Conte blames ‘mental instability' for Tottenham's collapse against Saints

Spurs boss 'disappointed' after Southampton twice come from behind to win 3-2

Thursday, 10th February — By Dan Carrier at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

Antonie Conte 2 - Credit Tottenham Hotspur FC

Premier League

TOTTENHAM 2 (Bednarek 18 og, Son 70)
SOUTHAMPTON 3 (Broja 23, Elyounoussi 79, Adam 82)

ANTONIO Conte blamed “the mental instability” within his Tottenham squad for their 3-2 defeat to Southampton tonight (Wednesday).

The Saints stunned Spurs by scoring twice in two minutes late on to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 victory at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

“For sure, we have to be disappointed,” admitted Conte. “They [Southampton] were good but I think we made many, many mistakes, especially with the ball, and I think this type of situation creates a bit of mental instability in my team.

“In the second half we started to play, we started to press in the right way and then we created chances to score.

“We also did that in the first half because every time we play the ball in the right way, we created a situation to go and score. But I repeat, we made many mistakes in the first half – important mistakes.”

The Tottenham boss also called for his players to be less emotional on the pitch, adding: “For sure, I think we are now improving in many aspects but we are still too emotional.

“Against Leicester, we won 3-2 and we were losing 2-1. Today, we were winning 2-1 and we lost 3-2.

“I think on this aspect, we have to improve because if we want to grow as a team and try to be competitive, the first thing we have to improve is to be stable, not up and down, up and down.”

Despite taking the lead twice, Spurs could not keep Southampton quiet – and credit must be given to Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side for what was an excellent display and a well-earned victory.

The Saints enjoyed a first half where they were keener, quicker to the ball, and enjoyed possession, while Spurs were content to contain and failed to press the ball effectively.

Hugo Lloris was by far the busier goalkeeper and had already been called upon twice to keep things level before Tottenham opened the scoring on 18 minutes against the run of play.

Lucas Moura carried the ball down the right and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg burst into the box. The midfielder tried to find Heung-Min Son coming in at the near post, but in trying to cut out the low cross Jan Bednarek inadvertently turned the ball into his own net.

It was a lucky break. But the lead only lasted just five minutes as Southampton picked themselves up and carried on where they had left off – camping out in the Spurs half.

Swarming forward to win the ball high up the pitch, on 23 minutes the Southampton press gave Davinson Sanchez the heebie-jeebies. Tottenham’s muddle at the back got worse when Ben Davies sliced a clearance – leading to a chance for Armando Broja, who side-footed home the equaliser.

It looked like the sheer force of will Conte has instilled in his Tottenham team would eek out a result when Son got on the end of a Moura cross to tuck home on 70 minutes.

But the 2-1 scoreline looked fragile, and Southampton’s excellent display was not to be wasted. On 79, James Ward-Prowse whipped a ball in from the right and Mohamed Elyounoussi steamed in and thumped a headed equaliser past Lloris.

There was worse to come for Spurs. Three minutes later Ward-Prowse repeated his trick, and this time it was Che Adams who planted a header into the back of the net. Emerson Royal was found wanting for both of Southampton’s headed goals, having twice failed to deal with the danger.

There was to be one late twist. Steven Bergwijn, who had hit two late goals to turn defeat into victory at Leicester, entered the fray with nine minutes left and soon scored to make it 3-3.

But as players and fans celebrated – and the ball was rushed back to the centre circle in the hope that there may even be time for another unlikely winner – dispassionate eyes in the VAR room noted Bergwijn was fractionally offside.

It was refreshing to see Spurs trying to do all they could to the very last kick of the game to make up for a bad performance. However, it would have been tremendously harsh on Southampton if they had not got three points.

Tottenham: Lloris, Sanchez, Romero, Davies, Royal, Winks, Hojbjerg (Bentancur, 60), Reguilon (Bergwijn, 83), Moura (Kulusevski, 76), Son, Kane
Substitutes not used: Gollini, Doherty, Rodon, Sessegnon, White, Scarlett

Southampton: Forster, Walker-Peters, Bednarek, Salisu, Perraud, S Armstrong, Ward-Prowse, Romeu, Elyounoussi (Diallo, 90+7), Adams (Long, 88), Broja (Walcott, 90)
Substitutes not used: Caballero, Stephens, A Armstrong, Djenepo, Smallbone,Valery

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