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Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino tips Erik Lamela to return to his best

Lamela scored Spurs’ second goal in the FA Cup victory over Newport at Wembley.

Mauricio Pochettino has backed Erik Lamela to rediscover his top form after the winger helped Tottenham ease into the FA Cup fifth round.

Lamela, who was sidelined for more than a year with a hip injury before returning to action in November, scored his first goal since September 2016 as Spurs beat League Two Newport 2-0 in their fourth-round replay.

A first-half own goal from Exiles defender Dan Butler put Spurs on course for a routine victory at Wembley before Argentinian Lamela quickly added a second to set up a trip to Rochdale in the next round later this month.

Spurs manager Pochettino praised Lamela’s attitude in battling back to fitness.

“He was more than one year out and it’s never easy to come back and perform in that way that he was before,” Pochettino said.

“But he should because he loves football and he loves training and I think his mentality is fantastic.

“I think it’s going to be easy to recover his real level, or improve because he’s more mature and you learn; in a tough moment you learn a lot, no doubt.

“It’s important because he’s an important player.”

Spurs were eight minutes away from being eliminated from the competition during the initial meeting with County on January 27.

After a slow start on Wednesday evening, they had no real concerns in finally seeing off their dogged opponents and missed numerous chances to increase their winning margin.

Pochettino made 10 changes following Sunday’s draw at Liverpool and feels his team has plenty of competition for places heading into the final months of the season.

“Now we are 24 players and it will be tough to find a place in the starting XI for everyone, 24 players that fight to be on the starting XI every single game,” he added.

“And I think it’s a very good thing for us because we are going to increase our level and in that very busy period we need all focused trying to give their best.”

Newport manager Mike Flynn was pleased with his team’s display in north London and felt the big chance to cause an upset came in the initial game.

Spurs needed an 82nd-minute equaliser from Harry Kane at Rodney Parade after Padraig Amond’s first-half opener.

“I’m not happy, we just lost a game of football. But I’m very proud, the amount of effort and the work-rate the players put in was fantastic,” Flynn said.

“I know they (Tottenham) missed a few chances second half but we kept going right until the end and we should have scored.

“Nobody wants to be embarrassed or trounced, the first 25 minutes I thought we were the better team.

“The frustrating thing really is that we didn’t hold on at home because it was always going to be tough here.”

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