THE PREMIER LEAGUE
SUNDAY 1st APRIL, 2018
CHELSEA 1(1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 3(1)
Eriksen, 45 (+1)
Dele, 62, 66
Referee:- Andre Marriner
Assistants:- Scott Ledger & Simon Long
Fourth official:- Graham Scott
Chelsea (3-4-3):- Caballero; Azpilicueta (Capt.), Christensen, Rudiger; Moses (sub Giroud, 81), Fabregas, Kante, Alonso (sub Emerson, 83); Willian, Morata (sub Hudson-Odoi, 88), Hazard
Subs not used:- Eduardo; Cahill; Drinkwater, Bakayoko
Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Lloris (Capt.); Trippier, Sanchez, Vertonghen, Davies; Dier (sub Wanyama, 81), Dembele; Lamela (sub Sissoko, 88), Dele, Eriksen; Son (sub Kane, 74)
Subs not used:- Vorm; Aurier, Rose; Lucas Moura
Booked:- Davies (foul on Moses)
History! Hoodoo file closed. Champions League beckons!
Here's a confession. Until today, I personally had never seen Spurs win at Stamford Bridge. Of course, a whole generation of Spurs fans had to say that as it is a full 28 years ago since David Howells and Gary Lineker scored the goals that gave us a 2-1 away win in February 1990. That was a historic day too, as it was the same day that Nelson Mandela was released from his lengthy incarceration in South Africa.
There had been other occasions when Spurs won at The Bridge in the 80s, not least in an FA Cup quarter-final in 1982, but I had been an absentee from Stamford Bridge between the 60s and the late 90s, perhaps even the early part of this century. Year after year, we have put ourselves through the pain of visiting Stamford Bridge, suffering the vitriol of the home fans, some dodgy refereeing decisions, not least by today's referee Andre Marriner. In absolute deference and fairness, I should day that I thought Mr. Marriner handled today's game well, and was not overly influenced by the pressures exerted by home players and fans.
Today, all that pain of the last 28 years was cast away, as a mighty Spurs side smote their keen rivals not even by one goal, but two. Dele Alli scored two second half goals to secure the game, but a simply stupendous goal in first half added time by Christian Eriksen levelled Alvaro Morato's 30th minute goal to give us one of the best psychological boosts you could wish for.
The team news contained hope for Spurs fans, with Harry Kane's presence on the bench. In my view, Mauricio Pochettino has managed the international break supremely, dare I say Fergie style. Clearly Dele had to report for International duty and was used frugally, whilst Harry did visit his International manager during the interregnum.
Dele Alli, who has been much criticised this season by both Spurs fans and football pundits and followers alike, surely cast aside any doubts that had been held about him with his two second half goals. I have never been one of those to join in with the criticism of Dele, and always felt he was one of the Spurs players most likely to make something happen on the football pitch.
The atmosphere at Stamford Bridge seemed to have been racked up by several notches today. This was a must-win game for Conte's side, who after defeat and with only seven games remaining find themselves an unprecedented 8 points behind the top four, which, of course, includes our beloved Spurs. Courtois was missing, replaced by Caballero, but Christensen had made it to the starting line-up.
Chelsea played three at the back with Willian, Morata and Hazard ahead of Moses, Fabregas, Kante, and Alonso. Alonso took some stick from the travelling fans, and I confess to being unaware of the specific agenda that seemed to exist here.
Spurs played their standard 4-2-3-1. They played their usual possession game and their combinations up front featuring the front four. They didn't pressure the Chelsea defence enough in the first half. Chelsea soaked up the attacks, such as they were, and were dangerous on the counter, with too much space being offered at times to the likes of Moses on the right and Alonso on the left. Lloris was the busier keeper in that first half.
I thought Eric Dier had a good game, both defensively and creatively, but there were several noteworthy Spurs performances, not least those of Lloris, Sanchez, and Vertonghen at the back. Both Dier and Lamela got early impressive tackles in against the opposition.
After 8 minutes and following a Spurs corner, Eriksen crossed the ball from the right and Jan Vertonghen had half a chance at the back post, but pulled it wide. Another Eriksen cross from the right reached Dele at the back post, but Dele inexplicably fired his effort wide, back across the goalmouth.
Sanchez "used his strength" in the box against Hazard, and Spurs came through this threat unscathed. The always dangerous Willian had shot that was deflected and still well saved by Hugo Lloris, stretching to his right. Morata had the ball in the net, but the flag went up, only after he had hit the ball.
Mr. Marriner allowed play to go on in Spurs' favour in the middle, with Dele feeding Eriksen, whose effort took a deflection for a corner. That corner was cleared to Kieran Trippier who found himself in a central position, but fired over. However, after a loose ball by Trippier in the middle, Chelsea countered in typical fashion and Moses had a shot well saved by Lloris.
Sadly, Chelsea took the lead on the half hour, with Moses afforded far too much room on Davies' flank. He crossed and the ball went over Lloris's flailing arms for Morata to head home. Cue raucous home cheers, and well versed depression for the travelling fans.
Caballero raced out to clear from Son, and there was a delay as the goalkeeper needed treatment. After 39 minutes, Erksen received a ball from Lamela on the right, and Caballero saved Eriksen's shot at the second attempt with the shot going above his body.
Morata had two chances at the other end, one of which was blocked by Vertonghen, and the other saved by Hugo Lloris. Vertonghen had to clear too when Alonso was given too much space by Trippier, crossing into the danger zone.
With half time approaching, Eriksen had shot blocked after Son had out him in, but in added time, our Danish playmaker hit a simply stupendous dipping shot after Davies' cross. Eriksen's shot was central, but dipped superbly over the goalkeeper's head for a great equaliser.
Chelsea might have responded before the break, again on the counter, with Hazard providing a chance for Morata, who fired over.
After the break, Mauricio Pochettino switched Son to the right flank with Lamela and Dele occupying the central attacking ground, and Eriksen operating behind the three. It was a while before this move reaped its rewards, but it did work.
After 59 minutes, Dele fed Son, who hit a cracking left foot shot across Caballero, who managed to tip the ball over the bar for a corner. Within three minutes, Spurs had the lead. Dele ran onto a longish through ball by Eric Dier, took one touch and then beat Caballero with a sure finish! Cue ecstatic celebrating in the Shed End by jubilant Spurs fans. Ah, but we have been here before, and had our hopes destroyed.
Chelsea tried to come back immediately but after a corner, and Hazard's pass, Willian fired wide.
It wasn't long before Spurs had a 3-1 lead. This time, Son had been fed by Eriksen, and I was desperate for him to score. Son's effort was blocked, perhaps twice, falling to Dele, who himself had one effort blocked before he beat the goalkeeper for his second goal of the game. "We've got Alli!"
Now the home side were getting desperate, Willian crossed, and Sanchez made an initial important headed interception, but the ball did reach Alonso beyond the back post, who fired wide back across the goalmouth.
Now it was time for massive cheers as "One of our own"/"One season wonder" Harry Kane came on, replacing Son. Dier, who took a knock was also soon replaced by Wanyama, with Giroud replacing Chelsea's Moses. More change followed with Alonso replaced by Emerson.
Essentially, Spurs were now seeing out the game, not always comfortably, as Chelsea desperately sought a way back into the reckoning, but Lloris and his defence remained in control.
There were four minutes of added time to negotiate, but for the first time I can remember, a lot of the home crowd had already disappeared. Both Dele and Hugo Lloris threw their shirts into the crowd, and there was acknowledgement from the whole team and of course, Mauricio.
It was a truly historic, and magnificent day for any Spurs fan, and one I suspect I shall never forget!
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