LONDON — Mauricio Pochettino has said Tottenham suffered a backlash against a wounded Manchester City in Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at Wembley Stadium.
City ended a run of three straight defeats and took a step closer to the Premier League title with a comfortable victory through goals from Gabriel Jesus, Ilkay Gundogan and Raheem Sterling.
“They had three defeats in a row. Of course they came from not a good result and that’s dangerous for a team like them,” the Spurs manager said afterwards. “They have unbelievable players; it was an aggressive performance from them.”
Despite losing 5-1 on aggregate to Liverpool in the Champions League and suffering a 3-2 defeat to neighbours Manchester United, City led 2-0 inside 25 minutes at Wembley after Jesus sprinted onto Vincent Kompany’s pass to score and Gundogan converted from the penalty spot after goalkeeper Hugo Lloris had felled Sterling.
“We started the game really really really bad,” Pochettino added. “We missed playing 25 minutes. It was so easy for them. Then we started to compete at 2-0 down, we scored for 2-1, started really well the second half.
“But after 90 minutes, Manchester City were better. We congratulate them, they’re very close to winning the Premier League. I am not concerned because after 14 games unbeaten, our last defeat was in December [at the Etihad Stadium], and now again against Manchester City.”
Pochettino reiterated that Spurs, who halved the deficit through Christian Eriksen, should not be compared with City or second-placed Manchester United, who have spent vast sums of money over the past decade.
“We’re working in a different way to them,” he said. “We cannot compare to them. We need to work hard to reach Manchester City’s level. We still need to work a lot. Of course, the way that we try, you never know.
“One day you can reach this level if you work hard, sometimes it’s not easy. Listen to Pep [Guardiola, the Man City boss] or Mou [Manchester United’s Jose Mourinho], they always say we need to invest in more quality but in our club we have a different philosophy. It’s not the same. It’s fantastic because we’re working with different tools.”
Lloris appeared to foul Sterling outside the box for City’s second goal but Pochettino refused to blame referee Jon Moss for the decision.
“The most important thing is to accept that over the whole season it’s sometimes for you and sometimes against you. I’m not going to complain. We lost because they were better. Of course it wasn’t a penalty when we watch on TV,” Pochettino said
“The referee made a mistake but we make a mistake and the players on the pitch. Sometimes it’s against you but you accept it’s the rules of the game.”
Dan is ESPN FC’s Tottenham correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Dan_KP.