LONDON – With less than a month of the Premier League season left, it remains Chelsea’s title to lose but Tottenham Hotspur defiantly stayed in contention by grinding out a 1-0 victory at Crystal Palace on Wednesday.
Chelsea’s already profitable week looked like getting a whole lot better as Palace doggedly kept Tottenham at bay for 78 minutes, but Christian Eriksen’s unstoppable blast meant it is once again looking over its shoulder.
With five games remaining, Chelsea, which beat Tottenham in the F.A. Cup semi-final on Saturday and Southampton in the league on Tuesday, both by 4-2 scorelines, leads Tottenham by four points.
Chelsea faces Everton on Sunday at Goodison Park, while Tottenham takes on north London rival Arsenal — probably the last one ever at their historic White Hart Lane stadium.
“It was good to get the three points and be alive in the race for the title,” Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino, aiming to deliver a first title since 1961, said.
“The challenge is to keep going.”
Arsenal was also in action on Wednesday, keeping alive its hopes of finishing in the top four for a 21st successive season with a crucial 1-0 victory over Leicester City courtesy of Robert Huth’s late own goal.
Huth deflected in Nacho Monreal’s volley in the 86th minute to earn a win, which put the Gunners sixth, above Everton, three points behind Manchester United and four points behind fourth-place Manchester City. United faces City on Thursday.
“Every win gives you a little more momentum. I don’t have a preference for the Manchester derby, we don’t have to look much at the others,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. “We just have to look after ourselves. The target is clear for us.”
Sunderland’s 10-year stay in the top flight will end this weekend if it loses to Bournemouth and Hull City takes a point from its trip to Southampton.
That gloomy prospect arose after it was beaten 1-0 by Middlesbrough in a dismal basement derby on Wednesday.
Boro also look destined for the drop but Marten de Roon’s early winner at least gives it hope.
“I think all we do now is we remain focused for the game on Sunday against Manchester City,” Boro manager Steve Agnew said of his side, which is six points behind 17th-place Hull.
All eyes were on Tottenham to see if it would buckle under the pressure against a Palace side that had won six of its last eight in the league to move toward safety, including against leader Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and Liverpool at Anfield.
Lacking the fluency it had displayed in winning seven consecutive league games in which it scored 22 goals and kept four clean sheets, Tottenham was sloppy on occasions.
But it refused to panic and kept grafting away before Eriksen produced a moment of magic — sending a dipping low shot past Wayne Hennessey to send a clear message to Chelsea.
With 74 points — a new club record in the Premier League — Tottenham look virtually guaranteed a top-four finish but it is clearly not finished yet.
“We are thinking of bigger things than finishing above Arsenal,” Pochettino said afterward.