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CAN SPURS CATCH CHELSEA?

Tottenham

Trailing 1-0 for much of their match with lowly Swansea on Wednesday, it seemed to be a case of "same old Spurs." A loss, or even a draw, would've squandered its position seven points behind Chelsea at the top of the English Premier League, and evaporate any hope of a title race this season.

But there's a distinctly different feel to this Tottenham side. On this day, it dug deep and not only leveled the match late, but scored three times after the 88th minute to go from a 1-0 deficit to a 3-1 win in the span of about six minutes.

Chelsea still has space at the top of the table and rebuilt some confidence by following up a loss to Crystal Palace at the weekend with a 2-1 win over Manchester City. The Blues are still the favorites, though with six consecutive wins, Tottenham is the hottest team in the league.

Spurs suffered a rare defensive lapse on the opener against Swansea, as they were first beaten by a long ball, then turned inside-out in the box as Wayne Routledge finished for the 11th minute goal. As one of the best defensive teams in the league, an early goal put Spurs in unusual territory, attempting to claw from behind for most of the match.

Finally, in the 88th minute, Spurs got their breakthrough. The club was pouring crosses into the box, and eventually one reached Dele Alli at the far post. The sustained pressure was just too much for Swans, and Alli was lost in the mix, allowing him to even the score.

While a draw after trailing for so long would've been a bit of a relief, it might've been cold comfort because of Chelsea's lead. Spurs needed a win, so it kept pushing for one.

In the first minute of stoppage time, Son Hueng-Min scored the winner when a magnificent backheel from Vincent Janssen met him on the run, giving him a perfect window to finish past Lukasz Fabianksi. Christian Eriksen scored a few minutes later to finish off the quick turnaround and get the victory.

But there's still the matter of that seven-point lead for Chelsea at the top of the table. Spurs can be the best team in the world for the final month of the season, but it won't matter if the Blues don't falter. Chelsea threatened to against City on Wednesday, but was able to pull out a 2-1 win.

Eden Hazard scored the opener in the 10th minute with a shot that slashed across the box and into goal. However, about 15 minutes later, City equalized via Sergio Aguero who pounced on the rebound of a Thibaut Courtois save.

City can only blame themselves for the loss, as the match-winning goal came on a deserved penalty from a Fernandinho foul. The midfielder clearly tripped Pedro in the box, allowing Hazard to step to the spot for a try. Despite a save from Willy Caballero, Hazard persisted and buried the rebound for the lead and the eventual 2-1 win.

City had a chance of fighting its way back into the title race if it could've gotten the six-pointer, but the loss put it out of the running. (Also of note, Arsenal is only four points off fourth-place City now after a 3-0 victory against West Ham on Wednesday.) Liverpool also had a slim shot if both Chelsea and Spurs stumbled, but neither of those happened and it also drew 2-2 with Bournemouth, so it's just fighting for top four now.

That leaves Spurs as the only team with any hope of catching Chelsea, and it has to be deeply frustrating that it probably won't happen. Mauricio Pochettino is no doubt on of the best managers in the world these days, and the squads he's coached these past two seasons are two of the best to ever come out of White Hart Lane. And each year, they were upended by a team that seems only slightly better.

Last season, when it became official that Spurs couldn't win the league, the wheels fell off, culminating with a 5-1 loss to relegated Newcastle on the final day of the season, and Tottenham wound up losing second place to Arsenal. Whether Chelsea ever drops points or not, Spurs can't let that happen again. The win over Swansea showed they probably have the mental fortitude to prevent a fiasco like the Newcastle affair from happening again.

But there's still hope for Spurs. At this point, all they can do is keep playing fantastic football, win and hope Chelsea falters. And if they the Blues ever do, Spurs will be ready to pounce.


Cy Brown writes about soccer and other stuff for Sports on Earth. Follow him on Twitter @CEPBrown.

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