Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino praised “fighter” Dele Alli for coming through a “tough period” to score two goals as Spurs won at Chelsea for the first time in 28 years.
After Alvaro Morata headed in Victor Moses’ cross to give the hosts the lead, Christian Eriksen hit a stunning equaliser on the stroke of half-time as his dipping effort from 25 yards dropped just under the bar and over a stranded Willy Caballero.
Alli then took centre stage in the second half, putting Tottenham ahead just after the hour mark when he produced a sublime first touch to bring Eric Dier’s ball under control before slotting beyond Caballero.
The England midfielder was well-placed four minutes later to stab in following a goalmouth scramble and wrap up a win that moves fourth-placed Tottenham eight points clear of Chelsea, who are fifth.
It was also the perfect response by Alli after a disappointing couple of weeks with England on international duty.
He failed to make an impact in a 22-minute substitute appearance in the 1-0 win against the Netherlands and was then left on the bench for the 1-1 draw with Italy.
“I’m very, very pleased,” said Pochettino. “It’s been a tough period for him, but for no doubt about his talent, his character. He’s a fighter; very competitive.
“If he doesn’t play for the international team he needs to fight and win trust and confidence again.
“In the end, he’s a great talent, only 21 years old, and sometimes we lose the focus on that.
“Sometimes the expectation is too much. There is too much pressure.”
Top four taking shape as Chelsea’s troubled 2018 continues
Chelsea full-back Marcos Alonso described this London derby as a ‘must-win game’ beforehand and it was hard to disagree, given the consequences for Champions League qualification.
Antonio Conte’s side had won just three of their nine league games in 2018 prior to Tottenham’s visit but they did have history in their favour.
Spurs had a torrid record at Stamford Bridge in the league, losing 18 of their 27 games since a late Gary Lineker header secured a 2-1 win in February 1990.
It looked as if their miserable run would continue as, despite dominating possession, they fell behind after an excellent ball by Antonio Rudiger found Moses wide right and the wing-back delivered a perfect cross for Morata to score his seventh headed goal of the season.
The balance of play then swung in Chelsea’s favour as they went on the hunt for a second and Hugo Lloris did well to push away a strong Alonso strike.
But Tottenham are a team with momentum. They had not lost in the Premier League since 16 December, winning all four of their previous fixtures, and Eriksen, so often capable of creating something from nothing, delivered a sucker punch with his excellent dipping strike.
From then on, the visitors were in control and Alli’s quick-fire not only put paid to Chelsea’s chances of getting a result but possibly their top-four hopes as well.
They will now need to take at least nine points from the 21 available just to overhaul Tottenham’s current total. Given that they have taken just six points from their previous seven games, it would seem a tall task.
“We have to try until the end to catch the teams in the Champions League places and in this case it is Tottenham and Liverpool,” Chelsea boss Conte said.
“We have to try.”
Kane return a boost for Spurs and England
The sight of Harry Kane grimacing in pain while clutching his ankle at Bournemouth on 11 March will have been a devastating one for both Tottenham and England fans.
The striker has been in scintillating form this season with an incredible 39 goals in just 43 games in all competitions, so the prospect of him being out for a lengthy spell had threatened to upset Tottenham’s top-four hopes and England’s World Cup preparations.
However, having avoided any significant damage to his ankle, he has made a recovery quicker than anticipated and was fit enough to be on the Tottenham bench at Chelsea. He was introduced with 16 minutes remaining, as Alli’s two goals allowed him to be eased back into action.
With Tottenham just four points behind second-placed Manchester United and an FA Cup semi-final against Jose Mourinho’s men on the horizon, Spurs would appear to have their form – and their key players back – at just the right time.
Man of the match – Dele Alli
Conte getting the most from his squad? What they said
Chelsea boss Conte, asked if he had achieved the maximum possible return with Chelsea’s current squad this term, said: “Yeah, I’m sure, because we are working, we are working very well, we are working very hard and the commitment of the players is top.
Tottenham boss Pochettino said: “It’s a fantastic weekend for us, a massive three points, and we are in the best way to achieve the top four at end of the season. That is our challenge.
“We are so happy for our fans after 28 years to win again at Stamford Bridge.”
More derby delight for Tottenham – the stats
- Tottenham ended a run of 27 league visits to Chelsea without a victory (D9 L18), winning there for the first time since February 1990.
- Chelsea scored the first goal in a Premier League home game and went on to lose for the first time since 1 April 2017 against Crystal Palace (1-2).
- Tottenham have won more points in Premier League London derbies this season than any other side (16 – W5 D1 L2).
- Seven of Alvaro Morata’s 11 Premier League goals this season have been headers, more than any other player has managed.
- Morata’s seven headed goal haul is also the most ever by a Chelsea player in a Premier League season.
- Chelsea have scored a league-high 14 headed goals this season.
- Christian Eriksen has scored 16 goals from outside the box since his Premier League debut in September 2013; the most of any current player in that time in the competition.
- Eriksen has been directly involved in five goals in his last five Premier League appearances against Chelsea, scoring two and assisting three.
- Dele Alli marked his 100th Premier League game by scoring two in a top-flight game for the first time since January 2017 (also against Chelsea).
Chelsea host West Ham on Sunday, 8 April (16:30 BST), the day after Tottenham travel to Stoke (15:00 BST).