Tottenham began the new year in sensational fashion by producing an inspired performance to beat Chelsea 5-3 at White Hart Lane and leave their London rivals now level with Manchester City at the top of the Premier League. In an barely conceivable turnaround, Tottenham bounced back emphatically from going behind to Diego Costa’s early goal to score three in the final 15 minutes of the first half before adding another just after the break to send the home support into raptures and leave Jose Mourinho staring on stony-faced in disbelief. Eden Hazard’s quick reply threatened a dramatic comeback in a memorable contest, but Nacer Chadli’s deflected strike with 12 minutes remaining ensured that the Tottenham faithful, despite John Terry’s late effort, could spend the closing stages basking in the glory of only their side’s fourth ever Premier League win over Chelsea.
While the whole team played its part, the hero for Spurs was undoubtedly Harry Kane, who continued his dream-like rise to prominence this season. The young English forward scored the first goal, with a fine run and shot, and the fourth, with a clever turn and finish, as well as winning the penalty that Andros Townsend converted in first-half injury time.
The defeat was only Chelsea’s second of the season, but it means that Manchester City have now pulled level on points, goal difference and goals scored, with only Chelsea’s alphabetical advantage keeping them arbitrarily on top of the table tonight. Only a few weeks on from talk of an “Invincible” season and of by how many points they would win the Premier League, Chelsea, with now just one win from their last five away games, are now in a real dogfight for the title.
Following on from their draw with Southampton on Sunday, there were again signs that Mourinho’s consistent team selections may have seen fatigue creep in after what has been a hectic month of fixtures. The stingiest defense in the Premier League was torn apart and left looking creaking and cumbersome by Spurs’ pace and directness, with 34-year-old captain Terry being particularly exposed behind a midfield that was unusually porous.
Just as unforeseen as Chelsea’s collapse, was the identity of the team that inflicted it. Tottenham have repeatedly come up short against the big clubs in recent times and against Chelsea more than any other. Just under a month ago they started brightly at Stamford Bridge but then crumbled to go down tamely 3-0. A similar scenario looked set to unfold at White Hart Lane.
After another positive opening, Tottenham fell behind courtesy of some sloppy defending. Danny Rose was distracted, appealing that the ball had gone out of play as Hazard kept in a long Thibaut Courtois throw out and dribbled inside and past the Spurs left-back into the box. The Belgian’s shot came back off the foot of the far post, but Oscar put it back across goal and Costa turned the ball in from a yard out.
Spurs, already having lost midfielder Ryan Mason to injury, came close to going two goals behind when Oscar poked just wide. This time, though, they didn’t fade away. For that, they chiefly have Kane to thank. The recent improvement in form that has now taken them above Arsenal into fifth place was kick-started by Kane’s introduction to the starting lineup, and his work-rate and rich vein of goal-scoring form continues to be a major catalyst. His opening strike came as he cut inside form the left, past lightweight challenges from both Oscar and Cesc Fabregas, before drilling a shot low into the corner of the net from 25 yards.
It was an amazing climax to the opening half, though, that ultimately proved decisive. First Rose atoned for his earlier error by following up bravely to score after Chadli, fed by Christian Eriksen’s through ball behind Branislav Ivanovic, had slipped a shot against the post. Things got better still in the second minute of injury time. Cahill clumsily brought down Kane after the forward got to Ivanovic’s errant pass inside first. Townsend converted from the spot and Mourinho trudged immediately down the tunnel.
Mourinho’s knack of producing second-half turnarounds meant the result was far from sealed. But when Kane scored his second after turning Terry effortlessly and finishing confidently seven minutes after the interval, Spurs fans were in dreamland. Briefly, their elation was soon checked. An error from Federico Fazio was seized upon by Hazard, who played a wonderfully quick one-two with Fabregas before beating Hugo Lloris. It could have been the start of a thrilling comeback, but Lloris crucially maintained his side’s two-goal cushion with a brilliant low one-handed save to deny Cesar Azpilicueta.
It was evidence that, despite the eye-popping scoreline, it was a game of fine margins. But Spurs could begin the celebrations in earnest once Chadli capped his fine performance with a late goal aided by a deflection off Terry. And, although Chelsea’s skipper struck late on, this was a day to forget for him and his team.