Chelsea’s Streak Ends at 13 With Loss to Tottenham

Dele Alli’s first goal beat Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois late in the first half on Wednesday. Credit Dylan Martinez/Reuters

LONDON — Dele Alli bolstered his growing reputation by putting a stop to Chelsea’s 13-match winning streak, scoring two goals on headers on Wednesday to give Tottenham Hotspur a 2-0 home victory over the Blues, the Premier League leaders.

Defense has been the bedrock of Chelsea’s three-month hot streak, but Alli found space to score nearly identical goals, one in each half, after connecting with crosses from Christian Eriksen.

Alli, 20, who has now scored seven goals in four games, helped hand Chelsea its first loss since its last trip to north London, at Arsenal in September, and prevented the Blues from earning a league-record 14th successive win in a single season.

“This league is very tough,” Chelsea Manager Antonio Conte said. “Now it’s important to restart. After 13 wins in a row, it’s difficult to accept defeat.”

Chelsea still leads Liverpool by 5 points, but Tottenham is now only 7 points behind in third after a fifth successive victory.

“It’s a big statement for us, but we are happy to stay under the radar,” said Alli, whose team had its hopes for its first title since 1961 ended by Chelsea last season.

Conte established the winning run that sent Chelsea to the top of the standings when he switched to a three-man defense, stemming a wave of goals that peaked in a 3-0 first-half collapse at Arsenal in late September.

But the defense is now leaking again, having conceded four goals in the last two matches after letting in only two in the previous 12. Tottenham matched Chelsea’s formation and gave it few chances while proving more cohesive and solid at the back, frustrating the Blues’ forward line.

Alli said, “I didn’t get on the ball as much as I would have liked to.” But he ultimately did not need to.

Tottenham Coach Mauricio Pochettino had described Alli on the eve of the game as the “most important player to emerge in English football in recent years.” Signed two years ago from third-tier Milton Keynes Dons for 5 million pounds (about $8 million at the time), Alli lived up to his manager’s exalted praise on Wednesday with his mastery of the attacking spaces.

Chelsea appeared more likely to score on the counterattack in the first half, but Tottenham used a break to devastating effect just before halftime.

Kyle Walker set up Eriksen, and as the cross floated into the penalty area, Alli, left unmarked between Victor Moses and César Azpilicueta, coolly nodded the ball past goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

Chelsea was assertive at the start of the second half, but Tottenham preserved its lead. Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris blocked a low shot from Diego Costa, and a low header by Eden Hazard was off target. Moses appealed for a penalty kick after he was clipped by Tottenham midfielder Mousa Dembélé, but his pleas were dismissed.

Spurs then punished Chelsea’s porous defending again in the 54th minute, with a replica of the opening goal.

Walker did the running down the right flank before laying the ball off for Eriksen, who picked out Alli between Moses and Azpilicueta. Alli once again found the target from near the back post with his header.

“We were short of the levels we set ourselves, for whatever reason that may be — a few misplaced passes and not moving the ball as quick as we have been,” Chelsea defender Gary Cahill said. “They are a top-quality opposition, and we got punished for being short.”

Source: NYTimes