Tottenham open 2015 with stunning win over city rival Chelsea
A breathless, brilliant day to start the year, a superb game that ended with Tottenham beating Chelsea 5-3 for the first time in 10 attempts. The result moves Spurs above Arsenal into fifth, with Chelsea only level at the Premier League and with Harry Kane confirming his status as a striker of immense promise.
In six months, the 21-year-old has been transformed from waif-like novice into unstoppable force of nature, as he ended with two goals, two assists and the adulation of the lilywhite half of North London. Just as remarkable as Kane’s rise has been the wobble from Jose Mourinho’s side. A late goal from the Chelsea legend Frank Lampard had given Manchester City victory over Sunderland to take it level at the top. By losing 5-3, Chelsea ended the day with exactly the same record as the champions.
Mauricio Pochettino had asked for time to impose his methods at Spurs and the evidence of the past month has been that the players are beginning to adapt themselves to his way of doing things. As at Southampton, he has made a virtue of bringing through a home-produced talent. Five of Spurs’ starting lineup had come through Tottenham’s youth ranks — the cynical may point out just how wasteful that makes the $171 million spree of summer 2013 appear — although Ryan Mason was forced off with a hamstring injury after 12 minutes. The foremost of them, without question, is Kane.
Tottenham hadn’t lost since going down 3-0 to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, but there was encouragement even in that game as Kane ran Gary Cahill ragged for 19 minutes before Eden Hazard struck against the run of play. A second goal from Didier Drogba three minutes later effectively killed the game, but Spurs had shown themselves capable of unsettling Chelsea.
It was a similar story here, Tottenham pressing and looking lively and then falling behind. Kane, again, led the charge and, running in to Christian Eriksen’s through-ball, created the first real opening for Nacer Chadli after 16 minutes. His slight mis-control forced him into an attempted overhead, which Thibaut Courtois did superbly to push away with his right hand.
Just two minutes later, though, Chelsea went ahead. A run from Hazard after 18 minutes took him past Danny Rose and although his shot hit the post, Diego Costa turned in the follow-up from Oscar for his 14th goal in just 17 league games this season. At that, Tottenham in previous seasons may have wilted, but Pochettino has instilled his side with backbone and it levelled on the half-hour.
Kane, inevitably, was the goal-scorer. There is something slight incongruous about him — he has the pale, thin features of a nervous World War I pilot, the sort of neat young man who never makes it to the end of the movie, but will be seen reading a poignant letter from his sweetheart before buying the farm over Ypres — that has perhaps meant there is a delay in taking him seriously, but this was his 16th goal of the season, albeit only his sixth in the Premier League. It was a goal of some quality as well, Kane cutting in from the left before despatching a powerful low shot past Courtois from 25 yards.
Tottenham hadn’t beaten Chelsea in nine Premier League games, but the goal inspired belief. A minute before the break, Eriksen slid in Chadli and, although his shot came back off the post, Rose smacked in the rebound. A minute after that, Kane, whose pace had been problematic for Cahill throughout, was tripped by the England defender in the corner of the box. Andros Townsend crashed the penalty low past Courtois’s left hand — Tottenham’s third goal from an academy graduate.
And still it wasn’t over. A giddiness seized White Hart Lane, a disbelief that a team that had seemed unbeatable a matter of weeks ago was being dismantled. Eight minutes into the second half, Kane beat Nemanja Matic, rolled John Terry and swept a finish into the bottom corner — the first time a Mourinho side had conceded four in a Premier League game.
Hazard pulled one back after a one-two with Fabregas after Fazio had squandered possession, but then Kane slipped in Chadli to dart in from the left and make it 5-2 with a finish through John Terry’s legs. That eased nerves, but only temporarily as Terry forced in a Chelsea third. The announcement of five minutes of injury time was greeted with anxious howls from the home fans, But Tottenham had done enough to win an astonishing game. The title race and the race for fourth are very much alive.