Chelsea took a significant step towards the Premier League title on Sunday with victory at Everton but Tottenham ensured the champagne will stay on ice for a bit longer with an impressive 2-0 win over Arsenal.
As well as the engrossing fight for the title the battle for the two remaining Champions League places has become a real dogfight — Arsenal missing a chance to make up ground on the two Manchester clubs, who both stumbled on Sunday against relegation candidates.
Second-half goals by Dele Alli and Harry Kane, from the penalty spot, sealed the three points and ensured that Spurs will finish above their North London rivals Arsenal for the first time in 22 years.
But whether Spurs will ever hunt down relentless Chelsea is another matter, with just four games left and Chelsea still four points clear, and with an easier run-in.
“I am so pleased. It was a very important game and it was a complete performance,” Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino told the BBC.
“The race for the title is down to four points and we will see what will happen.
“To be above Arsenal for the first time in 22 years is fantastic for our fans. it is fantastic for us too, but we want to win the title.”
A superb second-half strike by Pedro and late goals from Gary Cahill and Willian ended Everton’s run of eight successive home wins and had piled the pressure on Spurs, who were playing afterwards.
Chelsea took time to settle but once Pedro scored their opener — his first goal in nine matches — the floodgates opened and they ran out 3-0 winners.
“This gives us lots of confidence,” manager Antonio Conte told Sky Sports. “Now it is important to prepare the final rush.
“If in the next game against Middlesbrough you don’t win, you lose this victory. We must look step by step.”
– ‘Huge result’ –
Cahill’s eighth goal of the season and Willian’s beautifully worked third inflicted only Everton’s second home defeat of the season.
“It was convincing but we had to work hard for it,” Cahill told Sky Sports, sensing this might be the win that delivers the title in Conte’s first season at Chelsea.
“Pedro’s goal was special, at times you need a bit of class to open up a team, that’s what he did today. I’m buzzing with that, it’s a huge result for us.”
City had to come from behind twice to draw 2-2 at Middlesbrough and United drew 1-1 at home to Swansea on a bad day for the Manchester giants.
City relied on 20-year-old striker Gabriel Jesus to secure them a point in the final five minutes of their game against a Boro side scenting back-to-back wins in the Premier League for the first time since May 2008.
“We controlled the game and missed so many chances,” Jesus told Premier League Productions.
“Today’s result is disappointing but at least we have a point.”
Arsenal’s defeat in the last North London derby at White Hart Lane leaves manager Arsene Wenger’s proud record of qualifying for the Champions League in real trouble.
They are sixth, five points behind United and six behind City in fourth, although the Londoners have a game in hand on both.
Only the top four get into the Champions League.
Liverpool, the other team in the mix, travel to Watford on Monday looking to cement third spot.
– Wenger unimpressed –
Wenger — whose future at Arsenal is mired in doubt — gave credit to Spurs for deserving to beat them but was unimpressed by the fact that the Gunners would finish below their rivals for the first time in his long tenure.
“Mathematically it has to happen once,” Wenger told Sky Sports.
“We are not happy with it but we don’t compare ourselves to Spurs, we compare ourselves to where we want to be.”
A sublime free-kick by Icelandic international Gylfi Sigurdsson gained Swansea a deserved point against United at Old Trafford and dented Jose Mourinho’s hopes of breaking into the top four.
Sigurdsson’s 10th goal of the season, but first in 11 matches, cancelled out veteran Wayne Rooney’s contentious penalty in time added on in the first half when Marcus Rashford made the most out of minimal contact with Swans goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski.