LONDON (Reuters) – Tottenham Hotspur are often accused of being ‘Spursy’ when the stakes are high but manager Antonio Conte praised the way his players responded to the pressure of a must-win game against north London rivals Arsenal on Thursday.
The cruel jibe that Tottenham cannot handle pressure could not have been further from the truth as Conte’s fired-up side claimed a 3-0 win to keep alive their hopes of pipping Arsenal to fourth spot in the Premier League.
Harry Kane scored twice for the hosts before halftime while Son Heung-min took his league tally to 21 for the season with his side’s third just after halftime.
Tottenham have now won three successive home league games against Arsenal for the first time since 1961 and Thursday’s win means they are still in the hunt for a top-four finish having been eighth when Conte took charge in November.
The Italian had questioned the quality of his Tottenham squad earlier in the season, but the serial winner is now in no doubt about the character of his players.
“A lot of people tell me that Tottenham is not good to live with the pressure but I think to become an important team you have to live with the right pressure, to bring the pressure and become positive,” Conte said.
“Tonight was very difficult because when you must win it is never easy. I know the pressure that is on the shoulders of the players and on my shoulders.
“To play in this way with this intensity and this passion makes me very happy.”
Victory for Arsenal would have put them seven points clear of fifth-placed Tottenham with two games remaining.
But now the difference has been shaved to one point and Tottenham’s final two games are at home to Burnley and away to already-relegated Norwich City. Arsenal have a tougher finish on paper with Newcastle United away on Monday, followed by Everton at home on the final day of the season.
Should Tottenham beat Burnley in Sunday’s early kickoff they will go into fourth before Arsenal face Newcastle.
“(The fans) pushed us from the start until the end. Now I ask our fans to do the same on Sunday because we have another must-win game against Burnley,” he said.
“We are playing against a team trying to avoid relegation.”
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)