Tottenham Hotspur denied Chelsea a record 14th consecutive Premier League win and loosened their grip on the title race as two Dele Alli headers secured a 2-0 victory at a rocking White Hart Lane on Wednesday.
After Tottenham’s own title dream last season ended in a tumultuous 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge in May, there was a particular satisfaction that they stopped the Chelsea bandwagon.
Arsenal still hold the record for consecutive Premier League wins although their streak included 13 at the end of 2001-02 and one more at the beginning of the following campaign.
“We knew that defeat could happen before the game but I think today I saw a game with a good balance and they scored a goal at the end of the first-half and the second goal in our best moment,” Chelsea boss Antonio Conte said.
“It is a pity to stop this run, but Tottenham is a good team, a really strong team and I think is for sure one of the teams that can fight for the title until the end.”
Conte’s side were not at their best although there was little between the sides in a high-tempo derby that thankfully never descended into the kind of indiscipline that resulted in 12 bookings in the Bridge battle of last season.
The 50th Premier League clash between the London rivals was an engrossing tactical affair with chances at a premium.
In the end it was decided by two carbon-copy goals either side of halftime — both created by the precision of Tottenham’s Danish playmaker Christian Eriksen.
Eriksen was a whisker away from giving his side the lead midway through the first half with shot that flew just wide.
Yet it was one of his trademark deliveries that led to Tottenham’s opener in first-half stoppage time.
Given too much time to pick his spot, he whipped in a right-footed cross that Alli headed past Thibaut Courtois.
Chelsea upped the pace at the start of the second half and Eden Hazard wasted their best chance when he stooped to head a bouncing ball wide at the far post under no pressure.
Alli showed him how to do it minutes later when Eriksen again sent in a lethal cross and the young England midfielder found too much space to head past Courtois.
After a slow start to the season Alli now has 10 goals and has netted seven in his last four games.
Tottenham’s fifth consecutive victory lifted them from fifth to third with 42 points from 20 games, ahead of Man City on goal difference and one point above Arsenal.
Chelsea, who could have set a new record for consecutive wins during a single season, still lead second-placed Liverpool by five points after 20 games with Tottenham seven adrift.