Tottenham Hotspur’s already-slim chances of winning the first Premier League title in club history suffered a major setback on Saturday, when Spurs lost 2-1 at Burnley and fell five points behind joint-leaders Manchester City and Liverpool.
Tottenham needed this one. In the days leading up to the contest at Turf Moor, manager Mauricio Pochettino was calling the match “a final.” Yet against an opponent that started the day 16th in the 20-team Prem, things did not go according to plan.
Even with star striker Harry Kane back in the starting lineup for the first time following an injury layoff, the visitors were unable to capitalize on any of their eight first-half shots. The match was still scoreless 10 minutes into the second half. That’s when things started to go sideways for Pochettino’s side. First the hosts took an unexpected lead through Chris Wood:
Kane, the league’s second-leading scorer last season and still fourth this year despite missing the last five weeks with an ankle injury, restored order moments later. The England captain fought off two defenders to score a brilliant equalizer following a powerful run into the box:
But with the clock ticking and Spurs searching for the winner that would allow them to keep pace with City and Liverpool, Burnley struck again seven minutes from time when Ashley Barnes pounced on a deflected cross and converted the winner from keeper Hugo Lloris’ doorstep:
The defeat is a huge missed opportunity for Spurs. With Liverpool facing resurgent Manchester United on Sunday at Old Trafford, a Reds loss is a real possibility. A Tottenham win combined with a Liverpool defeat would’ve blown the title race wide open; City has played one more match than both teams.
Now it looks like it will be a two horse race. Pochettino, who engaged in a furious confrontation with referee Mike Dean and his assistants after the final whistle, admitted as much after the match.
“I knew very well before the game, and after the game, when we lose, that it is going to be difficult to be a real contender,” said Pochettino, who declined to comment on what his beef with Dean was about.
“For me, we are very disappointed,” he told Sky Sports. “Today, I think in my mind, to win the three points to put pressure on them. In the end we didn’t for different reasons. For our mistakes. We cannot blame nobody. Only ourselves.”
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