This win lifted Spurs back up to third place, where they will now stay for at least 10 days, as this week-end is FA Cup time.
Conte fielded his first choice eleven which he had been able to play for a number of consecutive games earlier in the season. Mauricio Pochettino matched the three at the back, and four in midfield, but the attacking three varied. Spurs played Eriksen behind Dele Alli and Harry Kane, whereas both Pedro and Hazard played behind Diego Costa.
The stats actually show that Chelsea had more possession than did Spurs, and that both sides had two shots on target. The fact is that this was a hard-fought game, with both sides successfully neutralising the other in the middle of the park.
Spurs kicked off and played towards the Park Lane End, and it was Dembele who actually took the kick, which these days can go backwards, of course. There was some early skill by Dele Alli down the left flank, who had been fed by the advancing Jan Vertonghen. Alli passed ahead to to Vertonghen whose cross was too deep for Kane and the advancing Eriksen.
Eden Hazard had a chance after 4 minutes, but he fired wide across Lloris's goal.
Dembele had a run and got close to the Chelsea box before dinking a little ball intended for Harry Kane, but Courtois was first to the ball. Azpilicueta got no card for a foul on Danny Rose. Eriksen's free kick was cleared, but only as far as Kyle Walker, whose shot went wide.
Pedro did get a yellow for his foul on Danny Rose. After another Eriksen free kick and good play by Rose, Eriksen had a decent cross cleared. It was certainly Spurs who were showing most intent in the early stages.
I did note that when Spurs had a corner, both Pedro and Hazard would stand midway between the Chelsea area and the halfway line, which gave Chelsea an edge when clearing from the said corners. Spurs, and other teams could learn from such a strategy. Years ago of course, we oldies used to see attacking players lurking ready for a clearance as a matter of course!
Wanyama was performing his defensive duties with his usual vigour and efficiency, but still got forward on occasions hitting a right footed shot across goal after 22 minutes. Eriksen also had a shot go wide after a Spurs throw on the left. This one went wide of Courtois's right post.
Alderweireld was deemed to have fouled Costa but David Luiz hit this free kick well over Hugo Lloris's bar.
There was a lively atmosphere between the two sets of fans for the first 70 minutes or so, and plenty of the banter you would expect.
Costa hit a good header out to Hazard on the Chelsea left flank, but when Hazard returned the ball, Costa fired well over from distance.
Cahill got booked for a cynical foul on Eriksen who was threatening to get away after passes from Alderweirld, then Walker. Danny Rose actually took this free kick from the right, and Eric Dier's header from beyond the back post was parried by Courtois, before being cleared.
At the other end, Lloris held a shot by Diego Costa, but the offside flag had been raised anyway. As we entered added time, Spurs scored a crucial goal when Kyle Walker passed inside to Eriksen; Eriksen crossed and Dele Alli rose to head home back across Courtois's left hand. It was a great way to end the first half.
Chelsea started the second half well, and created a number of opportunities. In particular, Hazard and Pedro were finding space behind Costa. After a Moses cross from the right, Lloris parried a Costa shot, and Chelsea won a corner from the follow-up. Alonso headed a ball beyond the back post but Hazard failed dismally and headed well outside the target.
Spurs had a chance at the other end, when Dembele passed inside to Eriksen, who took an early shot from some 30 yards. Courtois was not bothered by the shot outside his right post. Matic also tried a shot from distance at the other end, but this went well over.
In the 54th minute, the same combination that had given Spurs that late first half goal struck again. Walker passed inside to Eriksen, whose deep cross was met by Alli rising magnificently at the back post, where he again headed home across Courtois's left hand. The Spurs crowd was now crowing about Dele Alli, and of course ecstatic about a two goal lead against one of their bitter London rivals.
Alonso crossed from the left for Chelsea and Pedro headed on target, but Hugo held the attempt. Willian replaced Alonso and took a position on the right of an attacking three with Costa and Hazard, whilst Pedro fell back to take Alonso's position.
After a foul on Danny Rose, Eriksen took a free kick from 25 yards, but pushed it wide. Time was running out, and Conte brought on both Fabregas and Batshuayi in an effort to get on terms, but Chelsea's threat faded with the passing time. Azpilicueta crossed and David Luiz headed over, but Spurs were stalwart in defence.
The win takes Spurs above Man City on goal difference and one point above Arsenal, who drop out of the top four. It is a great feeling to know we will hold third place for at least ten days until the next round of Premier League matches!
More importantly, we have drawn to within 7 points of Chelsea, and at least given ourselves another outside chance of a Premier League title. At the very least, we are in the hunt, thanks to Dele Alli's supreme finishing.
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