LONDON — Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino believes his side have narrowed the gap to Manchester City despite their defeat, but has rued their latest slow start at Wembley.
Spurs, who fell behind in the second minute against Barcelona earlier this month, conceded a sixth-minute opener against Pep Guardiola’s side on Monday. Riyad Mahrez’s strike, following costly errors from Kieran Trippier, proved to be decisive as Spurs lost 1-0.
But, given Pochettino’s side lost 7-2 on aggregate in their two meetings with City last season and had three good chances to grab a draw this time, the Argentinian felt there was cause for positivity.
“We conceded a goal so early in the game, so cheap and poor, that you cannot concede in these types of games,” he said. “But I am so proud. I think the effort we made was fantastic. We were very competitive, it was an even game and we created a lot of chances.
“Last season it was difficult to compete against Man City in both games that we played, in Manchester and here — the gap and the level was massive between both teams. But today it was very competitive, an even game.
“[It was] a little bit lucky [for them] because when they made a mistake we didn’t score, and when we did they scored in one action. I’m disappointed in one way with the result, but happy with the performance.
“Against Barcelona [our start] was similar and now it was again that happened, but you cannot control this type of situation that go against you and the team.
“For me the most important thing is that the team has the mentality to go forward, to try to fight against that situation.
“I think after nearly six years here it was the second time playing against Manchester City, with Southampton and Tottenham, that I felt relaxed because we were so relaxed and competitive. We made the opponent suffer.
“When you compare with last season, we didn’t compete against Manchester City, there and here at Wembley, but today was a game that we felt we could win. We didn’t win but it was important that we translated that message and we felt that it was possible to win.”
The Wembley pitch was in a poor condition following three successive weekends of NFL games under the arch, the latest of them coming just 24 hours before Spurs’ showdown with Man City. But Pochettino refused to blame the surface for his side’s loss, stating: “The circumstances of the pitch for both sides was the same.”
The Spurs manager also acknowledged two events that occurred over the weekend, the heart attack of former England manager Glenn Hoddle and the death of Leicester City owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha in a helicopter crash.
“I didn’t have the opportunity to send my best wishes, first of all to Glenn Hoddle. I hope on behalf of all the players and the staff that he can be with us again and all going well.
“My best wishes for him, his family and all his friends, and of course my condolences to all at Leicester City Football Club — the family of the owner, the pilot and the people, the staff who were involved in the accident.
“For the staff, manager, coaching staff and players, my staff and players, we want to send our condolences, all our support in that tragic moment and accident all our love from Tottenham.”