Tottenham Hotspur revived their bid for Champions League soccer by returning to the top four of the Premier League with a 2-0 win over relegation-threatened Blackburn Rovers on Sunday.
Rafael van der Vaart struck in the 22nd minute, before Kyle Walker’s brilliant free-kick 15 minutes from time sealed Tottenham’s victory at White Hart Lane as Harry Redknapp’s men won for just the second time in 10 league games.
Spurs returned to fourth place by virtue of a better goal-difference than Newcastle United, while Chelsea — 6-1 winners over Queens Park Rangers earlier on Sunday — are a point behind them.
Fourth place would secure Tottenham a preliminary qualifying spot in next season’s Champions League, provided Chelsea do not win this season’s final against Bayern Munich on May 19.
Spurs took the lead in the 22nd minute when Dutch international Van der Vaart pounced on a rebound after Gareth Bale’s header came back off the bar.
Tottenham, who had won just once in their previous nine games, sealed victory 15 minutes from time when Walker curled in a spectacular long-range free-kick.
Blackburn — who did not manage a shot on target — were left second from bottom and three points from safety with two games remaining.
“I thought we played ever so well,” Tottenham manager Redknapp told the BBC. “[The battle for fourth] is going to be close and tight. You can’t see Chelsea losing, they are playing great. We have got two tough away games at Bolton and Villa, and then Fulham at home. It’s going to be interesting.”
Blackburn boss Steve Kean insisted his side can avoid the drop.
“What we need now is two massive performances [against Wigan and Chelsea],” Kean said. “We are certainly still in it. Of course, we have got belief. There have been many times this season when people have written us off and we have to do that again.”
Earlier, Fernando Torres scored his first Chelsea hat-trick as the Blues overwhelmed west London rivals QPR.
Torres scored twice in a first half that saw Chelsea 4-0 up in the 25th minute at Stamford Bridge, with Daniel Sturridge taking just 46 seconds to open the scoring and Chelsea captain John Terry on target as well.
Spain striker Torres completed his treble in the 64th minute and Florent Malouda made it 6-0 in the 80th minute, before Djibril Cisse scored for QPR six minutes from time.
The defeat left QPR above the relegation zone on goal-difference alone.
“I am very happy. I knew if I worked hard the goals would come,” said Torres, who has struggled for much of his 15 months at Chelsea since his British record ￡50 million (US$81 million) move from Liverpool.
For Chelsea, who overcame the handicap of having Terry sent off to record a remarkable 2-2 draw away to European champions Barcelona on Tuesday last week that saw them into the Champions League final, the win capped a memorable week.
It also set them up in style for tomorrow’s match against Newcastle United, which precedes Chelsea’s FA Cup final clash against Liverpool at Wembley on Saturday.
“Hopefully, a number of results will go for us and maybe the damage isn’t critical in terms of goal-difference,” said QPR manager Mark Hughes, a former Chelsea striker, who put a brave face on the defeat ahead of Sunday’s match at home against Stoke City. “We’ve got a huge game next week, which we need to get maximum points out of and we’ve got to be more accomplished than we were today.”