Po­chet­tino rages as ri­vals Arse­nal snatch sec­ond place

The Daily Telegraph - Total Football - - FRONT PAGE - By Luke Ed­wards at St James’ Park

A sea­son in which Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur mounted their first se­ri­ous ti­tle chal­lenge for more than 30 years has ended in dis­ar­ray, ac­ri­mony and a bru­tally scathing as­sess­ment from their head coach, Mauricio Po­chet­tino.

On a day when New­cas­tle United were sup­posed to be the ones who were look­ing em­bar­rassed af­ter their rel­e­ga­tion to the Cham­pi­onship, it was Spurs who left the pitch hu­mil­i­ated and sud­denly, sur­pris- in­gly, un­sure what the fu­ture holds.

Po­chet­tino was fu­ri­ous and made no at­tempt to hide it. Hav­ing spent most of the sec­ond half sulk­ing in his dugout, the Ar­gen­tinian ex­ploded in his post-match press con­fer­ence, ham­mer­ing his play­ers as he not only apol­o­gised to sup­port­ers but also claimed that the fam­i­lies of his play­ers and staff would be ashamed of them.

This was a hum­bling ex­pe­ri­ence, not be­cause it meant that Arse­nal once again fin­ished above Spurs, but be­cause they were thrashed by a New­cas­tle side who had al­ready been rel­e­gated and who played the last half an hour with 10 men af­ter Alek­san­dar Mitro­vic’s send­ing-off.

“It’s dif­fi­cult now to an­a­lyse the sea­son be­cause the way that we played to­day,” said Po­chet­tino. “First of all, I would like to apol­o­gise to our fans, our team was ter­ri­ble for them.

“To our fam­i­lies, too, I apol­o­gise. It’s dif­fi­cult to go back to see your kids, your wife, your girl­friends, your dad – this wasn’t the team that played all sea­son. It’s my worst day as a man­ager. Not just in Eng­land, in Spain, too.”

Spurs have ex­cited so many ob­servers this term, but this was an alarm­ing dis­play, the sort of soft­ness that has cre­ated their own ad­jec­tive. In short, this was all a bit ‘Spursy’. As for New­cas­tle, their sup­port­ers have had a few days to lick their wounds af­ter their sec­ond rel­e­ga­tion in seven years and they spent the whole game sing­ing Rafa Benítez’s name as they tried to per­suade him to stay on Ty­ne­side.

“I said be­fore that I was ex­pect- ing a great at­mos­phere, but it has been amaz­ing,” Benítez said. “Even more pos­i­tive than I was ex­pect­ing. We still have to sit down. I want the best for New­cas­tle United and the best for me.

“That’s sim­ple. I was open to talk and now I am more open to talk. My heart is say­ing yes [to stay­ing]. It’s a fan­tas­tic op­por­tu­nity and at­mos­phere, but you have to use your brain too.”

Only time will tell whether this was the start of the re­cov­ery un­der the Spa­niard or merely a spe­cial part­ing gift. It is start­ing to look in­creas­ingly likely that Benítez will re­main; the emo­tional bond he has de­vel­oped for the club and sup­port­ers is height­ened by the fact that there is not a bet­ter job open to him in Eng­land this sum­mer.

But Benítez is a prag­ma­tist as well as a ro­man­tic. Mike Ash­ley met the Spa­niard for dis­cus­sions af­ter the match and more talks are planned, but the owner still has to con­vince him that, if he does not quit, he will have a team strong enough to dom­i­nate the Cham­pi­onship rather than just com­pete in it.

That means giv­ing him the free­dom and money to sign new play­ers, as well as de­cide who stays and who leaves.

This was New­cas­tle’s best per­for­mance of the sea­son and it took Spurs by sur­prise, as though they had ex­pected to turn up and stroll to an easy away win. With­out their in­ten­sity and en­ergy, Spurs were or­di­nary. New­cas­tle dom­i­nated.

Mitro­vic gave the Spurs de­fence a warn­ing when he was de­nied a sim­ple tap-in by a bril­liant tackle from Toby Alder­weireld, but New­cas­tle were still al­lowed to take the lead.

Moussa Sis­soko crossed into the feet of Mitro­vic, who con­trolled it per­fectly for Ge­orginio Wi­j­nal­dum to slide a low shot be­yond Hugo Lloris. It should have sparked a re­sponse from Spurs, who needed a point to guar­an­tee fin­ish­ing above Arse­nal, but it did not and New­cas­tle dou­bled their lead be­fore half-time when Mitro­vic headed in a cross from Sis­soko.

Al­though Tot­ten­ham pulled a goal back through Érik Lamela, the fight­back did not ma­te­ri­alise, even af­ter Mitro­vic had been shown a red card for a hor­ri­ble stamp on the shin of Kyle Walker.

Al­most im­me­di­ately, Sis­soko took a tum­ble inside the area – there was min­i­mal con­tact from Jan Ver­tonghen – and Wi­j­nal­dum sent Lloris the wrong way from the penalty spot.

The Benítez songs started al­most as soon as the ball had hit the back of the net and New­cas­tle al­most had a fourth, Sis­soko’s shot su­perbly tipped over the bar by Lloris.

He was also de­nied again by Lloris, but New­cas­tle con­stantly opened up the vis­i­tors on the break and goals from Rolando Aarons and Daryl Jan­maat put a gloss on an oth­er­wise drab sea­son.

Hero and vil­lain: Alek­san­dar Mitro­vic cel­e­brates (left) scor­ing the sec­ond New­cas­tle goal be­fore launch­ing a tackle on Kyle Walker (above) that earned him a red card

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