Spurs still believe they can nick title

Mauricio Pochettino is refusing to give up on Tottenham's Premier League title challenge after a 1-0 win over Middlesbrough left them nine points behind leaders Chelsea.
Mauricio Pochettino is refusing to give up on Tottenham's Premier League title challenge after a 1-0 win over Middlesbrough left them nine points behind leaders Chelsea.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Mauricio Pochettino is refusing to give up on Tottenham's Premier League title challenge after a 1-0 win over Middlesbrough left them nine points behind leaders Chelsea.

Spurs had to work hard for victory on Saturday and needed a second-half Harry Kane penalty to end Middlesbrough's resistance.

"Nine points is okay, it's three games but it's up to Chelsea now. It's up to us to keep pushing, win games and it's important for the Premier League too," said Tottenham manager Pochettino.

"Our focus is to try to win every game and close the gap on Chelsea. But we are not thinking about where we can finish, we are thinking about improving and doing our best.

"Closing the gap will be difficult - nine points is tough to reduce but in football you always have to believe. The most important is to try to play every game."

Spurs dropped points against Sunderland in their previous game and there was a danger of history repeating itself on Saturday as Pochettino's side were left frustrated by Boro goalkeeper Victor Valdes' heroics.

Finally the pressure told when Bernardo Espinosa hauled down Son Heung Min for a 58th-minute penalty that was converted by Kane.

It could have been more but Pochettino believes his young team are coming of age.

"We learnt a lot from last season and the team are very competitive," he said.

"It's good to put the standard higher. I am happy to put pressure on us and say we are a real contender and we are a team ready to win the title. I manage pressure very well, no problem."

Middlesbrough are looking over their shoulders at the relegation zone and their lack of goals could come back to haunt them. But manager Aitor Karanka believes his side are good enough to retain their top-flight status.

"We have shown we can compete against every team. The players have been amazing. We are good enough to stay up.

"If we keep playing with the same organisation and attitude, we will be okay," he said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 06, 2017, with the headline 'Spurs still believe they can nick title'. Print Edition | Subscribe