Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino praised “fighter” Dele Alli for coming through a “tough period” to score two goals as Spurs won at Chelsea for the first time in 28 years.
After Alvaro Morata headed in Victor Moses’ cross to give the hosts the lead, Christian Eriksen hit a stunning equaliser on the stroke of half-time as his dipping effort from 25 yards dropped just under the bar and over a stranded Willy Caballero.
Alli then took centre stage in the second half, putting Tottenham ahead just after the hour mark when he produced a sublime first touch to bring Eric Dier’s ball under control before slotting beyond Caballero.
The England midfielder was well-placed four minutes later to stab in following a goalmouth scramble and wrap up a win that moves fourth-placed Tottenham eight points clear of Chelsea, who are fifth.
It was also the perfect response by Alli after a disappointing couple of weeks with England on international duty.
He failed to make an impact in a 22-minute substitute appearance in the 1-0 win against the Netherlands and was then left on the bench for the 1-1 draw with Italy.
“I’m very, very pleased,” said Pochettino. “It’s been a tough period for him, but for no doubt about his talent, his character. He’s a fighter; very competitive.
“If he doesn’t play for the international team he needs to fight and win trust and confidence again.
“In the end, he’s a great talent, only 21 years old, and sometimes we lose the focus on that.
“Sometimes the expectation is too much. There is too much pressure.”
Chelsea full-back Marcos Alonso described this London derby as a ‘must-win game’ beforehand and it was hard to disagree, given the consequences for Champions League qualification.
Meanwhile Arsene Wenger feels Arsenal’s failure to mount a title challenge was the main reason for another sparse crowd as three late goals saw them beat relegation-threatened Stoke.
The Gunners were booed off at half-time at Emirates Stadium after seeing Aaron Ramsey clip the crossbar with their only clear chance of the first 45 minutes.
But Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s penalty broke the deadlock after a disputed foul by Bruno Martins Indi on Mesut Ozil, before the Gabon striker fired home from an Ozil corner.
Danny Murphy says referee was wrong to ‘guess’ on penalty
Aubameyang then passed up the chance to claim a hat-trick after Badou Ndiaye’s push on substitute Alexandre Lacazette, who converted the penalty for a scoreline that flattered the Gunners.
Arsenal, who host CSKA Moscow in the Europa League next, remain 13 points outside the Premier League’s top four and Wenger understands why there were scores of empty seats.
“It’s just down to the fact that we’re not fighting for the championship,” he said. “People know that will not change now. They will be back on Thursday, don’t worry.
“It’s explainable by the fact that it’s Easter. It’s a family happening where people go away and it’s a fact that we don’t think about a lot in the Premier League. There’s also the fact that we had a break.”
Despite having 17 days between matches – a result of the international break and being out of the FA Cup – Arsenal looked laboured in possession before showing greater urgency after the break.
Stoke did hit the woodwork through Xherdan Shaqiri’s second-half corner but the hosts were in the ascendancy when the first penalty was awarded. However, replays showed that Martins Indi appeared to get his left foot to the ball before catching Ozil from behind.