Mauricio Pochettino felt Tottenham’s superb 2-0 win over Premier League leaders Chelsea showed they have grown following last season’s title heartache.
Spurs moved up to third and cut the gap to the summit to seven points after Dele Alli headed a goal in each half amid a fervent atmosphere at White Hart Lane on Wednesday.
The result denied Chelsea a league record of 14 consecutive wins in the same season and amid sparkling showings from the likes of Alli and Christian Eriksen, Pochettino was heartened to see his players’ fighting spirit shine through.
“We are very pleased because for me the most important thing was that we showed great character. We were very competitive,” said Pochettino, who saw his team famously surrender the Premier League crown to Leicester City with a late collapse at Chelsea last May.
“Maybe that was the problem last season that we missed to compete in a better way. It was a very solid performance and that makes me proud of all the players.
“I think that was a little bit that was tough last season, to explain why we didn’t in the end get the title. In different games I think we missed to be more competitive like today.
“For me, what it means to be competitive is to work hard but compete in this type of game when you need to play, you need to suffer, you need to fight.
“Sometimes you have to give the ball to them because they push you and at that moment you need to work hard and be strong in your mind.
“I think that makes us pleased and proud that we understood what it means to be competitive, when maybe you cannot play in the way that you normally play.”
As the top-flight sides head into this weekend’s FA Cup third round, Chelsea are five points clear of Liverpool, with Spurs ahead of Manchester City in fourth on goal difference.
“It was important for us to reduce the gap,” Pochettino said. “Now the top four is very competitive, it’s very close.
“It’s true the gap still is important for Chelsea but I think it was a perfect thing for us to arrive in the third place and be close. That is important for us and it’s a lot of games to arrive before the end of the season. A lot can happen in football.”
He added: “Our performance showed that we can be competitive and we can achieve big things but it is true that is it only one game
“We need to be regular and have consistency during the whole season. We are happy with the victory but it is still only three more points with a lot of things to do.
“If we want to fight at the end of the season for big things and to lift trophies, you need to keep that intensity always.”
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