London (AFP) – In the time it took Tottenham Hotspur to register their first league win at Stamford Bridge since 1990, Chelsea had won 22 trophies.
That was a fact the home fans weren’t slow in reminding their visitors before kick-off of Spurs’ 3-1 win on Sunday, as a huge banner declared Chelsea the “Pride of London”.
Less than two hours later, though, it was undeniable who are the current kings of the capital as Spurs, shorn of Harry Kane from the start and having fallen a goal behind, still roared back to take all three points thanks to Christan Eriksen’s wonder strike and a quickfire Dele Alli double.
This was a hugely symbolic win for Spurs. Victory opened up an eight-point lead over fifth-placed Chelsea with just seven games of the Premier League campaign left to almost set the seal on a third straight season of Champions League football to come at their new 62,000 capacity stadium.
Moreover, it was a statement of intent, the type of win manager Mauricio Pochettino highlighted as necessary to foment a “winning mentality”.
“This wasn’t just a game, it was a game-changer, for Tottenham, and Chelsea, too,” wrote Martin Samuel in the Daily Mail.
Tottenham have now beaten Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal this season. Real Madrid were also vanquished at Wembley in November and how Pochettino will rue three minutes of madness that cost them a place in this week’s Champions League quarter-finals having dominated Juventus, two-time finalists in the past three season, over two legs in the last 16.
The stick often used to beat Pochettino is that for all the progress under the Argentine, Spurs are still to win a trophy in four years under his leadership.
– ‘Mind the gap’ –
That elusive silverware could still come in the FA Cup this season, but even if it doesn’t, a landmark Easter Sunday win was further evidence of their status as the rising side in London.
“Mind the gap, as they say in London, where Spurs are undeniably the capital’s top team and Chelsea are left to reflect and rebuild yet again,” said The Telegraph.
Pochettino has had to battle past rivals with far greater resources to establish Spurs as top four regulars, but even that shackle could begin to loosen by the resources of the new stadium.
“After four years together, the club has moved on in everything: not just in football, but about facilities. Next season we’ll have a new stadium and it could be fantastic,” added Pochettino.
“I’ll share my ideas with the club and see how we can improve.”
Holding onto Pochettino despite interest from Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain remains every bit as important as not kowtowing to big bids for the likes of Kane and Alli — as Spurs so often have in their recent past when Madrid came calling for Gareth Bale and Luka Modric.
Another managerial change at Chelsea, meanwhile, now seems an inevitability no matter what comes of their FA Cup run despite Conte’s unconvincing protestations that he “wasn’t worried” about his job.
Chelsea have proved the exception to the widely held rule that stability breeds success.
Conte looks set to be the third coach of the Roman Abramovich era to lose his job a year after winning the Premier League.
However, Abramovich’s cash no longer brings the guarantees it once did.
The booming budgets of Abu-Dhabi backed Manchester City and commercial giants Manchester United, allied to the coaching and cohesion enjoyed by Liverpool and Spurs will make getting back on top tougher than ever for the Russian oligarch’s next appointment.