LONDON, United Kingdom, Apr 27 –Christian Eriksen reignited Tottenham’s bid to catch Premier League leaders Chelsea as the Dane’s late blast sealed a vital 1-0 win against Crystal Palace on Wednesday.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side were well below their best for long periods at Selhurst Park, but Eriksen came to the rescue in dramatic fashion with 12 minutes left.
His sumptuous long-range strike closed the gap on Chelsea to four points after their title rivals had moved seven points clear with a win over Southampton 24 hours earlier.
With five games remaining, Tottenham remain in the hunt to be crowned champions for the first time since 1961 as they look to avenge Sunday’s agonising FA Cup semi-final defeat against Chelsea by pipping them to the title.
Pochettino will hope his players are revitalised by their eighth successive league win, but the Tottenham boss must know they have to improve to beat Arsenal in Sunday’s crucial north London derby.
After defeating Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool recently, Palace deserved better than defeat here, although they should still be safe from relegation.
Recognising the weakness that Chelsea exploited so ruthlessly, Pochettino dropped Son Heung-Min and recalled Ben Davies after his experiment with using the South Korea forward out of position at left wing-back failed at Wembley.
Despite that change, it wasn’t easy for Tottenham to erase the scars of their semi-final collapse.
When Eriksen worked space for a shot, the winger’s hurried effort sailed wide and Victor Wanyama fared no better with a wayward strike from an acute angle.
Those bungled early raids foreshadowed a subdued half from Tottenham as they struggled to rebuild their shaken confidence.
Faced with a supremely organised Palace side with the pace and power to hurt them on the counter, Pochettino’s men looked fatigued mentally and physically.
Christian Benteke threatened to bludgeon the visitors into submission when the muscular Palace striker tested Hugo Lloris with a low strike.
Anxiety was afflicting every decision Tottenham took and when a weak clearance fell to Kyle Walker in space inside the penalty area, the defender wastefully volleyed high over the bar.
Already on a booking, Wanyama was fortunate to escape a red card after catching Andros Townsend with a sliding tackle.
– Bolt from the blue –
Townsend was proving a thorn in his old team’s side and the winger fired just over after a clever turn took him past the Tottenham defence.
Desperate to ignite his punchless side, Pochettino sent on Son and Moussa Sissoko at half-time to give Tottenham an extra man in midfield and the changes gradually had a positive effect.
Just as significantly, Mamadou Sakho, who had been imperious at the heart of the Palace defence, was carried off early in the second half after his knee twisted awkwardly when he stretched to tackle Harry Kane.
Tottenham should have taken immediate advantage of Sakho’s absence when Walker’s cross picked out Alli’s well-timed run, but the midfielder guided his shot wide from close-range.
Alli produced a more accurate effort moments later, yet it lacked the power to beat Wayne Hennessey and when Kane headed straight at the Palace keeper soon after it appeared Tottenham were destined to be frustrated.
But Eriksen had other ideas and the Dane snatched the winner with a bolt from the blue in the 78th minute.
Dropping deep to take possession, Kane teed up Eriksen and, as Palace backed off, he unleashed a precise low 25-yard strike that fizzed past the slow to react Hennessey and sparked wild celebrations from Pochettino and his players.