Antonio Conte’s Tottenham team missed a major chance to close in on the top four following a 3-2 defeat against Southampton on Wednesday evening.
Pegged back twice by Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Che Adams delivered the killer blow in the 82nd minute after Mohamed Elyounoussi had restored parity three minutes earlier.
Far from their best in north London with Saints causing them major problems throughout, Spurs did manage to take the lead again through Son Heung-min with 20 minutes remaining but they couldn’t hold on to their one-goal advantage.
Excellent last Saturday against Brighton & Hove Albion as they secured a place in the fifth round of the FA Cup with a 3-1 win, Conte’s team were extremely sloppy at times and that played into Southampton’s hands.
Midway inside the first half Conte could be seen turning back to his bench and bellowing in frustration after Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg had carelessly handed possession to the visitors.
It wasn’t the first time the Dane had done it, however, and it certainly irked his boss.
Speaking to BT Sport after the game, the 52-year-old opened up on the defeat and stressed that their passing was not good at times.
“It was a pity because I think in the first half we struggled a bit against them but in the second half… we played a good second half and we scored a goal but then we had to try to keep the result until the end,” he explained.
“We know there is a long way in front of us. We have to be more good to manage during the game different situations.
“There are many, many parts of the game. There is not only one way to play the game. If you are losing 2-1 perhaps you have to pay more attention (and not) concede the second goal.
“In the first half we made many many mistakes. Many times the pass was not good and we risked too [much] and complicated our life today and I think this is a part of the process.
“If you have to try to improve…you have to be more accurate in your passing.”
Despite having a big role to play in Spurs’ opener as Jan Bednarek diverted the midfielder’s cross into his own goal, Hojbjerg was far from his best against his former club given his usual high standards.
The ex-Bayern Munich man subsequently made way on the hour mark as new signing Rodrigo Bentancur was introduced.
Impressing in his 13 minutes off the bench last weekend against Brighton, the Uruguayan wowed fans within 30 seconds of his introduction on Wednesday following a sharp turn in the middle of the park and a sprayed pass to set Lucas Moura down the right flank.
Spurs looked better for having Bentancur on the pitch and their defeat may now see him make his first Premier League start when Wolves make the trip to the capital on Sunday afternoon.
It was always going to be a matter of time before the deadline day acquisition came into the side but Spurs’ defeat against Saints could well result in a starting spot sooner than maybe some anticipated.
From the latest transfer news to those glorious wins in north London and beyond! There might even be a laugh or two too.
Oliver Skipp was also a huge miss in midfield and Conte will have his fingers crossed that the academy graduate is back sooner rather than later as it is extremely noticeable when he doesn’t play.
Tottenham’s midfield just didn’t get a foothold in the game against Southampton and Conte’s post-match comments about their passing issues do hint at a change to his plan for when Wolves visit on Sunday afternoon.
Showing just what he can bring to the Tottenham team in his two appearances off the bench, Bentancur’s next outing in a Spurs shirt may come from the first whistle against Wolves.