Tottenham Hotspur suffered their first defeat at their new stadium after Michail Antonio gave West Ham United a 1-0 win in the Premier League on Saturday.
Tottenham made a number of changes to their side as they prepared for their Champions League semi-final first leg against Ajax Amsterdam on Tuesday but Mauricio Pochettino’s gamble backfired against a resolute West Ham side.
Spurs dominated the first half and could have been ahead after 11 minutes when Son Heung-min was played through by Dele Alli but his shot from the left was too close to the near post of Lukasz Fabianski who got down to save.
The Pole also did well to deny Christian Eriksen who shot from close range after good work down the right from Lucas Moura.
Tottenham were made to pay for those missed chances as West Ham took the lead after halftime. A lofted cross from Marko Arnautovic in the 67th minute found Antonio who lashed it in past goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
Spurs brought on Fernando Llorente and Vincent Janssen in the hope of getting an equaliser but could not find a way past. They remain third but will be under pressure from their top-four rivals, while West Ham stay in 11th position.
Not much more than pride was at stake for the Hammers but goalscorer Antonio was pleased to have given the fans some cheer in a lacklustre campaign for Manuel Pellegrini’s side.
“For us to come here and get the first win is a great achievement. The fans are loving it and we’ve just got to keep it going,” he told Sky Sports.
Pochettino was dismayed by the result but urged his side to pick themselves up quickly for Tuesday’s game.
“I think the first half was good for us, second half they were better. They had more energy. We conceded a lot of space to run… We lost a lot of ball we gave them the possibility to make the game,” he told a news conference.
“I’m disappointed; it’s a setback. We wanted the three points, we wanted to arrive at the Champions League game in a good way but it was not (to be) but now we need to move on. It’s about the recovery and get ready for Tuesday to play.”
Pochettino tells players to forget defeat ahead of Ajax clash
Mauricio Pochettino urged his side to forget about Saturday’s 1-0 home defeat to West Ham United in the Premier League when they face Ajax in Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final first leg.
Spurs suffered an unexpected setback in their final warm-up ahead of a clash which is being billed as their most important in more than half a century.
Saturday’s loss was their first since they returned to their rebuilt stadium but Spurs struggled to assert themselves against dangerous opponents who always threatened on the counter-attack. “We have to forget about it, move on and think about Tuesday,” said Pochettino.
“It is tough to prepare for a semi-final against a very good team like Ajax.”
Pochettino, who made four changes from the midweek win over Brighton & Hove Albion, declined to offer an update on the fitness of Moussa Sissoko and Harry Winks, who are both struggling for fitness, saying simply: “They will be assessed.”
With Harry Kane, Serge Aurier and Erik Lamela definitely out and Son Heung-min, who scored three goals against Manchester City in the Champions League quarter-final, suspended for the first leg, Pochettino must decide whether to switch Lucas Moura to a central striker role or give a start to Fernando Llorente.
Spurs’ future remains tantalisingly poised between possible European glory and failure to even qualify for next season’s tournament. Saturday’s defeat means any two of Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United could yet deny them a top-four place although their fate remains in their own hands.
“It is a fight, it is a race, with two games to play. We knew that before,” said Pochettino.
“I think we did not manage the ball properly. It was a difficult game but in the second half we conceded a lot of space for them to counter attack. But we need to look forward. We cannot stop to think about what we did not do today.
West Ham manager Manual Pellegrini said he was delighted with his side’s first away win in the league for four months, singling out Marko Arnautovic for his part in Michail Antonio’s winner.
“I think Marko Arnautovic was very good. He made a brilliant pass for Antonio’s goal. It has been a difficult season but I am sure that we will recover the player that he could be,” he said.
“This is a transition season we try not to change too much in our team… we have demonstrated in big games that we can do it but we must mentally convince ourselves that we can do better.”