Tottenham head coach Mauricio Pochettino hailed the fighting spirit of his side as they came from behind twice to rescue a draw on his first return to Southampton.
The Argentinian was given a hostile reception at St Mary’s after leaving the club to take over at Spurs last summer and saw his former club take the lead twice – with Graziano Pelle helping himself to a brace for Southampton.
But both sides remain in the hunt for Europa League qualification after equalisers from Erik Lamela and Nacer Chadli earned the visitors a share of the spoils.
For Pochettino, who also revealed a shoulder injury suffered by Ben Davies was not as bad as first feared, the performance was matched by that of the travelling Tottenham supporters – who backed their coach throughout.
“Fantastic. Great fighting spirit,” Pochettino replied when asked about his side’s performance.
“We conceded the first and second goals and showed character. Congratulations to our players and our fans.
“They like me a lot. For me, it’s a first time (to) hear from them and I appreciate that so much, it was a very tough game, emotional game for me. I still love Southampton, I have very good memories here.
“Both teams tried to play. We conceded goals from two mistakes, I’m a little disappointed on this point. But in the end happy, we have a very young team today and they showed character.
“We will always love Southampton and nothing has changed. I understand the game, it is normal that they need to show support to their manager and club and now I am at Tottenham. I say thank you to them (Tottenham fans) because they showed support to me.”
The point means both sides will still fancy their chances of securing European qualification come the end of the season – even if Pochettino is not too keen on another Europa League campaign.
“It’s very hard to play Euorpa League,” he added.
“I always explained when I was at Southampton that I prefer to play Champions League. If you reach Europea League, it’s good for the club but it’s not the competition that you dream about. My dream is to play with Tottenham in the Champions League. For that we need to prepare in the summer and build a strong team.
“After my experience here I think that it is very tough to play in the Europa League. The Premier League is the most difficult league to play in in the world because it’s very competitive.
“When you play two more cups, I think it’s very tough for the player. If we reach the Europa League, we need to try to do better, to fight for the top four and try to win the Europa League, but that’s not my dream. ”
Pelle’s second goal was a towering header but the first came after indecisive Spurs defending – with Ryan Mason squandering possession on the edge of his own box before Pelle shrugged off Davies to stroke home the game’s opening goal.
Lamela’s equaliser could easily have been ruled out as it came off the Argentina international’s arm, with Chadli ghosting in all-too easily to level a second time.
Southampton boss Ronald Koeman felt Lamela’s goal happened too quickly for referee Jon Moss to see the offence in real-time and rued his own side’s poor finishing for costing them a win.
“I saw it at half-time,” the Dutchman said.
“If the referee gets that possibility he would give hand-ball but it was going so fast it is so difficult for him to see exactly what happened. It is difficult but it is hand-ball.
“(Tottenham were) not lucky. We need to shoot more on target, if you don’t shoot on target you don’t score and that is the quality of Tottenham – they had one big chance with Chadli and scored – we had two or three good chances. That is football.”
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