Tottenham's Dele Alli scores against Chelsea at White Hart Lane.
Tottenham's Dele Alli scores against Chelsea at White Hart Lane. Alastair Grant

Spurs down Chelsea to throw title race open

THAT was the game neutral fans - or fans of every one of Chelsea's rivals - wanted.

With Antonio Conte's side on the cusp of a Premier League record 14 consecutive wins, Tottenham didn't just end that streak - Spurs ensured their bitter rivals didn't go eight points clear of second-placed Liverpool.

The 2-0 win - secured thanks to two Dele Alli headers - also means Mauricio Pochettino's side, which has won five in a row, scoring 15 times and conceding three, jumps Arsenal and returns to the top four, level on points with Manchester City.

Spurs, and their wily boss, created a template with relentless energy to break down Manchester City when it was on its impressive run to start the season. Now, he has done likewise to end Chelsea's momentum, with savvy organisation and defensive acumen, matching Conte's formation, leaning on his fullbacks and unleashing Dele Alli.

While this London Derby won't go down as a classic, it was hugely symbolic for Spurs, given the Battle of the Bridge last season that resulted in their title hopes slipping in a tempestuous game. Not only did they show more mettle, but tactically, they outperformed Chelsea and showed that the formidable defence they are building is good enough to shut out a side that has forgotten how to lose.

"This league is very tough,” Chelsea manager Antonio Conte said. "Now it's important to restart. After 13 wins in a row it's difficult to accept defeat.”

Chelsea still leads Liverpool by five points but Tottenham is now only seven points behind in third after a fifth successive victory.

"It's a big statement for us but we are happy to stay under the radar,” Alli said.

Chelsea defender Gary Cahill said: "We were short of the levels we set ourselves, for whatever reason that may be, a few misplaced passes and not moving the ball as quick as we have been.

"They are a top-quality opposition and we got punished for being short.”

It's not time for Chelsea to panic at all, given upcoming games against Leicester and Hull City.

But, as Conte declares Spurs can challenge for the title, the importance in this result comes when you gaze further through the month of January - with Manchester United-Liverpool and Tottenham-Manchester City in the lead-up to a monumental clash between Chelsea and Liverpool to end the month.

"It's a pity to stop this run but Tottenham are a really strong team and one of the teams that can fight for the title until the end,” Conte told Sky Sports. "They fought last season and for sure can fight this year.

"I saw a game with a good balance. Two good teams with good intensity and pressure that tried to win. Tottenham scored in two strange moments at the end of the first half and then after we missed two chances to equalise.”

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