Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino has told his Champions League-chasing side to up their game or risk missing out on a place in the Premier League’s top four after failing to beat relegation-threatened Southampton.
The Saints, whose winless run now stands at 11 matches, drew first blood as Spurs centre-half Davinson Sanchez put through his own net, only for prolific hitman Harry Kane to net moments later with his 99th top-flight goal.
After a weekend when all of their closest rivals won, Tottenham’s slip has handed Liverpool, who play bottom of the table Swansea tonight, the chance to move five points clear of them and tighten their grip on a top-four slot.
“Our performance wasn’t the best,” said Pochettino, who refused to use illness, which had sidelined goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and playmaker Christian Eriksen and affected others, as an excuse.
“We need to be focused now and try to improve because of course Southampton’s pitch didn’t help but we must do better, play better and if we want to be in the top four we need to improve and increase our level.
“I feel disappointed because our game wasn’t great. Our performance wasn’t the best. I think this was for different reasons. I think in possession we must link better.
“We made a lot of mistakes in possession that allowed them a lot of transition, chances and allowed them to feel comfortable on the pitch. It wasn’t our best vision tonight.”
A point was not enough for Southampton to exit the relegation zone; they remain 18th, a point adrift of safety, while their streak of 11 winless matches is their worst run since 1998. Manager Mauricio Pellegrino, however, insists he does not fear the sack.
“I don’t worry about my job because I am happy doing the job. It is part of our life,” said Pellegrino. “In Argentina we say that the job is the electric chair – it is not easy to stay in the seat.”
Southampton opened the scoring after a quarter of an hour when full-back Ryan Bertrand’s left-wing cross was diverted into his own goal, in off the near post, by a sliding Sanchez, the former Ajax defender.
But Tottenham were behind for all of three minutes as Kane shrugged off the attentions of defender Jack Stephens to rise above goal-shy Manolo Gabbiadini and head home Ben Davies’s corner.
Both sides wasted chances to win the clash late on; 17-year-old substitute Michael Obafemi scuffed a presentable opportunity from Dusan Tadic’s cross before Sofiane Boufal’s shot was blocked, while Kane dragged wide with only minutes remaining.