Mauricio Pochettino insists nine-man Tottenham won’t let a “cruel” 1-0 defeat at Bournemouth ruin their bid to finish in the Premier League’s top four and reach the Champions League final.
Tottenham had two players sent off as they missed the chance to guarantee Champions League football next season after Nathan Ake scored an injury-time winner for Bournemouth.
It was far from ideal preparation for Mauricio Pochettino’s side, who face Ajax in the Champions League semi-final second leg on Wednesday in Amsterdam, having lost the first leg 1-0.
Son Heung-min was dismissed for pushing Jefferson Lerma at the end of a frantic first half, in which Eric Dier was lucky not to have been sent off and Bournemouth could conceivably have had two penalties.
Then, just over two minutes after coming on at half-time, Juan Foyth was also shown a straight red card as he slid studs-up into Jack Simpson.
Spurs have now won just once in their past four league games and stay third on 70 points, four points clear of fifth-placed Arsenal, who have two games remaining.
Champions League qualification is still in Tottenham’s hands, and they need to beat Everton in their final league game on 12 May to make sure of a top-four spot.
“It is very painful to play with two players less than the opponent,” Pochettino said.
“We need to move on. We cannot change the decisions. We have ahead two finals against Ajax and Everton. It is in our hands. If it does not happen we will be proud because nobody expected Tottenham to be in the position they are today.
“We are fighting six teams, it is impossible for all six to get the top four, whatever happens I will feel proud and whatever happens in the semi-final I will be proud.”
Bournemouth gave a senior debut to 19-year-old Irish goalkeeper Mark Travers and he made five saves in the first half to keep Spurs at bay, but was a spectator in the second half.
Despite their numerical advantage, the Cherries were unable to capitalise until Ake popped up to score in the 91st minute, heading in from a Ryan Fraser corner.
South Korea forward Son Heung-min was sent off for a needless push in the closing moments of the first half and Argentine defender Juan Foyth saw red for a studs-up lunge soon after the interval, barely two minutes after entering the field as a half-time substitute.
Pochettino’s side looked like they would hold on for a point as the match entered stoppage-time, but Bournemouth defender Nathan Ake ended third-placed Tottenham’s stubborn resistence to delay their attempt to guarantee a place in the top four.
A win at Dean Court would have achieved that aim, but fourth-placed Chelsea will now go above Spurs if they defeat Watford and Arsenal, currently fifth, will move to within one point of their north London rivals if they beat Brighton.
“Of course it is difficult to get something positive. We made a massive effort,” said Pochettino.
“We need to move on. We have ahead two finals. It is in our hands. If it does not happen we will be proud because nobody expected Tottenham to be in the position they are today.”
Tottenham’s ninth defeat in their last 15 games in all competitions means they need to wait for Sunday’s results to see if they need to win their final Premier League game of the season at home to Everton on May 12.
It was the worst possible preparation for their bid to overturn a 1-0 deficit in the Champions League semi-final second leg at Ajax on Wednesday.
“We are fighting six teams. It’s impossible for all six to get the top four, whatever happens, I will feel proud and whatever happens in the semi-final I will be proud,” added the Argentine.
Pochettino didn’t rest any of his key players ahead of the trip to Amsterdam, with Son, Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen, Moussa Sissoko and Lucas Moura all starting, although Jan Vertonghen was absent after his head injury in midweek.
Lucas Moura tried to catch out Bournemouth’s teenage keeper Mark Travers with an audacious effort from the halfway line.
Travers, making his Premier League debut, was way off his line, but went unpunished as the Tottenham forward’s shot went just wide.
The 19-year-old was fortunate on that occasion, but he proved he had banished any nerves when he dived to his right to save Dele Alli’s long-range strike.
– Ugly tackle –
Lucas tried again from more conventional range when the Brazilian burst clear for a shot from the edge of the area that Travers did well to tip over the bar.
Shining in his personal duel with Lucas, Travers foiled the Tottenham star for a third time, quickly rushing off his line to save with his legs before producing another superb save to keep out Alli’s header.
Tottenham finished the half down to 10 men as Son earned an out-of-character dismissal.
Frustrated by a heated battle for possession with Ryan Fraser, Son responded to Jefferson Lerma’s presence by shoving the Bournemouth midfielder to the turf, leaving Craig Pawson no option but to flash the red card.
Tottenham’s disciplinary woes weren’t finished yet and Pochettino was left shell-shocked after his half-time substitute Foyth was the second player to be sent off following an ugly tackle that smashed into Jack Simpson’s leg in the 48th minute.
Tottenham couldn’t hold out and Ake headed home from Fraser’s corner in the 91st minute.
In a dramatic finale, Tottenham felt they should have had a penalty with the last kick when Alli was bundled over by Wilson, but Pawson ignored their protests.