LONDON — Mousa Dembele believes Tottenham’s newfound maturity was behind Wednesday’s crucial win against Chelsea and says it holds the key to the club’s title chances too.
Dele Alli scored two identical headers as Spurs beat the runaway league leaders 2-0 to blow the title race wide open and end the Blues’ 13-game winning streak, which included a 2-1 win over Spurs at Stamford Bridge in November.
The win moved Spurs seven points behind the Blues, who ended Tottenham’s title chances last season with a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge in May — which confirmed Leicester City as champions.
Before Wednesday’s match, Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino admitted his team needed “bigger”, more experience players last season but Alli, the youngest player on the pitch at White Hart Lane, embodies a more mature Tottenham and he took his two chances clinically.
Asked about the difference to the previous meetings with Chelsea, Dembele told reporters: “We know how they play, we know they have a lot of qualities. It’s not the first time we play this team.
“We played very well last time as well. But now when we scored, we didn’t panic, we kept on playing the ball and wanted to score the second one and that was very important.
“That was the difference between now and then. Last time, and last year as well, we scored and then we changed our game, we tried to play different, we panicked more and today we were very adult, we were relaxed.
“In the past we always had positive feelings because we played well but we didn’t win. I’m happy we changed something, maybe in our mentality and our thinking. It’s another year together, one year more with the manager as well, I think it’s very important.
“Can Spurs catch Chelsea? I never think about this kind of thing. It’s just game by game and with the quality we have we can do whatever we want.
“We proved last year we can do something. We have played very well in the last few games and with the confidence from today we can have a good run and then anything is possible.
“Of course, it was a very important win. We know it was very important for us, I think everybody is happy for that win because if not, it would be very difficult to catch them.
“We are very happy, I think we played well. In the past we always played well against Chelsea and didn’t always have the luck to win but I’m happy we did it.”
Dembele missed the start of the season through suspension after he was hit with a six-match retrospective ban for an eye-gouge on Digeo Costa in the bad-tempered draw in May.
The Belgian has also suffered with a persistent foot problem and a muscle strain, but he is slowly getting back to his best in the heart of Tottenham’s midfield.
“I had some small things and it began already with the suspension. But after all we’re playing well as a team and I’ve been involved as well so I’m happy. I feel good, the team’s playing well and I feel good,” he said.
Dan is ESPN FC’s Tottenham correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Dan_KP.