Having revealed this week that he cried when leaving Southampton for Tottenham five years ago, Mauricio Pochettino could be forgiven for shedding a few more tears after a dismal 2-1 defeat against his old club.
Spurs have now picked up just one point from their last four Premier League matches, and this was arguably the most dispiriting result in that sequence. After completely dominating the first half, they somehow contrived to lose a match that will give the chasing pack hope that Tottenham can be overtaken in the race to finish in the top four. Pochettino, watching from the stands as he served a touchline ban, could only watch on helplessly as his side imploded.
As for Southampton, there was unconfined joy at the final whistle. Having looked for so long like heading for a defeat that would have sent them back into the bottom three, Ralph Hasenhuttl’s brave second-half substitutions inspired a memorable victory. Trailing 1-0 to Harry Kane’s first-half opener with just 14 minutes remaining, a scruffy Yan Valery effort and a quite wonderful James Ward-Prowse free-kick secured what could be a vital win in the battle to avoid relegation.
And how unlikely a win it had seemed at half-time after a chastening 45 minutes which Kane tormented the Southampton defenders almost from kick-off, finding spaces between the three centre-backs and mercilessly exploiting their lack of pace. It took just three minutes for his first chance, latching on to Dele Alli’s flick but volleying wide. Moments later he inadvertently controlled the ball three times on his shoulder – unwittingly looking like a struggling freestyle street footballer – and fired wide once he finally worked out where the ball was.