By Philip O’Connor
LONDON (Reuters) – Tottenham Hotspur may have struggled to find the back of the net against Middlesbrough, but manager Mauricio Pochettino praised his team for their performance in a gritty 1-0 win and says they are ready to win the Premier League title.
After successive draws against Manchester City and Sunderland, Harry Kane scored from the spot to give second-placed Spurs a 1-0 win in Pochettino’s 100th game in charge, leaving the 44-year-old happy despite the narrow margin of victory.
“It’s difficult. In the last few weeks we have seen how difficult it is to score, to win games, and we’re in a position, second in the table, we keep the gap with Chelsea at nine points,” he told a news conference.
“I’m pleased with the performance, we’re in a position where it’s difficult to win games,” he said.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who saw his side go down 3-1 at Stamford Bridge in the day’s early kickoff, said that the title was Chelsea’s to lose, but Pochettino says Spurs are still in the running.
“It’s good to put the standard higher, I’m happy to put pressure on us and to say that we are a real contender,” he said.
“We are a team ready to win a title. If you put us on that level, it’s okay, it’s good to put pressure on us. I manage the pressure very well, no problem.”
The 1-0 defeat leaves Middlesbrough in a precarious position at the other end of the table on 21 points in 15th place, ahead of Leicester City and Swansea City on goal difference and just one point above the drop zone.
Despite the defeat, Boro manager Aitor Karanka gave credit to his players for their overall performance.
“Once again we showed that we can compete against every single team, and once again the players have been amazing,” he told reporters, adding that Boro would be concentrating on their own results as the relegation battle unfolds.
“We have to think about ourselves. We depend on us, we are good enough to stay (up), we have to forget the opponents and be confident,” Karanka said.
(Reporting by Philip O’Connor, editing by Neil Robinson)