Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino has warned leaders Chelsea that his side’s Premier League title charge is very much alive after securing a priceless victory over in-form Crystal Palace.
With Spurs struggling to break down a disciplined Palace, playmaker Christian Eriksen netted a crucial goal, his 12th of the season, deep into the second period to seal a potentially pivotal win.
Their triumph cut Chelsea’s lead at the summit to four points with Sunday’s north London derby the next hurdle for second-placed Tottenham, while Chelsea face Everton at Goodison Park earlier in the day.
“It was a big challenge for us to try to win, get the three points and be alive in the race for the title,” said Pochettino.
“The challenge is to keep going and now we must recover. It’s always better when you win but it is true that it is now a big derby, maybe the last at White Hart Lane. It will be a very exciting game.”
Maximum points would have propelled Palace into the top half, although defeat was only their second in nine matches and left the Eagles 12th. Manager Sam Allardyce cited a day’s less rest compared to Tottenham for the setback.
“It was an outstanding team effort by the players, who had less time to recover against an exceptionally good side,” said Allardyce, who expects centre-half Mamadou Sakho to be sidelined for a “considerable length of time” after the Liverpool loanee sustained a knee injury.
“We gave Tottenham a hell of a game in the first half, nip and tuck, but of course it would happen that we would tire given the lack of recovery time compared to Tottenham.”
Spurs entered the clash on the back of seven successive league wins, their best sequence since 1967, but failed to impose themselves in a tepid first-half of few clear-cut chances.
Palace, themselves on a superb run of form after dispatching Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool since the beginning of April, were rocked by an injury to defender Sakho, who was stretchered off early in the second period.
Spurs wasted a presentable opportunity shortly before the hour mark as Kyle Walker’s centre to the back post was met by Dele Alli, only for the England midfielder to fire across Wayne Hennessey’s goal and wide of the far post.
The visitors were struggling to unlock a robust Palace defence but Eriksen conjured a winner – Tottenham’s 100th goal of the season – and clinically lashed a dipping 30-yard effort beyond Hennessey with 12 minutes remaining.