Burnley's renaissance derails Tottenham and Pochettino's title bid
Harry Kane's goalscoring return to line-up cannot save London side from defeat at Turf Moor
And then there were two. Even as Harry Kane made a scoring comeback, Tottenham Hotspur slipped back.
They remain five points behind Manchester City and Liverpool but a fifth league defeat realistically all but ends their chances of becoming champions for the first time in 58 years. This does not feel a three-horse title race any more.
“We cannot think now of being a real contender,” admitted Mauricio Pochettino. “It is a massive opportunity lost for us.”
His own frustration was apparent after the final whistle in a confrontation with referee Mike Dean.
The normally smiling Pochettino had to be restrained by Burnley defender Phil Bardsley. He admitted the altercation was out of character.
“It was weird and strange and has not happened before in 10 years,” he said. “Some stupid things happen and you react. I was never out of control but what happened there, happened there. Maybe I crossed the line a little bit.”
If a charge from the English Football Association follows, Pochettino pledged to “accept everything that happens.”
He is considering apologising to Dean and, while the corner that led to Burnley’s opener was contentious, he exonerated the official from blame. “I need to blame myself,” he added. “We lost because of our mistakes. If you want to be a contender you need to come here and show your credentials but it never happened. The game was never under control.”
Burnley took that as a compliment. They disrupted Tottenham. “We are finding ways to win,” said manager Sean Dyche.
Only they and Manchester United can boast the distinction of being unbeaten in the division in 2019 and they have 18 points in eight games since Dyche recalled Tom Heaton, who ensured victory with an injury-time save from Erik Lamela.
An uncharacteristic error led to Kane’s goal, but Burnley have rediscovered the solidity that propelled them to seventh place last season. They are allying effort and industry with more potency. Their strikers, Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes, have now scored their last eight goals. Barnes again served as the irrepressible irritant.
That work ethic and refusal to be cowed stood Burnley in good stead. Barnes kept on running, into the penalty box at the far post to turn in the winner, a cross-shot from the substitute Johann Berg Gudmundsson.
One rising effort from Barnes aside, Burnley barely threatened before they took the lead. A corner was awarded controversially and finished emphatically, Wood leaping above two defenders to meet the influential Dwight McNeil’s delivery to head in his fourth goal in as many games.
In between Kane had levelled, scoring his eighth goal in as many appearances, separated by seven games and six weeks on the sidelines with an ankle ligament injury.
Burnley switched off as, aided by the fourth official, Danny Rose took a quick throw. Kane sprang the offside trap, sprinted away and finished via the far post.
It was a reward for persistence. He had a series of shots, drawing a wonderful save from Heaton with a 30-yard shot.
He played himself back into form, but perhaps his manager talked his way into trouble.
Updated: February 23, 2019 08:04 PM