Tottenham Hotspurs’ title hopes took a massive hit as West Ham edged the Lilywhites 1-0 in their English Premier League encounter thanks to a 65th-minute strike from Manuel Lanzini at the London Stadium on Friday.
With Chelsea playing Middlesbrough on Monday night, the Lilywhites had the perfect opportunity to cut the gap to a solitary point and amp the pressure on the leaders.
Knowing that nothing but a win would do, Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino sent out his best-possible XI, with right-back Kyle Walker returning to the line up after recovering from injury.
On the back of nine consecutive wins, the visitors were the heavy favourites going into the tie, but as the match started, it was Slaven Bilic’s side that looked stronger.
Lanzini flashed a cross-shot just wide of Hugo Lloris’ post early on, after being unmarked inside the box as it became obvious the Hammers were not on the pitch to just make up the numbers.
Spurs could only fashion one clear-cut chance, but West Ham keeper Adrian was equal to first, Harry Kane’s shot from distance and then, managed to tip over the rebound from the in-form striker to keep the scoreline level.
Lanzini was to have one more opportunity to open the scoring before the break when Mark Noble’s through ball found him in acres of space but Lloris was quick off his line and made a vital block with his knee to deny the Argentine.
Spurs began the second half brighter than they had the first, but Adrian was in inspired form on the night as the denied Son Heung-min after the visitors had countered with pace.
Finally, the goal came but much to the chagrin of the travelling Spurs supporters, it was the hosts who who found the net, albeit in scrappy circumstances. Aaron Cresswell’s cross from the left had been pushed back across goal and as Spurs failed to clear the danger, Lanzini arrived to apply a sumptuous finish from inside the six-yard box.
Toby Alderweireld was having a rare off day at the office and was caught in possession inside his own box but Lloris bailed him out with a fine save to deny Jonathan Calleri.
For a change West Ham were well-organised in defence and limited Spurs to shots from distance, with Christian Eriksen going close towards the end of full-time but apart from that, the visitors were unable to trouble Adrian in the second period.
With the result, Spurs remain in second place on 77 points, four behind Chelsea and if the title-race was fading after the Blues thumping of Everton last weekend, it is effectively over now.
West Ham climb into the top half of the table after their richly-deserved win, on 42 points and while the season has not been anywhere as good as expected, perhaps the result can save Bilic’s job in the summer.