Manuel Lanzini left Tottenham’s Premier League title challenge in tatters as the West Ham forward sealed a 1-0 win that put Chelsea within touching distance of being crowned champions.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side paid the price for a lethargic display at the London Stadium and Lanzini’s second half strike may well have ended their hopes of winning the title for the first time since 1961.
Second placed Tottenham remain four points behind leaders Chelsea, who can extend that advantage to seven if they beat struggling Middlesbrough at Stamford Bridge on Monday.
Tottenham don’t play again until they host Manchester United on May 14 and by then Chelsea, who travel to West Bromwich Albion two days earlier, may already be champions.
Chelsea need six points from their last four games to secure the English title in boss Antonio Conte’s first season in charge.
Conte hadn’t planned to watch Tottenham’s fate, preferring to go out for dinner with his wife and daughter, but if he was checking for updates from Stratford his dessert would have tasted even sweeter.
“The performance was not the best. We were a little bit sloppy when we conceded the goal,” Pochettino said after Tottenham’s first defeat in 10 league games.
“It’s disappointing. It’s not over, but now we have to wait. It’s true it will be difficult to catch Chelsea.”
After a troubled first year at their new stadium, this was a sweet moment for West Ham, who guaranteed their top-flight status for another year while delivering a potentially fatal blow to their hated rivals.
After a week of reports claiming Kyle Walker could leave Tottenham following a clash with Pochettino over his recent demotion to the bench, the England right-back was restored to the starting line-up in place of Kieran Trippier.
But, foreshadowing the anguish ahead, Walker’s return almost got off to an embarrassing start when Andre Ayew’s pass found Lanzini in space negligently left vacant by the Tottenham defender.
Fortunately for Walker, Lanzini dragged his shot harmlessly wide from a tight angle when a pass to Jonathan Calleri might have been the wiser option.
Tottenham’s success has been built on the league’s best defensive record, but there was more concern for the visitors when Cheikhou Kouyate easily found space for a header straight at Hugo Lloris.
After a tepid start, Tottenham should have taken the lead midway through the first half when Harry Kane’s 20-yard strike was pushed out by Adrian.
Dele Alli’s follow-up was blocked back to Kane on the edge of the area and the Tottenham striker looked certain to score, yet once again he was denied as Adrian’s out-stretched leg deflected it over.