Five-star Tottenham turnaround could crash Chelsea’s title tilt
Tottenham rounded off a rampant New Year’s Day of Premier League action by upsetting leaders Chelsea in an eight-goal thriller, recording a first win in 10 top-flight attempts against their London rivals.
Spurs came from behind to hit five with homegrown trio Harry Kane (twice), Danny Rose and Andros Townsend joining Nacer Chadli on the scoresheet. Despite goals from Diego Costa, Eden Hazard and in-form Blues skipper John Terry, Jose Mourinho’s men now have no advantage of any kind over champions Manchester City at the top.
Chelsea are level on points, goal difference, goals scored and conceded with the Etihad outfit, and the two Premier League title rivals now have equal win-draw-loss records (14-4-2) after 20 matches. Coral still have the Londoners down as odds-on 8/13 favourites to lift the trophy, but City have now shortened to 7/4 after a 3-2 home win over Sunderland.
Mauricio Pochettino’s team, meanwhile, moved above north London neighbours Arsenal into fifth with victory, and are now just two points adrift of the top four and the Tottenham head coach’s old club Southampton.
This great advert for Premier League football started with Spurs academy product Ryan Mason limping off after 10 minutes, and it looked like a lack of midfield runners would hamper the hosts at White Hart Lane.
In fact, what happened was far from it. An acrobatic overhead kick from Chadli was kept out by Thibaut Courtois and, within 90 seconds, Mourinho’s visitors were ahead through Costa.
Hazard made an industrious infield run off the right flank, but his shot hit the base of the far post. The rebound fell to Oscar, however, and he teed up fellow Brazil-born player Costa to poach the opener from close range.
More clever movement in the channels from Blues frontman Costa threatened to extend their lead, but Oscar steered wide and Kane levelled things up for Spurs on half an hour.
Rose played a simple pass to his Tottenham teammate and, as Chelsea players stood off him, Kane rifled into the bottom corner from the edge of the D. Mourinho’s men then had a warning when rejuvenated Spurs winger Chadli hit the post only to be flagged offside.
The Tottenham turnaround was complete before the break, however. Chaldi once again rattled the woodwork, but on the opposite site and left back Rose followed in to score.
Referee Phil Dowd had turned down Blues appeals for a penalty when the ball struck a prone Jan Vertonghen on the lower arm, but pointed to the spot in stoppage time to give hosts Spurs a chance to extend their lead. Gary Cahill brought down Kane, and the England Under-21 striker unselfishly allowed Townsend to take from 12 yards.
Although Courtois went the right way, Townsend’s penalty was too precise, and Tottenham went in 3-1 up at half time. Seven minutes after the interval, Kane put Pochettino’s team even further ahead with a classy shot on the turn when teed up by the influential Chadli.
Mourinho’s substitutions proved ineffective, though Chelsea were gifted a second goal on the hour when Spurs centre back Federico Fazio dawdled in possession. Hazard capitalised on this error, playing a one-two with Blues assists machine Cesc Fabregas before picking his spot. The score was now 4-2 to Tottenham.
Spurs summer signing and Argentina international Fazio redeemed himself, however, with a superb last ditch tackle on Belgium sensation Hazard, though Mourinho was screaming for a penalty. Hugo Lloris, skippering the home side, then made a superb stop, throwing a plunging palm down to his left to keep out a curler from Cesar Azpilicueta.
Chadli restored Tottenham’s three-goal cushion 12 minutes from time when man of the match Kane turned provider. Action remained end-to-end up until the last, though, with Ramires dragging one wide after breaking from midfield.
Chelsea captain Terry tapped in the eighth and final goal of this fabulous feast when Hazard and Branislav Ivanovic helped a quickly-taken free-kick over to him. The final word here, despite an epic 5-3 encounter, must go to Kane and company.
Blues players failed to close down Spurs’ rising star for the first of his brace, and a sublime, skillful turn left defenders for dead as he netted again. Kane oozed confidence, had the opposition scared and is hammering on Roy Hodgson’s door for a senior England call-up.
The last time the Three Lions played a friendly against Italy (their next assignment), he selected an experimental squad. Hodgson simply has to take note of this magnificent mid-winter form of six in six, and 17 across all competitions for the season so far, from Kane.
Chadli caught the eye too, having flopped so fantastically in his maiden campaign in England. It does take some foreign players a season or so to adjust to Premier League life, with those rewards reaped to the full here.
Perhaps, after almost six months of searching, Pochettino has finally found the perfect blend to make Tottenham into credible Champions League challengers again, with odds of 7/2 for them to crash the top four.