Southampton staged a superb fightback to boost their bid for Premier League survival with a shock 2-1 win that left Tottenham’s top four place in jeopardy on Saturday.
Leading through Harry Kane’s 26th minute goal and in complete control before the interval, Mauricio Pochettino’s slumping side were undone as Southampton capped a spirited second half response with two late goals in three minutes.
Yan Valery capitalised on a mistake by Danny Rose in the 77th minute to draw Saints level before James Ward-Prowse’s superb 81th minute free-kick delivered a victory that ensured they remained two points clear of the relegation zone.
For Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuettl, this was the kind of heroic victory that will strengthen the belief his side can stay up.
Pochettino, on the other hand, was left with plenty to worry about as his side fell to a third defeat in four Premier League games — a wretched run that has produced just on point and leaves them looking over their shoulder as the battle for a top four finish gathers pace.
Third placed Tottenham are three points above fourth placed Manchester United and four ahead of fifth placed Arsenal, with their rivals meeting at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.
Before Rose allowed Stuart Armstrong’s low cross to roll through his legs, it appeared a positive week for Tottenham would end on a high.
Dele Alli returned after a seven-week absence with a hamstring injury to revive his instinctive relationship with Kane, adding to the upbeat mood generated by the midweek win at Borussia Dortmund that booked Tottenham’s place in the Champions League quarter-finals.
In addition, the club announced on Friday they will finally be moving into their redeveloped White Hart Lane home next month, prompting chants from the visiting supporters of “Tottenham’s going home”.
And during the first half there seemed little that would upset the visitors’ week.
– Saints transformed –
Alli’s creativity offered a different dimension to Tottenham’s attacking play and it quickly became clear why Pochettino had opted against easing the midfielder back in from the bench.
The fluency of Tottenham’s play reflected the lift provided by the last 16 second leg success in Dortmund and it became increasingly inevitable the visitors would make the breakthrough.
Southampton’s defence was being repeatedly unpicked and they were fortunate to escape when Tottenham hit the woodwork twice in a minute midway through the first half.
Southampton defender Maya Yoshida was fortunate to see the ball rebound clear of the goal when he inadvertently directed Kane’s low cross against the post as he attempted to clear.
Immediately after that scare, Southampton again had cause to reflect on their good fortune when Christian Eriksen’s free-kick struck the crossbar.
There would be no third time lucky, however, with Tottenham finally finding a way through in the 26th minute.
Once again the opening was created by Alli who floated an excellent pass towards Kane at the far post and the England captain demonstrated commendable composure to take the ball down and slot home.
Hasenhuettl reacted by making a double substitution at the break and the home side were transformed.
Saints were far more convincing and deservedly drew level through Valery’s second goal in two games.
They maintained the pressure to force the second with Ward-Prowse curling in a free-kick after Kyle Walker-Peters had halted Armstrong’s run on goal with a trip.