ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
LONDON • Mauricio Pochettino has warned that his Tottenham Hotspur side can only get stronger after they kicked off their Premier League campaign with a 2-1 victory over Newcastle United yesterday.
All three goals came in a frantic opening 20 minutes on Tyneside with Jan Vertonghen and Dele Alli heading goals for the London team, who finished third last season, either side of Joselu's equaliser.
"I am so proud of the performance in the circumstances," Pochettino, who had up to nine players involved in last month's World Cup semi-finals and who were not fully fit, told Sky Sports.
"With all of the circumstances, we prepared for the game with a lot of players that only started training on Monday.
Distance the ball was over the line, according to goal-line technology, as Tottenham led through Jan Vertonghen.
"We can do better, of course, and be more consistent but it was a massive challenge to connect everything and prepare in the few days we had.
"I am not going to complain and we have to learn to be clever. I am happy in the way the players arrived after the holidays, and Dele was one of them. He has been strong and focused and he has shown good quality today."
The situation at Spurs was not helped by the fact that they are the first club in the Premier League era not to make a single signing since the introduction of the pre-season transfer window in 2003.
That low-key approach has frustrated the majority of fans, with Pochettino and the Tottenham hierarchy coming under fire.
However, the Argentinian saluted his players for refusing to be distracted and called on supporters and the squad to stay together.
"It is important to be strong from the beginning and have belief and convey a positive message," he said.
"The staff and the players need to stay together and the most important thing is the fans in a difficult time because we are going to move to a new stadium."
On Friday, he blamed Brexit for a fall in the pound which led to a rise in the costs of building the new stadium at White Hart Lane and precipitated the club's failure to sign new players.
However, any concerns about a lack of fresh faces were quickly alleviated in an end-to-end opening at a sun-kissed St James' Park.
With the game eight minutes old, Vertonghen, fresh from Belgium's third-placed World Cup finish, gave the visitors the lead when his header crashed against the underside of the crossbar and was adjudged to have only just crossed the line by goal-line technology.
However, just 149 seconds later, the hosts restored parity through Joselu. Their glee did not last long, with Alli arriving at the back post to head in Serge Aurier's deep cross for what proved to be the winner.
Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez felt that his side deserved more, after seeing striker Salomon Rondon denied by both the post and the crossbar.
"We deserved at least a draw, we were fighting until the end and had chances in the second half," the Spaniard said.
"You could feel fans had the belief we could do something.
"There were a lot of positives to see the team fighting. We made some mistakes and you have to give credit to the other team. We reacted well and never gave up."
THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE