Mauricio Pochettino hailed a “perfect” performance that closed the gap on Leicester City at the top to five points and provided a “big signal” that Tottenham Hotspur are ready to pounce. Harry Kane and Dele Alli scored two goals apiece on an evening when Pochettino’s team outplayed Stoke City to crank up the pressure on the leaders.
In what felt like a major statement of intent when it comes to the title race, Spurs ran out 4-0 winners as Kane scored his 23rd and 24th goals of the season. The England international was not exaggerating when he said that “we could have scored six or seven” – Christian Eriksen and Alli both hit the woodwork – and the overriding impression at the end of the night was that Tottenham are determined to turn up the heat on Leicester. “We are not going anywhere,” Kane said. “We have got to keep doing what we are doing and we can’t do any more than that.”
Pochettino praised his players’ “character, hunger and passion” and said that it was important Tottenham believed the title was still within their reach. “The most important thing is the performance we showed today was perfect,” the Spurs manager said. “It is a big signal we are there waiting and fighting.”
Spurs play after Leicester in each of their next three games – against West Bromwich Albion at home, Chelsea away and Southampton at home – but that situation could well suit Pochettino’s team. The way Spurs are playing at the moment they do not look like slipping up.
“We need to believe that is possible,” Pochettino said when asked whether there was enough time to catch Leicester. “It is good for the competition that we are in behind to try and put pressure on Leicester.
“I feel very proud. Our supporters were fantastic and they feel proud of us. I think this an exciting moment for the club. In football all can happen and, if Leicester fail, we need to be there. We need to try and reduce the gap. This is our dream.”
Alli was outstanding for Spurs, with his two goals taking him into double figures for the season. He was also guilty of missing an open goal, when he took the ball around the Stoke goalkeeper, Shay Given, but inexplicably hit the post, prompting both the 20-year-old and his manager to collapse to the floor in frustration.
Yet that was the only blemish on a brilliant display that even drew praise from the Stoke fans when Alli was substituted six minutes from time. “He played very well,” Pochettino said.
“He is very young and some ups and downs is normal. But he showed unbelievable skill, two goals scored, one clear miss. Today for me, though, we need to give the credit to the whole team, because the collective effort was fantastic.”
Kane smiled when asked about the photo he had posted on Instagram in the wake of Leicester’s 2-2 with West Ham United. “It was a few lions ready to pounce,” he said. “Obviously after watching the Leicester game they dropped a couple of points. I was itching to play and I had to wait another day and a half to get out on the pitch. I wanted to get out there. It was a bit of fun. I just want to play. We have got another couple of Monday night games. We always seem to be the last to play but we are ready, we want to be out there and enjoying our football.”
Mark Hughes, the Stoke manager, admitted his players found it “very difficult to cope” with Spurs and suggested that Pochettino’s team could yet overhaul Leicester. “They was very good, we played them earlier in the season and they weren’t on that level,” Hughes said. “Their mentality at the moment, you wouldn’t bet against them catching Leicester on that evidence.”