Tottenham Hotspur’s hopes of a top-four finish in the English Premier League (EPL) suffered a dent as Southampton earned a last-gasp 3-3 home draw with a James Ward-Prowse penalty that would have been cheered in Newcastle on Saturday (March 18).
Antonio Conte’s side looked set to move into third place as goals by Harry Kane and Ivan Perisic put them 3-1 ahead with around 15 minutes of normal time left on the clock.
But bottom club Southampton battled back to salvage a point in their quest to beat the drop.
Tottenham may come to rue the day they allowed Southampton a relegation lifeline.
Without playing that well they were in control thanks to Kane and Perisic but allowed Theo Walcott to score his first goal for two years to make it 3-2.
Tottenham substitute Pape Sarr was then adjudged in the 90th minute to have fouled Ainsley Maitland-Niles as he attempted to hack clear a bouncing ball and Ward-Prowse made no mistake to earn his side a point.
Manager Conte lambasted his players as ‘selfish’ after they squandered a 3-1 lead, describing their inability to hold on to victory as ‘unacceptable’ and questioned their spirit. Tottenham Hotspur’s grip on the EPL fourth place and the Italian looks increasingly likely to leave at the end of the season or before.
Tottenham have 49 points from 28 games but Newcastle United, in fifth, have 47 from 26 games.
“For me, it was not a penalty. But the worst situation is what was happening on the pitch. What was happening in the last few months. What is happening in my second season” Conte told reporters.
“I think that it’s the right moment to speak because I think that after this performance, for me this is unacceptable. We are winning 3-1, in control and concede two goals and Fraser (Forster) made saves. It’s better to go into the problem, we are not a team. We are 11 players that go into the pitch.
“I see selfish players, players that don’t want to help each other and don’t put their heart.”
Conte’s tactics are regularly questioned by Tottenham fans who appear to have lost patience with his methods.
But Conte turned his ire on the players.
“Before today I try to hide the situation and improve the situation with words,” he said. “About tactical and technical, it’s one situation, another is the desire, the fire that you need to have in your eyes, your heart.
“You need to have this in every moment. This season compared to last, now we are worse in this aspect. When you are not a team you cannot improve.”
Conte’s verbal onslaught suggests all is not well in the changing room and sounded like the words of a manager ready to call time on his Tottenham tenure having managed to get them to fourth place last season after replacing Nuno Espirito Santo.
“The club has the responsibility for the transfer market, the coach has the responsibility. But the players, where are the players? I see only 11 players that play for themselves,” he said.