The most damaging part for Chelsea, suffering their first league defeat since losing against Arsenal at the end of September, has nothing to do with it stopping them establishing a record in the Premier League era of 14 successive wins in a single season. It would have been a nice one to chalk up, but a team with their ambitions will be far more distressed about what it means for the league table and the confidence it might give Tottenham Hotspur, seven points back, to think they can still play a considerable part in the title race.
Dele Alli’s goals certainly ought to encourage Spurs on a night when their supporters endured opposition songs poking fun that they “won the league in black and white”, referring to the fact that the last time the team from White Hart Lane finished as champions was back in 1961. Alli scored one at the end of the first half and another early in the second period. Both were headers and the England international has managed two goals in each of his past three games.
Alli is in the best scoring form of his life and his latest brace was the most important of the lot given its impact on the top four and the braking effect it had on the league leaders, arriving here with their chests puffed out after 13 wins in a row.
It still counts as a remarkable feat even if that will be little consolation as they reflect on a sapping night against one of the teams they find it particularly difficult to lose to. Chelsea have tended to have easily the better of these encounters: this was their fifth defeat out of 50 Premier League meetings. Yet Spurs, lest it be forgotten, were high on confidence on the back of their own productive run of form.
They have now won five successive league fixtures. Their prize is to go third and push Arsenal down to fifth, and Mauricio Pochettino can reflect on a hugely satisfying evening’s work bearing in mind his switch to a 3-4-2-1 formation, deliberately set up to nullify Chelsea’s wing-back system.
It was strangely meek from Chelsea given there was still time to save themselves and it was out of character, too, given there were other parts of the match when it was clear to see the competitive qualities that had helped them reach the league’s summit.
It was a spiky, absorbing contest, simmering with occasional tensions and passing reminders about the sporting enmity and lingering bad feeling from that wild and infamous encounter at Stamford Bridge last May. Alli will dominate the headlines but Victor Wanyama was the outstanding performer. Harry Kane found it difficult to get away from Gary Cahill but Alli now has seven goals in his past four games.
Spurs were seldom threatened once Alli’s second header went in and they will miss these loud, triumphant nights when this stadium changes forever.