Tottenham and Chelsea both suffered a setback in their quest for a place in the top four, with Spurs paying the price for a goalkeeping error and the Blues slipping against Nottingham Forest.
Antonio Conte admitted Tottenham face a battle to finish in the top four of the Premier League after a costly mistake by Hugo Lloris doomed the north Londoners to a damaging 2-0 defeat by Aston Villa on Sunday.
Tottenham goalkeeper Lloris, playing Argentina for the first time since France lost in the World Cup final, found a weak save from a Douglas Luiz shot early in the second half and Emiliano Buendia lunged to put Villa ahead.
Lloris was left on the bench for Tottenham’s draw against Brentford on December 26 while resting after France’s agonizing final defeat in Qatar.
The 36-year-old, who conceded three times against Argentina before France lost on penalties, might have wished he had had more time to recover after his blunder against Villa.
Brazil midfielder Luiz scored Villa’s second goal in the closing stages, leaving Conte’s side berated by frustrated fans at Tottenham Hotspur.
Tottenham had hoped the first Premier League game of 2023 would serve to qualify them for next season’s Champions League via a top-four result.
Instead, they suffered a New Year’s hangover as Villa punished a lethargic performance in midfield.
Fifth-placed Tottenham have not won both games since the World Cup break, a dip in form that has allowed fourth-placed Manchester United to climb two points ahead of them.
“We understand very well that the league will be really difficult for us,” said Conte.
“I want to be honest, I want to be very clear. I said that to the club, I said my opinion.
“The fans deserve the best. Maybe staying in 5th place is for the best. Maybe 6th, 7th, 5th or 4th is the best.” Claiming Tottenham lack the creative quality to break down defensive opponents like Villa, Conte said: “We found a team that defends too deep , and then we conceded the first goal.
“I’m sure if we don’t concede the goal we could win the game. The goal we conceded killed us with confidence.
“We don’t have many players who are really good to beat the man. We don’t have many creative players on our team.”
To add insult to injury for Tottenham, it was former Arsenal boss Unai Emery who spelled Villa’s success on his return to north London.
Villa manager Emery, who was sacked by Arsenal in 2019, has now won three of his four Premier League games since replacing the sacked Steven Gerrard in November.
No player has scored more Premier League goals on New Year’s Day than Harry Kane’s five.
But the Tottenham striker was denied another earlier in the year when he nodded Ivan Perisic’s cross towards goal only to see Ashley Young clear off the line with an agile header.
Although Tottenham dominated possession for a long time, they failed to break through.
Villa hit her with a sucker punch five minutes after half-time when Lloris’ error allowed the visitors to take the lead.
Luiz’ long-range shot didn’t have the power to hit Lloris but the keeper couldn’t save it and Ollie Watkins lunged at the loose ball and flicked it to Buendia, who found the net from 10 yards.
It was the seventh consecutive Premier League game in which Tottenham conceded their first goal.
Perisic failed to capitalize on a golden opportunity to equalize when he fired over from a Son free-kick while Kane missed a good chance from inside the box.
Spared from those errors, Villa delivered the knockout blow in the 73rd minute. John McGinn’s superb pass split Tottenham’s defense and Luiz took a touch before delivering a clinical finish past Lloris.
The pressure on Potter increases as more points are lost
Chelsea’s faltering Premier League season took a turn for the worse as Serge Aurier’s equalizer handed the modest Nottingham Forest a 1-1 draw on Sunday.
Raheem Sterling put Chelsea ahead in the first half of their opening game in 2023 at the City Ground.
But Ivory Coast right-back Aurier equalized after the break and Chelsea were lucky enough to walk away without an embarrassing defeat after Forest dominated for much of the second half.
Chelsea are eighth after failing to win for the sixth time in seven league games.
The Blues are seven points behind fourth-placed Manchester United in the race to qualify for the Champions League via a top-four finish.
Just months after replacing the sacked Thomas Tuchel, Chelsea boss Graham Potter is beginning to come under fire as early optimism after his move from Brighton begins to wane.
Chelsea’s 2-0 win over Bournemouth on Boxing Day should give hope for a better year in 2023.
But while it’s certainly too early for Potter to worry about losing the first high-pressure job of his career, the 47-year-old needs a boost in results in the new year lest Chelsea chairman Todd Boehly be put in an awkward position .
Forest are third from bottom after winning just three games all season but boss Steve Cooper will be emboldened by how his side rocked Chelsea in the second half.
The only dark cloud for Forest has been the allegedly homophobic chants from home fans, which have been condemned by LGBTQ groups.
Brennan Johnson threatened an early goal for Forest as he sprinted past Marc Cucurella and Thiago Silva, but Kepa Arrizabalaga saved his teammates’ blush with a good save.
If that was a stroke of luck for Chelsea, Potter’s side enjoyed an even greater stroke of luck when they took the lead in the 16th minute.
Christian Pulisic’s cross to Kai Havertz was deflected off Forest defender Willy Boly’s outstretched foot, the ball landing over the crossbar and bouncing perfectly at unmarked Sterling to smash home from close range.
It was Sterling’s first league goal since August and only the sixth in all competitions for the England striker since joining from Manchester City on the break of the season.
After his World Cup campaign with England was cut short when he had to fly home when gunmen broke into his family’s home, Sterling is hopeful a difficult season will take a turn for the better.
Cesar Azpilicueta’s long-range shot was deflected wide by Forest’s Renan Lodi before Pulisic fired straight at Dean Henderson as Chelsea chased a second goal before half-time.
But Chelsea’s first-half dominance quickly waned after the break. Kepa saved Chelsea with an excellent save after Johnson accelerated onto Morgan Gibbs-White’s pass and fired a sharp shot.
Chelsea were on the ropes and Gibbs-White was inches from equalizing when he hit Ryan Yates’ pass with a well-timed shot that shot off the bar and bounced to safety.
After Chelsea were oddly subdued in the second half, Forest’s pressure paid off in the 63rd minute.
Boly passed Pulisic and headed a corner to Aurier, who controlled deftly on his chest before volleying Kepa through the legs from five yards out.
Aurier’s first goal for Forest since joining from Villarreal in September left Chelsea reeling.
Potter sent on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Hakim Ziyech and Conor Gallagher but Yates could have won it for Forest when he scraped just wide.
Aubameyang’s disappointing game at Chelsea hit a new low as the Gabon striker headed wide with a close-range header and Pulisic was in a better position to convert Ziyech’s cross.
https://www.codesports.com.au/football/english-premier-league/premier-league-wrap-tottenham-and-chelseas-topfour-hopes-both-take-a-hit/news-story/f8727858d4e29a88c594c7a1c7875304?nk=f71e069f9a1c343597e461164453baeb-1672606626 Premier League: Aston Villa beat Tottenham while Chelsea drew with Nottingham Forest