Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino hailed his side’s strength of character after Mousa Dembele’s late strike sealed a 2-1 win over Anderlecht in the Europa League.
The contest at White Hart Lane looked to be heading for a draw when Harry Kane’s first-half strike was cancelled out by Imoh Ezekiel, but Dembele came off the bench to score a stunning winner in the 87th minute.
The result puts Spurs top of Group J, one point ahead of Monaco, and means they now have two wins in four days heading into Sunday’s crunch visit to North London rivals Arsenal.
“We knew Anderlecht are a very good team,” Pochettino said.
“It was a difficult start to the game. They had some chances. The way we managed the ball and moved the ball was very slow. It was difficult for us to create chances.
“The way Anderlecht play is to sit deep and move forward with very fast players but we showed character.
“It is difficult to play every game, creating chances and always trying to play from the back with our philosophy.
“Today I congratulate the players because sometimes when you don’t play well you need to show character and compete and suffer. Today we learned a lot.”
Dembele expressed disappointment earlier this year at his lack of game-time at the club but the midfielder appears to have won over Pochettino, having started all of Tottenham’s previous four matches and scored in his last three.
“If we analyse him last season, part of the season he was injured,” Pochettino said.
“I think Dembele from the beginning of this season, every time he was available he had the possibility to play.
“Always it’s up to the player. If the player shows he deserves to play, it’s easy for them.
“I am very pleased with him. He got injured against Everton and had some problems with his foot but today he was very important for us.”
Kane’s goal came just a few hours after he was called up to Roy Hodsgon’s England squad and it continues a recent return to form for the striker, who now has five in his last three appearances.
“We never had any doubts about him,” Pochettino said.
“Always the top players sometimes have times when they struggle to score.
“We are very pleased with him, very happy he has started to score again and I think we deserved to take the three points.
“I am pleased because we are top of the group and now we need to focus only on Sunday.”
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