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Rediff.com  » Sports » EPL: Spurs keep up Chelsea chase; United punish Boro

EPL: Spurs keep up Chelsea chase; United punish Boro

March 19, 2017 23:19 IST

Spurs beat Southampton to keep up Chelsea chase

Dele Alli of Tottenham Hotspur

IMAGE: Dele Alli of Tottenham Hotspur scores his sides second goal from the penalty spot during the Premier League match. Photograph: Warren Little/Getty Images

Second-placed Tottenham Hotspur kept up the distant chase of Premier League leaders Chelsea with a hard-earned 2-1 victory over Southampton to cut the gap to 10 points on Sunday.

Tottenham coped well without injured 19-goal striker Harry Kane with Christian Eriksen's superb 14th-minute shot putting them ahead before Dele Alli stroked home a first-half penalty.

James Ward-Prowse pulled a goal back after the break but Tottenham held on for a 10th successive home league victory -- their longest run since they won 14 in a row in 1987.

Tottenham's 59 points is their best performance after 28 games of a top-flight season since they won the league and FA Cup double in 1960-61.

Impressive as they are, Tottenham's hopes of reeling in Chelsea look slim although they are seven points above fifth-placed Manchester United and nine ahead of bitter north London rivals Arsenal in the battle for a top-four finish.

"I think it was a great opportunity today," manager Mauricio Pochettino told reporters.

"Yes, you will always miss your main striker but what we can do if he is injured is to win the game and score goals. (It) was fantastic to keep our place in the table."

Questions had been asked about how Tottenham would cope without Kane, who injured his ankle in the 6-0 FA Cup win over Millwall last week, but they were answered after 14 minutes when Mousa Dembele found Eriksen and the Dane looked up and flashed a low shot beyond Fraser Forster.

Southampton striker Manolo Gabbiadini was inches away from an equaliser with a shot that skimmed the side-netting but the Italian limped off shortly afterwards with a groin injury.

As he was trudging off in the 30th minute Dele Alli was fouled in the area by Southampton skipper Steven Davis and Alli picked himself up to stroke home a penalty to put Spurs two up.

It was no cruise though for the hosts as Southampton halved the deficit six minutes after the break when former Saints defender Toby Alderweireld failed to cut out Nathan Redmond's cross and Ward-Prowse prodded a shot past Hugo Lloris.

Tottenham were edgy after that as Southampton sensed a route back in but despite their prodigious work-rate the visitors could not carve out many goalscoring chances.

Substitute Vincent Janssen nearly calmed Tottenham's jitters with a ferocious blast that Forster beat away while at the other end Sofiane Boufal rifled a shot just wide in the last minute.

Manchester United punish struggling Boro despite Mourinho's pessimism

Marouane Fellaini

IMAGE: Marouane Fellaini of Manchester United, right, celebrates with Jesse Lingard after scoring during the Premier League match against Middlesbrough. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images

Manchester United moved up to fifth in the Premier League on Sunday with a 3-1 victory away to struggling Middlesbrough, who sacked manager Aitor Karanka on Thursday.

Jose Mourinho had said his team would "probably lose" because their current fixture congestion would lead to fatigue, but despite missing Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba, Wayne Rooney and Ander Herrera, they counter-attacked well.

Belgium international Marouane Fellaini headed them in front after almost half an hour's play for his first league goal of the season and Jesse Lingard scored the second just after the hour mark from 20 metres.

Boro' substitute Rudy Gestede pulled a goal back with 12 minutes left, but in added time goalkeeper Victor Valdes slipped, allowing Antonio Valencia to score a third United goal.

Middlesbrough, by far the lowest scoring team in the league, have still not won a league game in 2017.

With United going into the game unbeaten in the league since October, there could hardly have been a greater contrast between the two sides' form.

By halftime Mourinho's side had made twice as many chances and taken the lead.

Valdes, after saving with his legs in quick succession, from Rashford and Valencia, was caught in no-man's land when Ashley Young crossed for Fellaini to head home.

It was the Belgian's first in the league since December 2015.

The second goal came from a classic break after regaining possession. The home defence stood off for too long, allowing Lingard to run on and score with a fierce drive from just outside the penalty area.

Boro' did show greater attacking intent than in many games this season and pulled a goal back when Chris Smalling failed to clear and Gestede poked in from close range.

Any hopes of a dramatic recovery were dashed, however, when Valdes fell over lining up a clearance and Valencia was able to walk the ball into an empty net.

Mourinho praised the "attitude and desire" of his players.

"Our guys gave absolutely everything and were magnificent," he told BT Sport.

Victory made United the first club to record 600 wins since the Premier League began in 1992.

They moved to within three points of fourth-placed Liverpool while Boro, who have scored only three league goals this year and 20 all season, remain bottom but one.

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