Tottenham manager Ange Postecoglou was full of praise for his players despite their 4-2 defeat to Brighton on Thursday night and slipped in a dig at VAR Peter Bankes for failing to send off Lewis Dunk in the second half. Spurs found themselves 4-0 down at the Amex Stadium before a valiant late fightback saw them at least avoid a humiliating scoreline.
Spurs looked set for embarrassment, and Postecoglou’s heaviest defeat at the club, when they trailed by four goals with 15 minutes to go. Jack Hinshelwood, a Joao Pedro brace both from the penalty spot and Pervis Estupinan’s long-range stunner had the hosts in total control.
But Alejo Veliz’s first goal for the club reduced the arrears with nine minutes of normal time to play. The Spurs away end was all but empty by that stage but Ben Davies then headed in from Pedro Porro’s cross to make it 4-2.
Despite a flurry of late chances, with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg hitting the post, Spurs could not muster another goal to really pile the pressure on Brighton. The defeat ends a three-match winning streak and means the north Londoners have lost five of their last nine league matches after such an electrifying start to the campaign.
Postecoglou stayed positive post-match and said to BBC Match of the Day: “We’ve asked a lot of these players for a very long time and we lacked a little bit of energy today. They are a good team and we struggled to cope with them. We hung in there and that’s all you can ask for, they left everything out there.
“There are no grumbles from me with the penalties. They were clear and obvious. It’s amazing that VAR picks up everything apart from a tackle that maybe puts out another of our players.”
Postecoglou was referring to the tackle from Brighton captain Dunk on Dejan Kulusevski in the lead-up to Veliz’s goal. Dunk was given a yellow card but arguably should have seen red for landing his studs on the Swede’s ankle. Kulusevski was able to continue after a brief scare.
The Tottenham boss added: “There were positives at the end this group of players are giving everything at the moment. It is demanding to play the football we ask and they are doing it week in week out. It’s not for a lack of effort. We haven’t been able to give the players a break at all and what we ask is pretty taxing.”
Postecoglou continued to Amazon Prime: “To be fair on the lads, they’ve put in a hell of a shift over the last few weeks. We looked a bit leggy and Brighton were good as always. They’re a good side. We kind of hung in there till the end and you can’t fault the effort.
“The team continues to show character. We lacked some energy tonight. Against Brighton that’s going to cost you. It was a mountain to climb in the end. From our perspective, the good thing was that the lads gave everything they could in the game.
“It’s because we’ve got 10 players injured. You can go to the well as many times the way we play… like I said, the players gave everything again, that’s all I can ask for. It’s a credit to them we’re in the position we are.
“I thought first half we were a little bit wasteful. Second half we created enough to score some a couple more goals but Brighton scored from a similar amount of chances in the first half. No lessons [to take]. All a new manager can ask for is for his players to give everything they’ve got.”
At the 19-match mark Spurs sit fifth and six points off first-placed Liverpool. Manchester City, in fourth, are just one point in front but have a game in hand on the Lilywhites.
Postecoglou’s side welcome Bournemouth to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for their final fixture of 2023 on New Year’s Eve, though they will be without the suspended Kulusevski against the Cherries. Son Heung-min is expected to play before linking up with South Korea for the Asian Cup in Qatar.