Tottenham Hotspur’s exhilarating Premier League title surge came to a shuddering halt as they lost 1-0 at West Ham United on Friday to leave Chelsea needing six points from four games to be crowned champions.
At the former London Olympic Stadium made famous by the likes of Mo Farah and Usain Bolt, a 10th successive league win for Tottenham would have put them one point behind Chelsea but they stumbled over one of their final hurdles.
Manuel Lanzini’s scruffy 65th-minute goal sparked an East End party, and celebrations over in west London too, as West Ham guaranteed survival with only a second win in 12 games.
Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham dominated possession for long periods but never reached the levels that had raised hopes of a first title since 1961.
Chelsea can open up a seven-point lead with victory over relegation-threatened Middlesbrough on Monday and would then clinch the title before Tottenham play again if they win at West Bromwich Albion next Friday.
“It is not over. It is true that it will be difficult... to catch Chelsea,” Pochettino told reporters. “Maybe we were a little desperate tonight after they scored.
“Today was a key moment and one of those moments where if you are going to win a title you have to win.”
Just over a year ago West Ham put a spoke in the wheel of Tottenham’s title challenge with a 1-0 win at Upton Park when victory would have put Spurs level with Leicester City.
The Hammers, who have endured a mediocre season at their new home, raised their game again with a hard-working display.
Tottenham, for all their controlled passing, struggled to penetrate West Ham’s rearguard. Even when they did home keeper Adrian frustrated them with some fine saves.
Twice he denied Harry Kane in the space of a few seconds midway through the first half and he also reacted well to keep out an Eric Dier header.
Son Heung-Min went closest to breaking the deadlock for Tottenham in the second half but West Ham were always dangerous and Lanzini, wasteful with a first-half chance, delivered what could be knockout blow to Tottenham’s title hopes.
On a rare foray forward West Ham’s Aaron Cresswell crossed from the right and with Tottenham’s defence dithering, the ball squirmed to Lanzini who smashed past Hugo Lloris.
West Ham kept Tottenham at arm’s length once they went ahead and the final whistle sparked scenes of jubilation around the ground as the hosts moved up to ninth with 42 points.
“Tonight was great in terms of character and determination but to beat a team like Spurs you need also quality,” West Ham manager Slaven Bilic, whose future has been under a cloud, told reporters.
“We showed that in the second half and perhaps deserved to score another goal. Friday night, lights, 60,000 against them, you can’t beat that feeling.”