Antonio Conte said Gian Piero Ventrone will always be in Tottenham hearts in an emotional tribute after his side defeated Brighton. The sudden death of the club’s fitness coach on Thursday was marked by a minute’s applause before kick-off and Hugo Lloris held up a shirt with “Gian Piero” written on the back in front of their supporters after the win.
Conte, who will attend Ventrone’s funeral in Naples on Sunday, said: “In only 10 months Gian Piero was in the heart of everybody. He was in the heart of every single player and everyone is devastated.
“Life sometimes is not good and at the same time you have to try to cope in the best possible way. I’m sure Gian Piero will stay with us for ever.”
The 61-year-old worked throughout his career with Conte and was credited with transforming Tottenham’s fitness levels after his appointment in November last year.
Brighton’s new manager, Roberto De Zerbi, said: “The loss of Gian Piero is much more important than the game. I knew him because he was a friend of many of my assistants. For a lot of years he was the reference for a lot of Italian trainers. He has changed the vision for everyone.”
De Zerbi, the former Sassuolo manager, failed to defeat a team coached by Conte in four Serie A matches and his Italian compatriot once again had the upper hand here, with Harry Kane’s first-half header settling the contest. Tottenham were again short of their fluent best but the win ensured the club consolidated their hold on third place and ended an emotional week on a high.
For Brighton it was a frustrating introduction for De Zerbi in his first match at the Amex Stadium, with his team failing to reproduce the exhilarating football that gave Liverpool huge problems last week.
Tottenham were given an early opportunity to strike from a free-kick just outside the area but Son Heung-min’s attempt was parried to safety by Robert Sánchez.
Brighton made an explosive start in the 3-3 draw at Anfield but Tottenham initially dominated possession initially to prevent the hosts from establishing control.
The home side’s first opportunity fell to Danny Welbeck after the striker was released but his low strike flew narrowly past Lloris’s far post. Tottenham were then denied the breakthrough after Son teed up Rodrigo Bentancur but the midfielder’s strike was kept out by an exceptional save from Sánchez.
Spurs did not have to wait long for a goal as they struck from the resulting corner. Son picked up the ball after Brighton failed to clear the danger and his cross was headed into the net from close range by Kane.
The striker is dominating the best of the rest in the race to finish behind Erling Haaland as top goalscorer. This was his eighth Premier League goal of the season and he has now scored in each of his last four appearances in the competition.
Lloris was soon called into action to palm away Moisés Caicedo’s long-range strike, and the hosts should also have equalised before the break after a corner from Pascal Gross was met by Lewis Dunk but the captain’s header flew agonisingly over the bar. Brighton were growing into the game, though, and some neat work from Leandro Trossard set up Solly March only for his low shot to fizz past a post.
Brighton continued to push forward and Welbeck was denied by Lloris’s save, with Spurs increasingly under pressure at the end of the first half.
The visitors looked intent on playing on the break after the restart and Conte could not hide his frustration with Son, who selfishly held on to the ball until a move broke down when he could have released Kane in space.
Brighton were struggling to reproduce the attacking thrusts that had troubled Spurs at the end of the first 45 minutes. But Tottenham still carried a significant threat on the counterattack and Brighton needed Dunk to produce an immaculately timed tackle to deny Son after he was played in by Kane. The England striker almost added a second goal after he broke clear of the defence but surprisingly dragged his shot wide.
De Zerbi, who felt defeat was harsh on his team, introduced Kaoru Mitoma and the lively Japanese winger shimmied his way into the penalty area with Lloris required to come off his line to thwart him.
Son curled the ball into the net but the goal was chalked off after the forward had strayed fractionally offside.
Welbeck spurned a huge chance to level the match after he fired his low strike wide of the target, which left Brighton beaten for the second time this season.