Football

Pochettino praises Spurs, blasts referee

Manager pleased with Tottenham digging out another win; irked by their fourth booking for simulation

Mauricio Pochettino saluted his "fantastic" players after they stayed on the coat-tails of Manchester City and Liverpool in the title race by grinding out a 3-1 victory over Leicester City at Wembley on Sunday, despite the Foxes pushing them to the limit.

But it came after a remarkable moment when former England striker Jamie Vardy came off the bench to take a penalty that would have put the visitors level at 1-1 - only to see his effort saved by Man-of-the-Match Hugo Lloris, the Mirror reported.

Tottenham manager Pochettino said: "Sometimes you win games not playing your best. I am so happy. One more time to congratulate the players.

"Again, their effort was fantastic. With all the circumstances that happened during the game and this season, it's so important to recognise that they are doing a fantastic effort and I am so proud of that.

"That's not my business (who took the penalty). Now, yes (I am pleased) but more than the mistake of whoever shot (the penalty), it was a massive save from my goalkeeper."

Leicester manager Claude Puel, who started with Vardy on the bench a week after the striker appeared to call him a "f***ing k***head" following their 1-0 home loss to Manchester United, defended the decision to let him take it.

Puel said: "I gave him the opportunity to take the penalty. Whether it was a good thing, not a good thing, we don't know.

"We have a lot of possibilities not just the penalty, to get back in the game and score first. It was the same feeling against United with a lot of chances.

"But I am happy with our moves and our quality, and we have to find the clinical edge because we need points to benefit our work."

The game also saw another penalty debate, after Son Heung Min appeared to be tripped by Leicester defender Harry Maguire in the first half but referee Michael Oliver brandished a yellow card to the South Korea international. Replays showed Maguire's boot had made contact with his shin.

Pochettino felt that Son deserved a penalty and found it "unbelievable" that he was booked for diving instead.

"Do you think that Sonny deserved to be booked? Unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable," Pochettino said.

"It was a penalty, the same referee," he added as he recalled an incident when the club were denied a penalty against Liverpool earlier this season.

Pochettino said Son's penalty call was an easier decision to make than the one the Foxes spurned after midfielder James Maddison appeared to be fouled by Spurs defender Jan Vertonghen, Reuters reported.

"It was so clear the position with Sonny, the action, but it wasn't clear the position of Maddison when he was on the floor," Pochettino said.

"I'm more relaxed because we won the game, three important points we got, but so disappointed with the situation because everyone wants to talk about different clubs or players.

"Do you think we are a team who try to cheat the referee? Come on, we are the most innocent people on the pitch."

Tottenham next play Borussia Dortmund at home in thefirst leg of the Champions League last 16 on Thursday morning (Singapore time).

Football