Tottenham lifted their Stamford Bridge curse on Easter Sunday, beating fellow top 4 rivals Chelsea 3-1 on the road. Goals from Eriksen and Dele turned the game around for the visitors after Morata opened the scoring for the hosts.
The result leaves Chelsea far adrift in the race for Champions League football, as 8 points now separate them from 4th place Tottenham. With a favorable run-in ahead, Spurs could stamp their ticket to next year’s edition of Europe’s elite competition with just a few more victories.
Eriksen takes control, makes a fool of Caballero
When Spurs’ Danish creator is on form, the team usually excels. Such was the case on Sunday, as the attacking midfielder took the match into his own hands with several telling contributions. In the first half, he was one of the only Tottenham players to truly test (and then, beat) Willy Caballero in the Chelsea goal. While his first stinging effort went straight to the keeper for an easy save, his second shot found its mark.
Caballero could certainly have done better; Eriksen’s strike did basically pass right over his head. But the dip and swerve of the shot made it more complicated than that, and the Argentine net-minder was frozen in his boots as it sailed straight past him. With an equalizer secured just before half-time, Spurs had put themselves firmly in the driver’s seat going into the second period. Eriksen would chip in again for our final goal, providing the defense-splitting pass that set Son through to cause a chaotic goalmouth scramble.
Dele double silences doubters
If you were watching Sunday’s action on NBC Sports as I was, you heard a lot of negative commentary about Dele during the match. There was frequent talk of him losing his formerly automatic spot in the England squad, coupled with criticism of his hot & cold domestic form this season. Hell, I’ve been a pretty vocal critic of Dele myself this year, and with good reason. He’s definitely not been at the level he was last campaign for most of this year.
Yet it’s almost inevitable that when Dele is loudly criticized, he answers with a big performance. Sunday was no exception, and the young England star was up to his usual two-goal antics against a team he seems to love scoring on. His first goal had an air of deja vu about it; a long ball over the top was expertly controlled with one touch and then sweetly dispatched into the net with the next. It was reminiscent of a goal he scored against Everton last season, though with Eric Dier the provider instead of Toby Alderweireld. Dele’s celebration was telling as well; shushing the opposing fans and perhaps those in the media who questioned him as well.
Although his second goal was hardly a classic, it came at a time when we needed to kill the game off to secure the victory. Simply put, it was a match-winning performance in a huge game from a player who badly needed to make a statement like that. Hopefully the lad carries on for the remainder of this season and finds his best form in time for Russia 2018.
Alderweireld conspicuous in his absence
There was another big pre-game story line heading into this weekend’s games, and it centered on current contract rebel Toby Alderweireld. The Belgian defender is evidently fit again after going the full 90 for his country over the last international break, yet he failed to even make Poch’s 18 for a huge game against a bitter rival. Call me a cynic, but I doubt that’s a good sign going forward in regards to whether or not the imperious defender re-signs with the club.
As I’ve mused about here on Soccity before, there are pros and cons to the Belgian leaving us. On one hand, Sunday’s performance would seem to suggest we can cope fine without him against our top 6 colleagues. On the other, Toby’s positive impact on our defensive record can’t be understated and I still always feel much more comfortable with him starting than not. Where this transfer saga lands is still anybody’s guess, but I can’t imagine Toby will stay quiet if Pochettino’s team selection jeopardizes his national team starting place in a World Cup year.
BONUS: Poch brings the bantz
I’ll keep this brief because I know my articles are already lengthy…but how about a hand for Poch rubbing our superiority in Conte’s face by subbing Kane into a game we didn’t even need him in? First off, it’s absurd that Kane is even fit again just 3 weeks after he damaged ankle ligaments. Guy is not human, this proves it. But then for Poch to weigh the risk of playing him in a game we definitely didn’t need him and then decide, “yeah, let’s do it”? Too funny. Nice to see the guy has a good sense of humor.