IT’S no secret Dele Alli likes a goal against Chelsea; his early opener was his sixth since the Blues wrecked Tottenham’s title hopes in May 2026 by coming back from two down to confirm the Leicester fairytale was now reality.
But the England star reckons he has added another dimension to his game since that bad-tempered game at Stamford Bridge and the derbies that followed. The man from Milton Keynes is now a player who can hurt the opposition in another way, by nullifying their best player.
That man at Wembley was Jorginho, Maurizio Sarri’s midfield fulcrum on the pitch and explainer of his ideas off it. Stop him and you stop Chelsea is the idea put forward with some success by Everton before the international break and taken on by Tottenham, who could have won this one by a far more majestic margin.
“My role has changed a little bit,” said Alli, who went into the game with just one Premier League goal to his name, dating back to the opening day.
“We know he’s a great player,” he added of Jorginho. “They’ve had a new manager come in, they’ve been performing very well, and he’s a big part of them playing out from the back and dominating possession.
“He likes getting on the ball and we thought we could stop that. I wanted to be as close to him as possible to make sure that we could win the ball up high, break early and create the chances that we did. On another day, we could have scored a lot more.”
That was certainly true. Mauricio Pochettino’s men, who must beat Inter Milan on Wednesday to stay in the Champions League and have a derby at Arsenal at the weekend, were all over Chelsea before Alli headed home Christian Eriksen’s free-kick in the eighth minute and continued to dominate for the rest of the first half.
Those minutes saw Harry Kane double the lead in the 16th minutes when Chelsea, despite having every yellow shirt in their own half, allowed him the space to turn and run at goal. David Luiz got out of the way of the shot, unsighting Kepa Arrizabalaga in the process.
The Chelsea keeper didn’t move for that one but did pull off two very good saves to deny Heung-min Son, more of whom later. He also denied Toby Alderweireld from close range, with Juan Foyth flicking the rebound just wide.
Chelsea had offered little apart from an early Alvaro Morata snapshot and an effort from distance from Eden Hazard but looked meaner after the restart, penning in the hosts and passing up two chances to pull one back.
Mateo Kovacic, guilty of an unforgivable first-half rabona that allowed Spurs a counter-attack that almost made it 3-0, blasted the first over and Willian saw his effort deflected behind.
Up stepped Son to swing the game back Spurs’ way with a remarkable solo goal.
The Korean received the ball on the halfway line, motored past Jorginho down the right flank and then cut in towards goal. Luiz came to meet him but sailed right past, allowing Son to slot past Kepa. It was his 50th Tottenham goal and, needless to say, his best.
Chelsea’s unbeaten run was at an end and all Sarri could do was shuffle the pack in the hope of a consolation. Off came Morata, who heads this season’s offside stats rather than goals, and Kovacic; on came Ross Barkley and Pedro. Barkley immediately put in a cross that would have been ideal for Morata, or Olivier Giroud, but the man at centre-forward at that moment was, bizarrely, N’Golo Kante and the ball flew over his head.
Giroud did come on after Harry Kane spooned a great chance to make it 4-0 over the bar. Cesar Azpilicueta picked out the Frenchman for a simple header that Hugo Lloris knew he could never reach but only five minutes were left on the clock.
Did Sarri give his players the Italian equivalent of the Fergie hairdryer afterwards? Not according to Luiz, who is no stranger to an actual ‘asciugacapelli’ himself.
“No, he’s been many times angrier when we’ve won,” the Brazilian said. “It’s true. Of course the coach is not happy. He always tries to do his best for us, and we try and do our best for him. He’s not happy like every single player is not happy tonight.
“We didn’t play well, Tottenham played really well. We have to have humility to recognise that and say they controlled the game. It was not good, like we’d been doing all this season. Globally, all the aspects: offensively, defensively, we didn’t have possession, we didn’t create a lot. We were not in the game, and that’s why we lost.
“I think it’s good for us to understand, to remind us that the Premier League is never easy. We didn’t have the same intensity as in the other games.”
TOTTENHAM (4-3-3): Lloris 7; Aurier 7, Alderweireld 8, Foyth 7, Davies 7; Sissoko 7, Dier 7, Eriksen 8; Son 8 (Lamela 78), Kane 8, Alli 8 (Winks 86).
Subs (not used): Gazzaniga, Vertonghen, Walker-Peters, Llorente, Lucas.
CHELSEA (4-3-3): Kepa 6; Azpilicueta 6, Rudiger 6, Luiz 4, Alonso 6; Kante 5, Jorginho 5, Kovacic 3 (Barkley 58, 6); Willian 7 (Giroud 76), Morata 5 (Pedro 58, 4), Hazard 7.
Subs (not used): Caballero, Fabregas, Zappacosta, Christensen.
Referee: Martin Atkinson 6
Twice in the first half, Chelsea could have been awarded a penalty after the Belgian went down. The first was the stronger case — Juan Foyth shoved him in the back.
The second also saw Moussa Sissoko fail to get the ball. On both occasions Martin Atkinson shook his head and carried on. Was the official thinking, perhaps subconsciously, ‘there goes Eden again, always looking for a penalty’? A case of the ease of the collapse obscuring the reality of the offence?
Hazard was also given some rough treatment by Spurs that could have seen yellow, though the challenge that hurt most, by Serge Aurier, seemed fair enough.
No Spurs men were booked by Atkinson — a record nine were in that 2016 game at Stamford Bridge — as opposed to three Chelsea players, including a frustrated Hazard (pictured) before half-time.
“Referees have to understand if they are making one, two, three, four fouls in this way, it needs a yellow card,” Luiz said.
“They’ve to be clever to understand that.”