Mauricio Pochettino paid tribute to newly crowned Premier League champions Leicester City but insisted his Tottenham squad deserve credit despite Monday’s collapse at Chelsea ending their title bid.
Spurs had to win to stand any chance of reeling in Claudio Ranieri’s shock troops and goals from Harry Kane and Son Heung-min left them handily placed at half-time in an ill-tempered encounter.
But Gary Cahill pulled a goal back before the hour and as Tottenham’s composure unravelled, substitute Eden Hazard dispatched an equaliser that was gleefully received by the home faithful at Stamford Bridge.
Pochettino took the setback with good grace, having emerged from an unseemly melee around the players’ tunnel at full-time, and urged his side to re-focus on securing second place ahead of Arsenal.
“First of all, congratulations to the players, staff and supporters of Leicester,” he told Sky Sport. “It’s been a great season and they deserve the title
“It’s disappointing because we fight to be in the race and from 2-0 we tried to score the third. When we conceded the first goal to 2-1, always something can happen.
“At the same time I’m very proud of my players. The season was fantastic and we will fight for second place
“We need to proud. We are fighting for second place and thank you to the supporters.”
Spurs claimed an unwanted Premier League record as they collected nine bookings during the match and Mousa Dembele could face retrospective action from the FA after replays appeared to show him eye-gouging Diego Costa.
Members of the Chelsea squad spoke beforehand of their desire to stop Spurs claiming the title they won last season and defended so abjectly this time around, but Pochettino refused to blame the build-up for a heated atmosphere on the pitch.
“It was a derby and we were fighting to win the title,” he said. “It makes us feel very proud of our players and our season, how Chelsea take this game and show big, big respect to us
“This is the way that we want to carry on [as title contenders] for the next season.
“It’s football, we are men, they are men we need to show we are strong. It was a good lesson for us, we are the youngest squad in the league.
“We feel very proud and our supporters need to feel proud too, we have massive potential for the future.”