LONDON (Reuters) – Mauricio Pochettino praised his Tottenham Hotspur side’s belief after they triumphed in adversity at Fulham to consolidate third place in the Premier League on Sunday.
With talismanic striker Harry Kane injured and Son Heung-min away with South Korea at the Asian Cup – a duo who have scored 22 league goal between them this season – Tottenham found a new match-winner in midfielder Harry Winks.
England midfielder Winks had not scored for Tottenham since November 2016 but he struck to seal a 2-1 victory seconds before the final whistle at Craven Cottage.
Kane’s replacement, Fernando Llorente, had endured a tough afternoon. He scored a 14th-minute own goal and then wasted two gilt-edged chances that Kane would surely have buried.
When Dele Alli went off with a hamstring injury after equalising for Tottenham, the problems were piling up for Pochettino. But then substitute Georges-Kevin N’koudou, who like Llorente has struggled to make an impact, produced a killer ball to pick out Winks for Tottenham’s dramatic winner.
It meant they moved to within nine points of leaders Liverpool and five behind Manchester City but more importantly gave them breathing space over Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United in the battle for a top-four finish.
“It was an unbelievable finish. That’s why it is so important to believe,” Pochettino, whose side have won 11 out of 13 on the road in the league this season, said.
“The action is brilliant from Harry Winks, to recover the ball from a difficult position, he believes to score and arrives in the box. It was an amazing cross from Nkoudou.
“Sometimes in football, it is not tactics or formation, you have to believe.”
It was the first time since March 2014 that Tottenham has won a Premier League game without Kane or Son and Pochettino was delighted to see fringe players stake their claim.
“Some injuries appear in a period with a more busy schedule and another opportunity opens the door for players not consistently in the starting 11 or on the bench,” he said.
“It is great opportunity for different players to show quality.”
With a League Cup semi-final second leg against Chelsea on Thursday and with Spurs leading the tie 1-0, Pochettino can ill-afford to have Alli missing. “It is in the left hamstring,” he said. “I hope it is not a massive problem, but we will need to assess.”