By Ian Chadband
LONDON (Reuters) – Tottenham Hotspur’s ambitions of Premier League glory were dealt a grievous blow on Saturday when not even a goal from their returning talisman Harry Kane could prevent them stumbling to a damaging and contentious 2-1 defeat at Burnley.
Goals from Burnley forwards Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes at Turf Moor left Spurs’ hopes of piling the pressure on the top two, Manchester City and Liverpool, in tatters and had Tottenham’s normally serene boss Mauricio Pochettino raging.
The shock defeat left Spurs on 60 points, still five adrift of leaders City and Liverpool, who have the chance to move three points clear at the top when they visit Manchester United on Sunday.
At the other end of the table, Huddersfield Town’s freefall towards the second-tier Championship hurtled on when the league’s bottom club, down to 10 men after captain Tommy Smith’s 20th-minute red card, lost 2-0 at Newcastle United.
With Sunday’s United-Liverpool clash and the Man City-Chelsea League Cup final dominating the weekend’s programme, Pochettino had seen victory over Burnley as imperative to his side’s hopes of maintaining a title challenge.
Yet the usually affable Argentine ended up cutting an angry, frustrated figure at the end of the game, confronting referee Mike Dean over what he clearly felt had been an incorrect decision that led to Burnley’s first goal after 57 minutes.
Spurs had been claiming a goalkick after Jeff Hendrick appeared to touch the ball last before it went out of play but, instead, a corner was awarded to Burnley which resulted in Wood heading home Dwight McNeil’s delivery.
England captain Kane, back after six weeks out with an ankle injury, responded with an equally debatable goal after latching on to a quick Danny Rose throw-in taken from a spot several metres down the pitch from where the ball went out of play.
Burnley manager Sean Dyche felt justice was done, though, when Barnes notched the 83rd-minute winner, although Pochettino was so irritated about the defeat that he was embroiled in a most uncharacteristic face-to-face confrontation with Dean afterwards.
It was a head-to-head that the Spurs boss appeared to regret.
“You know how important was the game and when you feel so disappointed and upset, you make some mistakes,” he said.
“We made some mistakes on the pitch and I made some mistakes afterwards on the pitch. I need to go to the dressing room and drink some water but what happened, happened.”
He seemed resigned that Spurs’ title hopes were now over.
“If we didn’t win, we cannot put pressure and we cannot think now of being a real contender. It is a massive opportunity lost for us,” he said.
Everything looks lost for Huddersfield after Smith was sent off for a lunging 20th-minute challenge on Newcastle’s exciting record signing Miguel Almiron at St James’ Park and the home side eased to victory with second-half goals from Salomon Rondon and Ayoze Perez.
It was Huddersfield’s 13th defeat in 14 league matches and left them in a hopeless position, stranded six points behind Fulham and 14 adrift of 17th-placed Cardiff City.
Newcastle, with a third straight home win under Rafa Benitez, moved up to 14th, two points behind 13th-placed Burnley.
In a remarkable match at Dean Court featuring three penalties, Joshua King scored one and missed another for Bournemouth while Wolverhampton Wanderers earned a 1-1 draw with Raul Jimenez’s 83rd-minute spot-kick.
(Reporting by Ian Chadband, editing by Ed Osmond)