Pochettino relief as Spurs survive Wolves fightback
Mauricio Pochettino admitted that his Tottenham team made life difficult for themselves before seeing out a win that puts them back in the top four of the Premier League.
The manager, however, added that after the disappointment of last Monday’s home defeat to Manchester City, the win over Wolves was a good response to the criticism levelled at the club by Gary Neville.
Goals by Erik Lamela, Lucas Moura and Harry Kane put Spurs 3-0 up after 61 minutes, only for the home side, who had a first-half goal incorrectly ruled offside, to score twice from the penalty spot.
Neville suggested that Tottenham had traditionally been “spineless and flaky” under pressure, with a clear implication that it was a characteristic that was still present.
“When we were 3-0 up and the whole stadium thought the game was over, we need to learn about how to play seriously and not make mistakes and not allow opponents to stay in the game,” Pochettino said. “So while I am pleased with the three points I am disappointed with some of our play.
“I accept criticism but since I arrived here we have created a very good culture about fight and belief. We can win or we can lose but we are so intense and today the effort was fantastic. The team has a very strong character.”
Tottenham, already missing Eric Dier, Victor Wanyama, Danny Rose, Jan Vertonghen and Dele Alli, had to recover from the disruption to their planning when they lost Mousa Dembele within four minutes, after the midfielder came off worst in an accidental collision with Wolves’ Helder Costa.
Dembele seemed to suffer an ankle injury and seems unlikely to be available for the crucial Champions League tie with PSV Eindhoven on Tuesday.
Two Spurs goals in the space of three minutes then left Wolves, seeking to avoid a third straight defeat, needing to rebuild their confidence.
Both were too easily conceded, the first coming from a simple one-two between Lamela and substitute Son Heung Min, the former side-footing comfortably through Rui Patricio for his fourth goal of the season.
But if that one was difficult for Wolves head coach Nuno Espirito Santo to watch, then the second would have had him looking away in horror as Kieran Trippier floated in a cross for an unmarked Moura to head home.
It left the home side with much to do, although they were wrongly denied a goal as Raul Jimenez drove home on a pull-back from Matt Doherty only for the latter to be flagged offside, when he was probably a yard onside.
The second half brought renewed vigour from the home side, who were unlucky again not to score in a flurry of attacks, particularly when Jimenez had Hugo Lloris beating away a volley only for Costa to lose his footing at the key moment with the rebound spinning towards him. Lloris then saved from Costa and Ruben Neves.
But another mistake at the back by Wolves handed Tottenham a third goal and with it seemingly the guarantee of three points as Kane seized the chance to score his first goal in four matches in the Premier League. The striker found himself unmarked in the box with the ball at his feet and, though Patricio blocked his first attempt, he could not keep out the second. With a little under a quarter of the game left, Wolves then did score, Neves converting from the spot after Juan Foyth, the 20-year-old Argentine defender making his league debut, had brought down Jimenez.
Costa should have reduced the deficit to a single goal when through with only Lloris to beat, pushing the ball just wide. Yet the momentum was with Wolves by then and a second penalty, converted by Jimenez after the unfortunate Foyth brought down Jonny, made for a breathless conclusion.
Jubilant: Lucas Moura is congratulated by Harry Kane after scoring Spurs’ second goal