Pochettino hails Spurs’ mental strength to halt losing streak

Tottenham Hotspur’s English striker Harry Kane scores from the penalty spot for the opening goal during the English Premier League football match between Brighton and Hove Albion and Tottenham Hotspur at the American Express Community Stadium in Brighton, southern England on September 22, 2018. Glyn KIRK / AFP


Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino praised the mentality of his side to grind out a much-needed 2-1 win in sodden conditions at Brighton on Saturday to halt a run of three straight defeats.

Harry Kane ended a five-game goal drought from the penalty spot and Erik Lamela doubled Tottenham’s lead before Anthony Knockaert pulled a late goal back for Brighton.

“The players were suffering a lot. The pressure was high, they wanted to deliver a result for the fans, for themselves, and for us (the coaching staff),” said Pochettino, after the first three-game losing run since he took charge in 2014.

“I think the spirit we showed today was the spirit I wanted to see in the other games.

“I’m so happy with the attitude, the spirit. Then we know very well we have great quality, great players, and we can play amazing football.”

Victory moves Spurs back up to fifth in the Premier League, still six points adrift of leaders Liverpool.

Like many of his team-mates, England captain Kane has looked jaded from his heroics in winning the Golden Boot at the World Cup in recent weeks.

But he remains deadly from the spot as he hammered home his third goal of the season.

“Today was about mentality, getting around the pitch, pressing high and harder and I think we did that,” said Kane.

“We could have put it to bed and won 3-0 or 4-0 but it’s good to get back to winning ways. The gaffer will be pleased and we can build on this.”

Pochettino had left Kieran Tripper and Toby Alderweireld at home for Tuesday’s 2-1 defeat to Inter Milan in the Champions League, but both were recalled among five changes from the side that lost at the San Siro and had a big impact.

Alderweireld’s powerful header from Trippier’s corner was brilliantly saved by Mat Ryan early on.

Despite Tottenham’s dominance in possession, the Australian international goalkeeper wasn’t forced into another save until Spurs took the lead three minutes before half-time.

Referee Chris Kavanagh pointed to the spot when Glenn Murray jumped with his arm above his head to block Trippier’s free-kick and Kane sent Ryan the wrong way from the spot.

– Sucker punch –
Spurs threw away a lead late on in losing at Watford and Inter in their previous three games, though, and could easily have been made to pay once more.

Brighton had a goal ruled out for offside, strong claims for a penalty of their own waived away, and missed a huge chance when Knockaert fired straight at Paulo Gazzaniga with just Spurs’ third-choice ‘keeper to beat.

“Anthony’s best chance was at 1-0. If we score that and it’s 1-1, absolutely it’s a different result because we get the momentum,” said Brighton boss Chris Hughton.

“When you press you leave yourself vulnerable, as we did for their second goal.”

Just as Brighton were threatening to level, Spurs hit them with the sucker punch of a well-worked second goal.

Lamela finished off a fine team move that also involved Lucas Moura and Danny Rose for his fourth goal in his last four Premier League games.

Kane could even have added to his tally as three times Ryan repelled fiercely driven shots from Spurs’ talisman in the closing stages.

But Knockaert set up a grandstand finish with the sort of finish he should have produced earlier by firing into the far corner in stoppage time.

Knockaert had one final chance to snatch a point, but placed his shot too close to Gazzaniga as Pochettino blew a big sigh of relief at the full-time whistle.

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