Inter Milan 2 Tottenham 1

Pochettino wants respect for unlucky Spurs in 'best' display

Inter Milan midfielder Matias Vecino celebrating with midfielder Milan Skriniar and striker Keita Balde after scoring a last-gasp winner against Tottenham for a 2-1 Champions League win on Tuesday.
Inter Milan midfielder Matias Vecino celebrating with midfielder Milan Skriniar and striker Keita Balde after scoring a last-gasp winner against Tottenham for a 2-1 Champions League win on Tuesday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MILAN • Tottenham's bright start to the season is now a distant memory after slumping to their third consecutive defeat - all of them without a goal from Harry Kane - when they lost 2-1 to Inter Milan in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Muddled at the back and lacking energy in the middle, this is becoming a recurrent story for Spurs.

Mauricio Pochettino had used a cow-and-train analogy at his pre-match press conference, saying that experience was not everything in European football's premier club competition.

But the failure to learn from past losses shows a certain level of naivety that he has yet to root out despite his four years in charge.

While his cows can see the train coming yet seem incapable of doing much about it at the moment, Pochettino, at least in public, felt his side did not put a foot wrong.

He called the San Siro display their "best performance since the start of the season". The Argentinian also took exception to the post-match criticism focusing on his decision to rest Kieran Trippier and Toby Alderweireld.

"You disrespect the players that showed better qualities than the opponent. You must respect my decision because I'm the manager.

"It's so cruel. We deserved much more. We have quality, showed big character and were unlucky not to keep the result we deserved."

None of this was Kane's fault on the face of it. Spurs lost because they failed to defend properly at a corner, allowing Matias Vecino to nod in his added-time winner.

Before that, their biggest problem was repeatedly giving the ball away playing out from the back, although they could not be blamed for Mauro Icardi's 86th-minute equaliser, a brilliant volley, after Christian Eriksen's deflected strike had given Tottenham the lead.

Still, it is unavoidable that Kane should be a key feature in any autopsy of the struggles at Spurs.

Not only is he their chief cutting edge, he has also been the engine driving that high-pressing energy, the same energy that seems to have dissipated in the last few weeks.

He was invisible again, registering zero shots at goal, yet teammate Erik Lamela insisted the striker, who has now gone five games without scoring for club and country, will eventually come good.

"Harry is not a machine. He always scores, he will score again."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 20, 2018, with the headline 'Pochettino wants respect for unlucky Spurs in 'best' display'. Print Edition | Subscribe