Football

Pochettino: Spurs are real contenders

Spurs boss says they are ready to win title and it's up to them to put pressure on leaders Chelsea

Mauricio Pochettino believes Tottenham are ready to win the Premier League after they reduced the gap behind Chelsea back to nine points with victory over Middlesbrough yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Harry Kane's second-half penalty snatched a 1-0 win at White Hart Lane to keep Spurs within touching distance of Chelsea, who had earlier stretched their advantage to 12 points by beating Arsenal 3-1.

It left little room for error for Pochettino's men, who dominated Middlesbrough but still needed Kane's spot-kick in the 63rd minute after Son Heung Min had been fouled by Bernardo Espinosa.

Tottenham, who moved three points clear of Arsenal, are emerging as Chelsea's most likely challengers and Pochettino insisted they remain very much in the hunt.

"Nine points is okay, it's three games, but it's up to Chelsea now," said Pochettino, who was overseeing his 100th Premier League game at Spurs.

"It's up to us to keep pushing, to keep the pressure and to win games. That's important for us and the Premier League, too.

"We are second in the table. Okay, it's good to put the standard higher. I am happy with that, to put the pressure on us.

"Yes, we are a real contender and we are a team ready to win a title. At that level it's good pressure."

Tottenham should have been more comfortable against a stubborn Boro side, with Kane, Son and Dele Alli all squandering chances to make the scoreline more emphatic.

Their wastefulness was almost punished late on when first Alvaro Negredo went close with an acrobatic volley, before Marten de Roon fired wide of the far post.

"I'm always optimistic," Pochettino said.

"When you have the chance to score and play well and dominate the game - we didn't concede one shot on target.

"When you leave the game open at 1-0, always something can happen and you can concede.

"But I think we played much better and in the end deserved the three points. If they had scored, because it's football, okay, maybe we dropped two points. But we deserved the three points. You can say nothing about that."

Middlesbrough, meanwhile, stay one point above the relegation zone, having failed to win any of their last seven league matches.

Their situation appears also to have become more urgent after Hull and Sunderland both earlier registered impressive wins over Liverpool and Crystal Palace respectively.

"We have to think about ourselves," Boro boss Aitor Karanka said.

"We need to know that we are good enough to stay in the division, we have to forget the opponents and we have to be confident because the attitude and commitment the players put on the pitch every single day is amazing." - PA SPORT

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