LONDON — Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea are separated by 11.1 miles across England’s congested capital city.
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Wednesday’s encounter showed these two London clubs are closer than ever on and off the pitch during the Premier League era and perhaps ever and it may even rival Tottenham’s historic rivalry with north London neighbors Arsenal in years to come.
Thanks to Dele Alli‘s double Tottenham prevailed 2-0 to halt Chelsea’s win streak at 13, just one short of setting a new PL record for consecutive victories.
It was a moment which was made ever sweeter for Spurs after Chelsea fought back from 2-0 down last May at Stamford Bridge to draw 2-2 and end Tottenham’s hopes of pipping Leicester City to the PL title. That was a violent, tribal affair full of red cards and red tackles which highlighted the pure disdain both sets of players and fans have for one another.
Speaking after the game Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino tried to play down the animosity levels between the two London rivals.
“It wasn’t personal. For us that chapter has closed,” Pochettino said of last May. “I think you can see after the game how we shake hands it is all okay. Football is competitive and you try to win. Always, when you start the game they are your enemy and when you finish you move on.”
Most Tottenham fans would disagree. So did the hero Alli as he echoed Harry Kane‘s sentiments earlier in the week that Spurs’ players wanted to end Chelsea’s run of wins and get revenge.
This was personal. They wanted nothing more than to end Chelsea’s bid to complete the greatest wining run the English top-flight had ever since.
Before the game, as a dilapidated train pulled in to White Hart Lane station near the stadium, Spurs fans looked ready for battle, nodding at one another with a wry grin. This was it. They were ready.
“We’ve done it all” and “Champions of Europe, you’ll never sing that” sang the Chelsea fans at the start of the game.
They then added in “2-0 and you f***** it up” and “did you cry at Stamford Bridge?” for good measure in reference to the now infamous “Battle at the Bridge” in May 2016 when Chelsea gleefully ended Spurs’ title hopes with their late comeback in a game which meant nothing to them other than pride.
Pride was on full display on Wednesday as tackles flew in during the first half as Danny Rose and Victor Moses comitted to tackles down their flank and Chelsea’s duo Diego Costa and Pedro had a “heated debate” after the former played in a ball which Pedro didn’t run on to.
After one chant from Chelsea’s vocal away support, Tottenham’s fans replied with “where were you when you were s***?” and Chelsea’s fans fired back with “we’ve won it all, we’ve won it all.”
To be fair, they have. Literally every trophy they could’ve won since Roman Abramovich bought them.
But that doesn’t mean Spurs aren’t a rising power not only in London but in the Premier League.
Rising from the former parking lot outside their current White Hart Lane home is a new 61,000 stadium which is looking more impressive by the week. Spurs are ready to compete, or maybe even overtake, the perennial big boys in the PL and with that jewel in the crown of Chairman Daniel Levy ready for the 2018-19 season, it will allow Spurs to get to the next level. Last season’s title push was a taster of what is to come and this season Pochettino’s young squad looked poised to have another crack at it.
The action on the pitch matched the atmosphere at the current White Hart Lane on Wednesday.
Nervous. Edgy. Nasty.
When Alli scored right on half time the home fan were delirious. When he nodded home a second with a near carbon copy soon after the interval, it was bedlam inside the Lane.
Spurs’ fans had waited for their revenge against Chelsea and their burgeoning rivalry — Chelsea beat Spurs in the League Cup final in 2015 and their fiery encounters have really intensified since Spurs’ 5-3 win on Jan. 1 2015 — has the potential to rival their local north London derby with Arsenal.
It may never quite get to that level of hatred but it’s getting there and as Arsenal continue to labor towards title battles season after season, perhaps Spurs and Chelsea will emerge as London’s top contenders for the PL crown with Conte and Pochettino young and Arsene Wenger‘s time at Arsenal set to come to an end sooner rather than later.
The animosity present in the past few meetings between Spurs and Chelsea shows there is potential on multiple fronts to continue to grow.
Wednesday’s game showcased just how evenly matched these teams are on the pitch, with two moments of clever running, creativity and finishing deciding the outcome as two young, hungry managers played very similar formations and their teams played at very similar tempos.
Tottenham’s win blew the Premier League title race wide open and it also took Chelsea down a peg as they’ve won just one of their last 11 PL visits to White Hart Lane.
The latest defeat was as deflating of any of those losses as it scuppered their chance to usurp Arsenal in the record books and also gave Tottenham’s fans bragging rights until the meet again next season.
In this growing rivalry, that’s something which will be savored by the Spurs faithful.