London: Mauricio Pochettino saw his Tottenham Hotspur side surrender ground in the race for a Champions League place and then demanded more aggression from his players in their final two Premier League games.
The Spurs manager remained phlegmatic following a dramatic 1-0 defeat at West Bromwich Albion that came with a late, scrambled stoppage-time goal.
But he admitted his side had been missing vital ingredients in attack after they handed West Brom a victory that helped ensure they ended the day still in hope of avoiding relegation after drop rivals Southampton failed to win when conceding a stoppage-time equaliser in a 1-1 draw away to Everton in Saturday’s late kick-off.
“We miss a little bit of aggression with the ball,” said Pochettino, whose side are now a point behind third-placed Liverpool, who play on Sunday.
“Everyone can see the game, we dominated but if you are not clinical in front of goal it’s always open.”
Defeat meant a significant setback to Tottenham’s hopes, not just of claiming a top-three finish that would spare them a Champions League qualifier early next season, but possibly of even claiming a top-four finish.
They ended the day a point behind Liverpool and just five clear of fifth-placed Chelsea, who have a game in hand. That was thanks to a scruffy goal in stoppage time, with Jake Livermore claiming the final touch as he and defender Danny Rose stretched to reach the ball in a frantic scramble.
However, Spurs will continue to have a large say in their own destiny given they face home games in the final week of the season against Newcastle and Leicester — two sides with little to play for.
“Maybe we need to assess why, our performances have dropped a little bit,” admitted Pochettino, whose team were thwarted repeatedly by home goalkeeper Ben Foster, who made smart saves from Harry Kane and Erik Lamela among others.
Stoke, meanwhile, was relegated from the English Premier League after a 10-year stay and Everton’s equally late equaliser against Southampton ensured West Brom still has a glimmer of hope of avoiding the drop.
West Ham took a giant step toward securing its own survival by beating Leicester 2-0, while Swansea remained fearful of relegation after losing 1-0 at Bournemouth, which secured Premier League safety.
Elsewhere, Watford ended a seven-match winless run by beating Newcastle 2-1 despite captain Troy Deeney missing a penalty.