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Pochettino smiles again after Spurs late show

Spurs dominated possession at Wembley but lacked inspiration without injured England pair Harry Kane and Dele Alli and looked to be heading for their third Premier League defeat in five games after Craig Cathcart’s first-half goal.

football Updated: Jan 31, 2019 10:02 IST
AFP
AFP
London
Mauricio Pochettino,Tottenham,Spurs
Tottenham's Fernando Llorente celebrates scoring their second goal with manager Mauricio Pochettino and Son Heung-min (Action Images via Reuters)

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino praised his side’s mentality after late strikes from Son Heung-min and Fernando Llorente earned a dramatic 2-1 victory against Watford on Wednesday to lift the club after a miserable week.

Spurs dominated possession at Wembley but lacked inspiration without injured England pair Harry Kane and Dele Alli and looked to be heading for their third Premier League defeat in five games after Craig Cathcart’s first-half goal.

But Son, back in the side after South Korea were knocked out of the Asian Cup, equalised with 10 minutes to go and Spanish striker Llorente grabbed the winner in the 87th minute.

Watford had taken the lead when Northern Ireland defender Cathcart headed home from a corner whipped in from the left shortly before half-time and looked like holding out despite severe pressure from the home side.

The win leaves Spurs in third place in the Premier League, just two points behind defending champions Manchester City and crucially seven points clear of fifth-placed Chelsea as the race for Champions League places heats up.

“I think we fully deserved the victory,” said Pochettino. “It arrived late but we kept pushing. It was a fantastic second-half performance.

“The first half, it was difficult to create chances -- we dominated but didn’t create. It’s fantastic to win again after a difficult week... it’s nice to smile. The mentality is perfect.”

Pochettino said he was happy that Son was back in the fold, saying he hoped he would be ready for Saturday’s home match against Newcastle after he finished the game with cramp.

Spurs had enjoyed the lion’s share of possession in the first half without creating much of note and Watford threatened on a number of occasions when they ventured forward, with Gerard Deulofeu looking lively.

Son was the main threat for Spurs in the early stages, looking to run at the Watford defence at every opportunity.

The South Korean went close with a left-footed strike from outside the box and shortly afterwards Christian Eriksen’s deflected shot forced Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster into a scrambling save.

But Watford looked dangerous on the counter-attack and nearly took the lead shortly before the half-hour, when Deulofeu put the ball narrowly wide of Lloris’s right-hand post.

They silenced a disappointingly small crowd at Wembley in the 38th minute when Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris misjudged Jose Holebas’s corner and Cathcart put them in front.

Pochettino thew on Lucas Moura for the second half to add to his side’s firepower and they mounted an all-out assault on the Watford goal, looking far more dangerous than they had during the opening period.

- Llorente misses -

Spurs went agonisingly close to an equaliser in the 51st minute when Llorente, deputising for Kane, somehow contrived to skew the ball over the bar from two yards out after Foster could only parry the ball into his path.

Llorente missed another golden chance with his head as time ticked away but finally the pressure told as Son drove home from the centre of the box following an assist from the Spanish forward.

Not content with a point, Spurs continued to push forward and Llorente headed home a Danny Rose cross to seal all three points.

Defeats against Chelsea in the League Cup semi-finals and Crystal Palace in the FA Cup fourth round in the past week had dampened the mood at Spurs but the last-gasp win against Watford will infuse them with renewed self-belief as they target a top-four finish.

First Published: Jan 31, 2019 09:26 IST