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Chelsea launch late bid for European football with damaging defeat for Tottenham

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Tottenham’s Champions League hopes were dealt a damaging blow as they fell to a 2-0 Premier League defeat by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Ange Postecoglou’s side were left trailing fourth-placed Aston Villa by seven points and now have just a single game in hand, as goals from Trevoh Chalobah and Nicolas Jackson saw Mauricio Pochettino emerge victorious against his former club to enhance his team’s own chances of qualifying for Europe.

This was far from Spurs at their fluid, swashbuckling best, and rarely did they put serious pressure on a Chelsea backline that had already posted the club’s worst league defensive record in more than 30 years.

Instead, it was Spurs’ rearguard that looked uncertain and frail. First, Chalobah was afforded a clear run at Conor Gallagher’s cross in the first half as Chelsea stole into a deserved lead, then with 18 minutes to go Son Heung-min and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg did little but stand and watch as Jackson pounced when Cole Palmer’s 30-yard free-kick thudded off the underside of the crossbar.

Chelsea climbed to eighth, their highest position since Pochettino was appointed in July and with realistic hope of reaching the Europa League, but Tottenham’s top-four ambition now looks increasingly unlikely.

The hosts had made by far the livelier start. After four minutes, Mykhailo Mudryk placed the ball into the left channel for Jackson darting inside Cristian Romero to chase. Guglielmo Vicario stood up and took the sting off Jackson’s shot, allowing the covering Micky van de Ven to scoop the ball to safety as it inched towards the line.

Noni Madueke, fresh from his goal against Villa on Saturday, went close midway through the half. After skipping infield from the right touchline he stepped across two Spurs defenders and hit a shot that cleared the bar by inches.

Then came the opening goal. Gallagher’s free-kick sailed over everybody, and around the back stole Chalobah, leaping and arching a header high over Vicario and in. VAR checked for offside and for a foul by Marc Cucurella, but the goal stood and Chelsea lead.

The lively Mudryk sent a curling effort fractionally beyond a post as the hosts settled firmly into the ascendency. It had been a strong first half from the Ukrainian, commanding the left side with vision and crisp, clinical deliveries.

Romero got free at the back post from Pedro Porro’s free-kick late in the half but thudded his header wide, then Chalobah dived in to deflect Pape Sarr’s effort behind. They were the clearest openings created by an uncharacteristically blunt Spurs attack.

Chelsea’s Nicolas Jackson was on target against Spurs (John Walton/PA)

For 15 minutes after the break, Postecoglou’s side hemmed Chelsea in their own half, but summoned little in the way of genuine threat. Porro got in down the right and forced Djordje Petrovic to beat the ball away at his near post, a rare sight of goal in a lacklustre display.

James Maddison was summoned from the bench to try and light a Tottenham spark, but Chelsea continued to chase, harry and hound, crowding out what little space opened up in their defensive half.

Instead it was them that put the game to bed. Cucurella was fouled by Dejan Kulusevski 30 yards out, Palmer’s audacious free-kick cracked the bar and Jackson was first on the scene to make it two.

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