Dele Alli sinks Chelsea as Spurs blow the title race open
Tottenham star cements his reputation as the most important young player in England with two goals to end the Blues' winning streak
Tottenham 2 Chelsea 0
There was a delirious double celebration at White Hart Lane on Wednesday night as Tottenham not only ended Chelsea's 13-game winning streak, but in doing so they shunted Arsenal out of the top four, and breathed life into a title race that had been turning into a procession.
The win moves Spurs into third, behind Chelsea and Liverpool but a point above fifth-place Arsenal and ahead of Manchester City on goal difference. The Blues still have a five-point cushion at the top, but only five points cover the next five teams.
"It is a massive victory, a very important three points to reduce the gap at the top of the table," said Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino. "It makes us very proud and we showed character and were competitive."
Pochettino knows, however, that the next few weeks are all about keeping the players - and the fans - feet on the ground. Last season Tottenham were serious title challengers going into the home straight, only to blow up spectacularly in the final few weeks and finish third behind Leicester and Arsenal.
"It is one step forward for the team and it is important to keep going," Pochettino said. "Maybe that was the problem last season, that we did not compete in a better way. For me, what it means to be competitive is like today. It's to work hard but compete in this type of game... football is about belief."
No one's belief at Tottenham is bigger right now than Dele Alli. While Arsenal's homegrown players have spent seasons underachieving on the other side of north London, the 20-year-old Alli has developed, in the words of Pochettino, into "the most important player to emerge in English football in recent years".
The £5m signing from MK Dons proved his worth again to Spurs against Chelsea, heading home either side of half-time to inflict on the Blues their first league defeat since losing 3-0 to Arsenal on 24 September.
When he was substituted on 86 minutes, the Spurs faithful gave the youngster a standing ovation and delighted as he was with Alli's performance, Pochettino stressed it wasn't just about him. "He is showing his potential, but not only him," he explained. "There's Harry Kane and others – it's not only Dele Alli."
Chelsea had their chances to score - their two best opportunities falling to Eden Hazard - but manager Antonio Conte conceded that the best team won on the night. "We tried to fight, we tried to win the game," he said. "Tonight we played against a very good team and it can happen we lose the game... Tottenham is one of the six teams that can fight until the end to win the title or find a place in the Champions League," said Conte. "The situation is very clear. There are six teams who can fight for the title or a place in the Champions League. I'm sure one of these teams will be champions."
If Chelsea had beaten Tottenham it would have been their 14th successive league win, equalling the record set by Arsenal more than a decade ago, but Conte did his best to strike an upbeat note despite the disappointing result. "It could be a good test for us," he said. "After a defeat it's always very difficult to know your reaction... my priority is to come back to win. My methods and ideas don't change if you lose a game. We try to improve every day."