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ANDY DUNN: Spurs still in there swinging after absorbing Chelsea’s Goodison ‘KO’ blow then battering Arsenal

Date Posted,April 30, 2017

The blow landed from the heavyweight in the blue corner, flush on the chin, in the form of crushing triumph at Goodison Park.

Did the opponent across the title ring wobble? Did legs buckle? Was a backward step taken?

No, no and no.

Forget the formal confirmation of Tottenham ’s standing above Arsenal in the league rankings, that has long been a certainty.

Put aside for a moment the prospect of Spurs moving to within breath-on-neck distance of Chelsea on Friday night if they beat West Ham.

Sunday’s 2-0 win in the North London derby was a statement performance, a statement result.

Maybe not in terms of style, maybe not in terms of panache — Dele Alli’s opener a scrambled eyesore, Harry Kane’s penalty a slyly-won sealer — but it was a statement performance in terms of ruthlessness, in terms of physical dominance, in terms of clear-thinking and strong mentality.

Alli’s opener certainly won’t win Goal of the Month — ask Spurs fans if they care (Photo: AFP)
Just two minutes after it became 1-0, Kane made it 2-0 from the penalty spot (Photo: Action Images via Reuters)

All over the outfield, Tottenham players won their individual battles.

Only keeper Petr Cech could face the television camera post-match. No wonder.

Alli and Kane were the names bellowing around White Hart Lane in the last derby at this version of Spurs’ home ground, but this was a triumph for the collective, the occasionally unsung.

Take Victor Wanyama, for example.

He bestrode this contest with a chest-puffing belter of a performance, intelligence infused with intimidation, timing twinned with tenacity, even wrapping his right boot around a peachy curling effort.

Then there was Jan Vertonghen, whose sense of adventure without abdication of responsibilities sums up a side who have now won nine league games on the spin, a feat Spurs last achieved back in 1960.

Vertonghen was another to give Cech the opportunity to prove the sun is not setting on his elite landscape as quickly as some might imagine.

Pochettino’s driven, committed side were better than Arsenal all over the pitch (Photo: Getty)

To single out Wanyama and Vertonghen, though, to single out anyone in fact, would be to do this Tottenham unit a disservice. No-one hides, no-one looks anything but driven to the maximum.

Which brings you on to Arsenal…

As scapegoats go, saunter nonchalantly forward Mesut Ozil.

Yes, his wandering life on the periphery is a magnetic pull for criticism, but there were others as culpable.

Has there been a more costly liability than Granit Xhaka?

Is Gabriel really Brazilian?

Was Olivier Giroud playing with lead in his shorts?

Does anyone moan at their team-mates more than Alexis Sanchez?

Spurs can spend next weekend a point behind Chelsea, who don’t play until the Monday (Photo: Getty)

Again, it was only Cech, or Laurent Koscielny perhaps, who emerged with any great credit and the former should have been powerless to stop Spurs taking a first half advantage.

Instead, Alli flinched at Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s presence when presented with a header and open goal from a couple of yards and Christian Eriksen surprised the whole stadium when sending a volley into the stands from not much further out.

Setbacks for Alli are few and far between and amends followed soon after the break.

All sorts of defensive hesitancy allowing Eriksen to drill a shot at Cech and the spillage was seized on by Alli, despite a selection of red shirts milling around.

A couple of minutes later, the own-foot-shooting Gabriel offered a leg to Kane, contact ensued and Michael Oliver trusted the Spurs man rather than the Arsenal one.

Kane, slightly sheepishly, gathered up the ball and, rather more bullishly, tucked it away.

Game well and truly over.

Arsenal could have some complaints about the penalty award, but not Sunday’s result (Photo: Action Images via Reuters)

Arsene Wenger had a hint of a point afterwards when he suggested it was pretty tight until that two-goal burst, but the truth is his team never looked remotely strong enough to win this match.

Indeed, despite some late territorial advantage, they did not really create a chance of any significant note.

That, more than finishing below Spurs for the first time since 1995, should really concern Wenger.

As for Mauricio Pochettino, he was relishing the fight at the top, itching to get off the stool for the next round.

Chelsea are landing blows, but Spurs are still swinging.

Ding, ding! Seconds out.

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