By Kevin Affleck
Quique Sánchez Flores said he took immense pride and encouragement from the way his side went toe-to-toe with Tottenham Hotspur, believing what he saw provides further evidence that this team has the wherewithal to turn the season around.
The organised Hornets mined depths unseen for some time to come within 360 seconds (plus injury time) of a famous win in this part of north London. They were spirited defensively, energetic and effervescent in midfield and a threat on the counter through Gerard Deulofeu and the excellent Roberto Pereyra in a performance that offered encouraging portents ahead of the challenges that lie ahead. The Head Coach knows, with a fair wind, his team stand an excellent stand of dragging themselves out of a tight spot if they play with this sort of conviction.
“I like the attitude of the players,” he said. “They fight like warriors, fighting for every inch and trying to win every single ball, trying not to give any chances for the opponent. This is the best thing. We are not saying this is the philosophy or the system, but this is good for the team. We will be really proud if we can keep improving and have the chance to change the situation.”
A bit of luck or the rub of the green wouldn't have gone amiss. Deulofeu was fouled towards the end of the first half for what looked a clear penalty and then Christian Kabasele was adamant he was shoved in the back by Harry Kane in the build up to the late equaliser. You could also argue Dele Alli handled the ball before he tucked in the match leveller.
“It's a foul on Kabasele,” said the Head Coach. “He pushed him. That's my opinion and just my opinion. It's a penalty [on Deulofeu]. It's very clear. It's very easy to see.”
Both decisions went to VAR. “It's very weird,” said Sanchez Flores. “There are many interpretations. I don't know. I have no idea. I don't know the way they work. It is supposed to be something objective.”
The decisions and the cruel nature of the finish undid a lot of good work and prevented Sánchez Flores' game plan being executed to perfection.
“It's very difficult to play against this team,” he said. “The stadium is tough and this is a tough team, but we didn't concede the match. We have very clear chances, a little bit less than them but we played the match we expected. Conceding the goal we did is a little bit hard but this is possible in the position we are in.”
Sánchez Flores had two weeks to prepare for this one and he had clearly done his homework.
“We defended with a medium block and the team was really safe, playing on the counterattack” he said. “I saw many teams playing Tottenham: Newcastle and Southampton. Newcastle won here and we played much better than this team, but we just draw. Maybe we are realistic before the match, thinking to draw is a good result. Now we need to create a balance between the feelings about nearly winning and drawing. It is not too bad and we can improve. I know our players believe in their work.”