Dele's Double Cuts Chelsea Adrift as Europa League Football Looms
Antonio Conte looked to have got his tactics spot on with the game approaching half time with the Blues in the lead but, like in recent weeks, Chelsea squandered their good position. A stunner from Christian Eriksen and a brace from Dele Alli were enough to see Spurs come from behind to win at Stamford Bridge for the first time since 1990.
No one could hide in the opening stages of this London derby as both sides set a fearsome tone from the first whistle; memories of the Battle of the Bridge in 2016 came flooding back. Moussa Dembele left his mark on Victor Moses early on when his studded left boot landed on the Nigerian right wing-back in a complete accident. Willy Caballero, in for the injury-stricken Courtois, wasn’t being troubled in the Chelsea goal while Hugo Lloris wasn’t exactly being overworked. The first warning shot was fired by the visitors when Dele Alli got to Christian Eriksen’s cross but, unlike the reverse fixture at White Hart Lane last season, he was unable to find the net with his header.
After an early spell of Tottenham pressure, Chelsea started to threaten Lloris’ goal more frequently and though they’d gone ahead when Marcos Alonso guided a cross into the bottom corner with the inside of his left foot but the lineman’s flag was up. The Blues started to dominate proceedings and Lloris was tested by Victor Moses, Willian and Marcos Alonso, saving low down to deny the latter two. However, the Frenchman’s judgement and decision making was about to let him down. After Antonio Rudiger had spread the ball out wide to Moses on the right, Lloris came and missed the Nigerian’s cross and Alvaro Morata couldn’t believe his luck as he guided it down into the empty net with his head. That was the Spaniard’s first Premier League goal since Boxing Day and his 7th headed finish in the league this season (63% of his Premier League goals have been scored that way).
Despite going behind, Spurs weren’t flustered and managed to regain some composure after Lloris’ mad moment in goal. Christian Eriksen was finding some dangerous spaces in between the lines and stung the palms of Caballero with an effort from long range which the substitute goalkeeper gathered at the second attempt. You’d have thought that would’ve served as a warning to the Chelsea side but, just before half time, Eriksen found space outside the penalty area again and this time he unleashed a venomous strike that soared towards goal and dipped at the last second to drop under the crossbar and past the despairing Caballero. The Argentine actually ended up on his knees as the ball hit the back of the net, stunned at the fact that it’d dipped under the bar from such a height.
That goal clearly shocked the hosts and they never really recovered. Heung-Min Son was tasked with stopping Marcos Alonso being so prominent in Chelsea attacks and the South Korean did well to prevent the left wing-back have as many chances as he’d had in the first half. After both teams had settled back into the rhythm of the game, Chelsea were hit with a sucker punch when Eric Dier lifted the ball over the Blues’ backline to find Dele Alli. Alli, having been underused by Gareth Southgate over the international break, clearly had a point to prove and he did just that by gracefully taking the ball down and squeezing through the gap between Caballero and his left-hand post. The away end went into delirium and Tottenham weren’t finished yet.
The away side doubled their lead just minutes later with an almighty goalmouth scramble that ended up with Alli sweeping the ball under Caballero and into the back of the net to get his second of the game. From a Chelsea perspective, change was needed and needed immediately. However, with Spurs sitting comfortably with a two-goal lead, the game lulled into a non-event for a few minutes before Antonio Conte made his first sub with 10 minutes of this crucial game to go. Olivier Giroud, Emerson and Callum Hudson-Odoi were all introduced but none of them were given enough time to have a proper impact on the game.
Tottenham sauntered out of Stamford Bridge with all three points for the first time in 28 years at the expense of Conte’s side who now sit eight points adrift of a Top Four spot and looked destined for Europa League football next season. Whether it’s now or at the end of the season, the Italian will almost certainly pay for with his job.