Spurs close gap to Chelsea and look forward to Arsenal
Tottenham urged to dream big as they eke out a crucial victory to keep the Premier League title race alive
Crystal Palace 0 Tottenham 1
Spurs kept their title hopes alive on Wednesday night as they clipped the Eagles' wings to maintain their pursuit of league leaders Chelsea.
It wasn't a pretty performance from Spurs, but Christian Eriksen's strike 12 minutes from time was all the visitors required to beat Crystal Palace take maximum points and move to within four points of the Premier League pace setters.
It was Tottenham's eighth consecutive league victory, their best winning streak since 1960, and in the context of their season it could prove their most crucial. It certainly keeps alive their title ambitions and is further proof of their mental strength.
Last season Tottenham crumbled in the home straight but this season they are tougher, bouncing back after the disappointment of losing 4-2 to Chelsea in Saturday's FA Cup semi-final, to grind out a win against a Palace side that in recent weeks have beaten Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal.
It wasn't much of a spectacle with Palace content to contain their visitors in the hope of securing a point, while Spurs struggled to create opportunities with Eriksen off-colour and Dele Alli and Harry Kane well-marshalled by the Eagles defence.
Even when Pochettino rung the changes in the second half, bringing on Son Heung-min and Moussa Sissoko, Tottenham lacked the wherewithal to break down Palace. That was until Eriksen's moment of magic.
Finding himself in a rare bit of space the Dane unleashed a thunderous drive from 30 yards and the ball flew into the Palace bet beyond the reach of Wayne Hennessey.
The win moves Tottenham to 74 points, their highest tally in the Premier League, surpassing the 72 they collected in 2012-13 when they finished fifth. Furthermore should Tottenham beat Arsenal in Sunday's north London derby they'll finish above the Gunners for the first time since 1995. Arsenal also won ugly on Wednesday night, beating Leicester only because of Robert Huth's own goal three minutes from time, but they remain 14 points behind Spurs.
"We are showing that we learned a lot from last season as a team," said Mauricio Pochettino. "That is so important because improving on last season was a big challenge, a massive challenge. One area that was key for us to improve was in our mental attitude, and the team are now showing we are ready. We are ready this season to fight."
Praising his side's "great maturity", Pochettino was asked if the win was the best possible response to Chelsea after their victory over Southampton on Tuesday evening. "It's not about sending a message to Chelsea," he said. "It's more about us building confidence, building faith that we can win, generating that winning mentality. That's the only way. Now we have five games ahead, a very exciting period, and an exciting weekend ahead."
Pochettino was at pains to play down the significance of finishing above Arsenal, telling reporters that was low down on his list of priorities. "We know what Arsenal means, this game, for our fans," he said. "But we are not thinking about being above Arsenal. Our challenge now is to try and reduce the gap to Chelsea again and think about bigger things than only to be above Arsenal. To win big trophies and achieve big things, your mentality must be bigger than that. You must think about bigger dreams. Big dreams. It's important to have them."
Brave Spurs shrug off 'choke' tag to keep title hopes alive
Chelsea's win over Man City may have dampened hopes of a thrilling climax to the Premier League season, but the manner in which Spurs refused to admit defeat against Swansea showed they, at least, have not given up hope and also bodes well for the future.
Having fallen behind to lowly Swansea after 11 minutes, Tottenham appeared to be heading out of the title race. But after 88 minutes of fruitless toil, they finally found an equaliser through Dele Alli - and that was not the end of their comeback. Two minutes into added time, Son Heung-Min put the Londonders in front before Christian Eriksen added a third.
"The unhinged celebrations at the final whistle, with Mauricio Pochettino leaping into the arms of his staff as his players roared into the faces of the delirious Tottenham fans behind the goal was indicative," says Jim White of the Daily Telegraph. "This was not only a win that maintained hope – it was a win that sent out a message of resolve, of determination, above all of a refusal, this time, to choke."
With the likes of Harry Kane, Victor Wanyama, Danny Rose and Hugo Lloris all missing from the line-up, this was "a powerful testament to the morale of Mauricio Pochettino's team, as well as a show of strength in depth", agrees James Gheerbrant of The Times.
"Spurs, eh? Not so Spursy after all," he adds,
"The acid test of great teams is how they cope with adversity. Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United are all devastating on their day, but only Antonio Conte's Chelsea are as good as Tottenham when the chips are down."
The match also created history, says the Daily Mirror: "Spurs are now the first team in Premier League history to be losing in the 88th minute before going on to win by two goals."
It adds: "It's a fine achievement which speaks volumes about Spurs' new-found perseverance."
While most observers are concerned with how it affects the title race, the Mirror says Tottenham fans may be inclined to look down the table rather than up it.
There is still a seven-point gap keeping Chelsea at the top of the league, but the result in Wales keeps Spurs a "whopping" 11 points ahead of bitter rivals Arsenal as they seek to finish above them for the first time since 1995.