Mauricio Pochettino 'proud' of players as Christian Eriksen's late goal keeps Spurs on course for top-four finish
Mauricio Pochettino admitted his tired Tottenham Hotspur players are pushing themselves to their limits after Christian Eriksen's superb late strike sealed a hard-fought 1-0 win over struggling Brighton & Hove Albion on Tuesday.
Pochettino's third-placed side dominated from start to finish at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, but a combination of brave Brighton defending and poor finishing kept the match in the balance until the 88th minute.
Eriksen finally ended Brighton's stubborn resistance with a sensational long-range drive that lifted Tottenham three points clear of fourth-placed Chelsea and four ahead of Arsenal in fifth.
"The team are not as fresh as we wanted, not just legs, but minds, so we have to congratulate the players. I'm so proud of them," said Pochettino.
"Brighton were a really brave opponent. The most important thing is we believed, we didn't give up."
Although Arsenal can close the gap to one point if they win at Wolves on Wednesday, this was a vital result in Spurs' bid to qualify for next season's Champions League, via a top-four finish.
Tottenham have now won all four games in all competitions at their plush new arena, scoring eight goals without reply.
This was the most frustrating fixture at the ground as the hosts looked hamstrung without injured striker Harry Kane until Eriksen came to the rescue with his ninth goal of the season in all competitions.
But Pochettino was delighted with the way his players kept plugging away right to the end despite the draining effects of their hectic fixture list.
"There were more than 20 attempts and the reward is massive," he said.
"It is three very important points and to be in a good position in the table."
Tottenham can take another step towards securing their top-four berth in Saturday's crucial London derby against West Ham United before focusing on the first leg of the Champions League semi-finals against Ajax next week.
"We must be confident, the team are doing a fantastic effort after tough games against Manchester City," Pochettino said.
The finale was painful for Brighton, who have won only two of their last 15 league games and sit just one place and three points above the relegation zone.
They have failed to score in their past seven games in all competitions and are in severe danger of being caught by third bottom Cardiff City in the fight to avoid relegation.
Defeats for Arsenal and Manchester United, combined with Chelsea's draw against Burnley, had given Tottenham a welcome lift following their 1-0 loss at Manchester City on Saturday.
"I had a few warm-up shots before the goal. I hit it well and saw it fly in," Eriksen told Sky Sports.
"It is a very, very good feeling, a tough game, a lot of chances, they sat deep, it is difficult to play against 10 or 11 in the box.
"We saw the other results so we knew what was at stake. To stay in our place we had to win, there was no other option."
Brighton manager Chris Hughton said it was heartbreaking to concede so late.
"The longer the game went on I thought we were going to hold out for a point," he said.
Updated: April 24, 2019 11:41 AM