Clint Dempsey’s goal the impetus for Spurs’ 3-1 victory over Manchester City

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With a 3-1 victory over Manchester City, Tottenham has thrust itself back into Champions League contention and provided Manchester United the opportunity to win the league tomorrow against Aston Villa.

City opened the scoring in the 5th minute when Samir Nasri finished James Milner’s well-placed cross. Spurs would wait 70 minutes to find the leveler but when Gareth Bale’s cross found Clint Dempsey on the far post it was ‘game on’ for Tottenham. The American’s goal sparked a seven minute purple patch that saw the North Londoners take control of their Champions League dreams through stunning efforts by Jermain Defoe and Gareth Bale.

The victory kept Andre Villas-Boas’ squad in 5th position but ensured they go even on points with 4th place Chelsea. The Blues enjoy a game in hand on Tottenham but taking advantage of that standing won’t be easy as Rafa Benitez’ side faces a difficult test today at Liverpool. The win also puts Spurs within striking distance of 3rd place Arsenal. With a game in hand on their rivals, Spurs supporters will be believing this is the year they finally overtake their rivals.

Nasri’s 5th minute goal was the result of one of the more spectacular dribbling exhibitions seen this season as Carlos Tevez collected an outlet pass just before midfield and took 15 touches into the right corner before looping around and releasing Milner with a soft side-of-the-foot pass. The England international took two touches down the by-line before crossing to Nasri at the penalty spot and the Frenchman finished with a carefully placed volley into the bottom corner.

The ensuing 70 minutes of end-to-end action saw plenty of chances for both sides with Dempsey enjoying his finest overall performance of the season. Playing just inside Emmaunel Adebayor, the American was constantly involved in the play displaying a voracious hunger that, at times this seasn, has been absent from the Texan’s game.

In the 21st minute, Dempsey played Kyle Walker into the box with a sensational back cutting pass that sliced open the City defense only for the full-back to spurn the opportunity right at Joe Hart. In the 44th minute Deuce was at it again, rising high on the corner only to head his effort just over the bar from 7 yards out. One minute later Spurs’ best chance of the half fell to Dempsey eight yards out but his shot was superbly blocked by Pablo Zabaleta.

In the 68th minute Dempsey nearly freed himself for Benoit Assou-Ekotto’s cross and appeared to be brought to ground by Matija Nastasic. The cries for a penalty were ignored but six minutes later Dempsey got his revenge. After a poor clearance by City, Kyle Walker found Gareth Bale on the right side of the area and the Welshman sent a succulent one-time, outside-of-the-foot cross to the far post where a sliding Dempsey stuck it home. More grit and grind than finesse, the goal was vintage Clint and his third in his last two matches.

The goal prompted eruptions at White Hart Lane and five minutes later Louis Holtby’s 40 yard through ball found Defoe in open space. Vincent Kompany closed down the England international on the left side of the box but inexplicably showed the striker inside. Defoe faked left, went right, and struck a furious dipping shot into the far corner from 15 yards out. Four minutes later Spurs put the knife in the coffin when substitute Tom Huddlestone split Nastasic and Gael Clichy with a tasty pass that Bale latched on to and softly chipped over the on-rushing Joe Hart.

Tottenham will look to continue their Champions League rush next Saturday against Wigan.

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.