Tottenham pass tough Burnley test and leave Turf Moor with all three points and close gap on Chelsea

Chris Brereton
The Independent
Tottenham went within seven points of league leaders Chelsea with nine games remaining: Getty
Tottenham went within seven points of league leaders Chelsea with nine games remaining: Getty

Tottenham's fans sang an obscene ditty following Eric Dier’s calmly-taken opener at Turf Moor and although the words will not be repeated here, the sentiment was entirely valid.

A precis of their thoughts: the Premier League trophy is not heading to Stamford Bridge just yet so Chelsea’s fans should look over their shoulders.

They are right. This victory, and a surprise defeat for Chelsea to Crystal Palace, has helped breathe life back into a Premier League campaign that appeared done and dusted.

There remains a seven-point gap between the leaders and Tottenham but if anybody needs a reminder of football’s ridiculous unpredictability, just take a look at where the current Premier League trophy resides. Anything can still happen this season.

The longer this term has gone on, the more time opposition managers have had to study Burnley and study the best way to try and ensure they leave Turf Moor with a victory.

Only three teams had done it in the league before this encounter began and they followed a familiar theme - soak up early pressure, ignore any bumps and bruises and strike when given half a chance to do so. Spurs did all three with aplomb.

Burnley’s superb home form is the sole reason they have not already packed their bags and headed off back to the Championship and recent results alone again underline how dependent they are on their Turf Moor umbilical for security and safety.

Eric Dier broke the deadlock in the second half (Getty)
Eric Dier broke the deadlock in the second half (Getty)

This was their first home Premier League encounter since drawing with Chelsea 1-1 on February 12. Since then, just two points have been forthcoming from four consecutive fixtures on the road so this return to Lancashire, no matter the opponents, was a chance to arrest that recent wobble.

Pochettino knew then that the home side would look to punch hard, punch first and punch early so set his team up with five at the back for the opening 20 minutes, a tactic that swarmed and silenced Burnley’s attack, such as it was.

This was no classic opening. And that was just how Spurs liked it and wanted it.

Come here, silence the home crowd, snatch the win – Pochettino’s plan was going along nicely. It was then that it started to temporarily unravel.

As the half hour mark came and went without a moment of real note, all of a sudden, Burnley gave Spurs the kind of half-opening they have jumped upon all season.

Heung Min-Son doubled Tottenham's lead from close range (Getty)
Heung Min-Son doubled Tottenham's lead from close range (Getty)

Alli set Christian Eriksen off down the left, he skipped around Ben Mee and hit a low shot that Tom Heaton parried to the feet of Alli, who had continued his run and could not miss an open goal from five yards out.

However, somehow he did, much to his and everybody’s disbelief.

To Burnley’s credit, they took Alli’s missed chance as their cue to actually join in and try and play and they finished the first half as the more direct and threatening side.

Quick-fire injuries to Victor Wanyama and Harry Winks – the latter occurring when he fell into the dugout and smashed his leg against an ice bucket following a tackle on Stephen Ward – certainly inhibited Spurs’ fluency but Sean Dyche’s side could not turn their eagerness into anything more palpable or painful.

Winks was stretchered off the field at half-time with an ankle injury while Pochettino came out and sat in the dugout five minutes before the restart, although he was keen to keep the reasons for that to himself.

Mauricio Pochettino hailed Tottenham's away support at full time (Getty)
Mauricio Pochettino hailed Tottenham's away support at full time (Getty)

In the second half, Spurs looked less inhibited and sharper than the home side and, eventually, they made that count.

After decent chances for Vincent Janssen, Ben Davies and Sissoko were squandered, the pressure the visitors had brought to bear paid off as Dier was quickest to react at a corner, threading home from six yards out after 66 minutes.

Suddenly the shackles were off and Burnley’s much-vaunted solidity in this arena seemed perilously threatened. Spurs skipped along nicely and hurt Burnley further with 12 minutes left as Heung-Min Son easily tapped home a fine pass by Alli to truly secure the win.

“We knew very well how difficult Burnley have made it for other teams here so I give a lot of credit to my team,” Pochettino said after seeing his side pick up all three points. “They battled for every ball – we knew that Burnley are very direct and very physical but we stopped them very good and then in the second half started using the ball.”

Can Spurs catch Chelsea? The task is significant and would be stupendous. Yet here, and while shorn of Harry Kane, they showed that they at least have the mind-set and strength to try. A fascinating denouement awaits.

Burnley: Heaton, Lowton, Keane, Mee, Ward, Boyd (Brady 74), Hendrick, Barton, Arfield (Defour 78), Gray (Vokes 56), Barnes.

Subs not used: Robinson, Flanagan, Westwood, Tarkowski.

Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris, Dier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Trippier, Wanyama (Dembele 44), Winks (Sissoko 45+2), Davies, Eriksen, Alli, Janssen (Son 73).

Subs not used: Vorm, Walker, Nkoudou, Carter-Vickers.

Referee: S Attwell (Warwickshire)

Attendance: 21,684

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