Tottenham continue fox hunt of EPL leaders Leicester with 4 games left

Tottenham's Dele Alli (clockwise from top) and Erik Lamela celebrate Harry Kane's strike, Spurs' third, in a 4-0 win over Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium.
Tottenham's Dele Alli (clockwise from top) and Erik Lamela celebrate Harry Kane's strike, Spurs' third, in a 4-0 win over Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium.PHOTO: REUTERS

Flawless display against Stoke has Pochettino dreaming of perfect ending

LONDON • Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino believes his side delivered the "perfect" message to Premier League leaders Leicester City after an emphatic 4-0 win at Stoke City saw them close the gap to five points.

Leicester's 2-2 home draw with West Ham on Sunday gave Spurs the opportunity to reduce the deficit with four games left and they seized the chance with two goals each from the England duo of Harry Kane and Dele Alli.

"This is our dream. We need to believe," said Pochettino, who is attempting to lead the Londoners to their first English championship since 1961.

"If Leicester fail we need to be there. That's what we are trying to do, put the pressure on Leicester. The most important thing is the performance we showed was perfect. It is a big signal we are there waiting and fighting."

A lesser team might have been slightly apprehensive at the start or in that long period after Kane's opener, scored in the ninth minute, when they could not add the second goal. Not Spurs, though.

Their superiority was unbroken apart from a five-minute spell in the first half and even then there was no grave danger for a team that has conceded fewer away goals, 13, than any other side.

Their second goal finally arrived, overdue, in the 70th minute when Christian Eriksen's expertly weighted through-ball left Alli running clear and the 20-year-old dinked a clever shot past Shay Given.

Kane rolled in the third goal after Erik Lamela had sprung the offside trap from Alli's pass.

Alli then slashed a volley past Given to make it 4-0 and further enhance his team's goal difference, now 13 superior to Leicester's.

Kane, who now leads the race for the Golden Boot (24) and has scored more than Aston Villa (23) have all season, was not exaggerating when he said that "we could have scored six or seven". Eriksen and Alli, having rounded the goalkeeper, both hit the woodwork.

In a way, Tottenham and Kane were merely living up to the striker's cheeky pre-match post on Instagram. He had uploaded a photograph of a pack of lions closing in on their prey after Leicester's draw.

"It was a few lions ready to pounce," Kane said. "Obviously after watching the Leicester game they dropped a couple of points.

UNRELENTING PRESSURE

This is our dream. We need to believe. If Leicester fail we need to be there.

MAURICIO POCHETTINO, Tottenham manager, on keeping the title chase alive.

"I was itching to play and I had to wait another day and a half to get out on the pitch. I wanted to get out there."

Stoke manager Mark Hughes admitted his players found it "very difficult to cope" with Spurs and suggested that Pochettino's team could yet overhaul Leicester.

"They were very good," he said. "Their mentality at the moment, you wouldn't bet against them catching Leicester on that evidence."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 20, 2016, with the headline 'Tottenham continue fox hunt'. Print Edition | Subscribe