Published: 5 February, 2017
by DAN CARRIER at White Hart Lane
SPURS 1, MIDDLESBROUGH 0
SPURS boss Mauricio Pochettino issued a rallying cry to his young team last night, telling them they need to believe that they can still win the title.
He watched his side earn a hard-fought 1-0 victory against Middlesbrough – marking his 100th victory in charge of Spurs – to cement them in second place, nine points off leaders Chelsea. Speaking after the game, sealed by a second-half Harry Kane penalty, he said: “We have to believe, we need to believe, always.”
He added that Middlesbrough, who offered little going forward but defended solidly and in numbers, had not lost since September – when Spurs beat them.
He added: “That speaks well about us. In the last few games opponents have played very deep and closed the gaps, making it difficult to break them down. The control we showed today was important, as were the chances we created. I don't think they had a shot on target – and that is also important. I think we showed we were much better and deserved to win.”
Spurs started well, with Dele Alli striking the side-netting and Heung-Min Son forcing Victor Valdes into a stretching save low to his left in the opening 10 minutes.
Toby Alderweireld then struck the post with a header from a corner, and Kane thought he'd finished off a move instigated by Son only to be found marginally offside. It was a case of chance followed by chance followed by chance, with the score oard kept blank by a mixture of a well-marshalled, body-packed Middlesborough defence and some wayward, frustrated shooting.
The second period started just as the first had ended: Tottenham faced massed ranks and had to work hard to create any space, but the sheer pressure was bound to create something, eventually.
On 57 minutes, a clever ball into Son's feet saw him sell his marker a dummy and then find his feet swept from under him. Kane slotted home the resulting penalty to put Tottenham's noses in front.
Spurs continued to push forward and stretch Boro's defence but just could not find the vital touch to make it comfortable.
With Boro offering very, very little to trouble Spurs, the three points were safe – and at this point of the season, that mustn't be sniffed at.
SPURS: Lloris, Dier, Alderweireld, Walker, Davies, Wanyama, Dembele, Son (Sissoko, 80), Alli (Winks, 87), Eriksen, Kane (Janssen, 89)
Subs: Vorm, Janssen, Sissoko, Onomah, Wimmer, Winks, Carter-Vickers.