Belfast Telegraph

Spurs dug deep to prove title credentials, says Pochettino

Crystal Palace 0 Tottenham 1

By Andy Sims

Mauricio Pochettino felt Tottenham passed a major test of their Premier League title credentials after Christian Eriksen's goal beat Crystal Palace.

Eriksen struck with 12 minutes left to ensure the gap to leaders Chelsea is back to four points with five games to play.

Tottenham had endured a tough few days, losing the FA Cup semi-final to the Blues on Saturday before Antonio Conte's side beat Southampton 4-2 to stay in control at the top.

They desperately needed a pick-me-up at Selhurst Park to keep their season alive, but that was never going to be easy against an in-form Palace side looking to add them to the scalps of Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool this month alone.

However, Eriksen's 30-yard thunderbolt secured a vital three points to keep the pressure on the Blues.

Spurs boss Pochettino said: "That was always going to be difficult after Saturday, and it was a big challenge for us. I think it was a great opportunity to show we are focused on us and trying to improve our game, and to fight when under pressure.

"We are showing we learned a lot from last season, and that is important. It was a big challenge to improve on last season. We have improved a lot this season.

"One area key for us to improve was in the mental area and the team are showing we are ready to fight."

Yet Spurs looked a million miles from title contenders in the first half, with Christian Benteke and Andros Townsend close to giving Palace the lead.

Pochettino made a double change at the interval, replacing both his central midfielders, Mousa Dembele and Victor Wanyama - who was lucky to escape a second yellow card for a clumsy foul on Townsend - with Son Heung-min and Moussa Sissoko.

Dele Alli should have put Spurs ahead when he met Kyle Walker's cross three yards out, only to side-foot his effort wide.

But with time running down, Eriksen collected Harry Kane's pass and lashed a powerful drive inside the far post.

"I am very pleased for Christian, it was an unbelievable goal," added Pochettino. "We changed things at half-time and in the second half we were much better and after 90, 95 minutes I think we fully deserved the win."

Palace boss Sam Allardyce felt his side, who had won six of their previous eight matches, were feeling the effects of Sunday's win at Liverpool.

"I thought in the first half we took the game to Tottenham, and of course the lack of recovery time from Sunday told in the end," he said. "In the second half we were not able to challenge as much as in the first half. It was a terrific effort, but the odds were against us, I knew we would tire.

"The lads gave everything, it wasn't quite good enough but it was a terrific performance."

Allardyce fears on-loan defender Mamadou Sakho will miss the rest of the season after he was carried off on a stretcher with what appeared to be knee ligament damage.

Palace: Hennessey, Ward, Kelly, Sakho (Delaney, 57 mins), Schlupp, Milivojevic, McArthur (Cabaye, 64 mins), Townsend, Puncheon, Zaha, C Benteke (Campbell, 81 mins). Unused subs: Speroni, Van Aanholt, Flamini, Sako.

Spurs: Lloris, Dier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Walker, Wanyama (Sissoko, 46 mins), Dembele (Son, 46 mins), Davies, Eriksen, Alli (Trippier, 90 mins), Kane. Unused subs: Janssen, Nkoudou, Wimmer, Pau Lopez.

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