Belfast Telegraph

Poch denies Spurs' season unravelling

Crystal Palace 2-0 Tottenham

Simple finish: Spurs keeper Paulo Gazzaniga is powerless to prevent Connor Wickham from putting Palace in front
Simple finish: Spurs keeper Paulo Gazzaniga is powerless to prevent Connor Wickham from putting Palace in front

By Jonathan Veal

Mauricio Pochettino insists exiting two cup competitions in the space of four days does not derail Tottenham's season.

Spurs lost the Carabao Cup semi-final to Chelsea on penalties on Thursday and then followed that up with a 2-0 defeat at Crystal Palace.

A shocking first-half display from a much-changed side saw them go down to Connor Wickham's opener and an Andros Townsend penalty, while Kieran Trippier missed from the spot.

The back-to-back losses will give Spurs' detractors, who say they have to back up their improvement under Pochettino with silverware, more ammunition, but the Argentinian is not losing focus on Spurs' main aims.

They are in a good position to qualify for the Champions League again, a competition they still remain in, with a last-16 tie coming up against Borussia Dortmund.

"It's true, this season has been tough," he said. "I told you it would be a massive challenge for us, but we believe it'll be a tough season but no tougher than it's been.

"Of course, disappointed because, after Thursday and today again, out of two competitions. You feel disappointed. You can't feel anything different.

"But now we have to be positive. We are still in two competitions, in a good position in the Premier League and the Champions League is a massive motivation. We have to be strong.

"People wish we could win some trophies. But being realistic, we are doing so well. To win a title here in England like the FA Cup or Carabao Cup is about being lucky, not only about quality in your squad.

"Now the realistic targets are trying to be in the top four, try and be close to Manchester City and Liverpool and reduce the gap.

"To be a contender is difficult for us. (Top four) is realistic."

Given their quick turnaround from Thursday night, Pochettino made seven changes, which included Christian Eriksen not even featuring on the bench.

But the Spurs boss sticks by his selection.

"Regrets? No, no," he said. "We played with our best team that we can play at the moment. I think it was a moment, of course, for different players to play. To help the team. I think we came from a very crazy fixture and were forced to take some decisions, rest some players and rotate. But we are going to play Wednesday too and Saturday."

Palace boss Roy Hodgson was delight to see Wickham score his first goal for 799 days.

The former Sunderland man has endured an injury-ravaged time, but put Palace ahead from close range in the first half. Hodgson said: "Two years and three months... incredible, isn't it. It's a credit to him.

"We can leave Selhurst Park with a smile on our faces and see what awaits us in the fifth round. "

CRYSTAL PALACE: Speroni, Ward, Kelly, Dann, Van Aanholt, Meyer (Milivojevic, 79 mins), Kouyate, Schlupp, Townsend (Ayew, 88 mins), Wickham (Benteke, 70 mins), Zaha. Unused subs: Sakho, Wan Bissaka, Tupper, Riedewald.

Tottenham: Gazzaniga, Foyth, Sanchez, Vertonghen (Lamela, 46 mins), Trippier, Skipp, Dier (Wanyama, 63 mins), Walker-Peters, Lucas Moura (Sterling, 81 mins), Nkoudou, Llorente. Unused subs: Lloris, Rose, Winks, Aurier.

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