If there was any lesson from Mauricio Pochettino’s angry exchange with referee Mike Dean after a damaging defeat at Burnley, it was a sign that Tottenham’s Premier League title hopes were over.
Spurs stay in third place, but six points behind Liverpool who shared the spoils with Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday.
It was understandable why the Argentine reacted in that unusual manner. Most decisions went against his team including a corner that led to Burnley’s opener.
A remorseful Pochettino later said he had “crossed the line” and would “maybe” apologise to Dean.
But the damage had already been done.
Chris Wood opened the scoring for the hosts early in the second half, rising high to head home Dwight McNeil’s inswinging corner – his fourth goal in as many games.
Harry Kane, who was making his first appearance since January, restored parity, latching on to Danny Rose’s quick throw before Ashley Barnes tapped in Burnley’s winner late on.
Burnley rise to 14th and are now six points clear of the relegation places.
But at Turf Moor Spurs came unstuck, as Ashley Barnes netted a late winner after Kane had cancelled out Chris Wood’s opener.
Pochettino has been criticised for failing to bring any silverware to North London and it looks like the wait will continue.
The pressure will definitively mount should Spurs continue to fall away from the league leaders and into a top four battle.
Kane was left utterly disappointed by the outcome.
“It’s very disappointing,” Kane told Spurs’ official website. “It was one of those games, a tough battle, a dry pitch, we know how Burnley play, especially at home and it was physical.
“We did well to get back into it at 1-1, but we couldn’t find the next level to push on and get the win and then, unfortunately, we conceded again.”
Kane’s frustration is clear. Manchester City and Liverpool, Spurs’ title rivals have shown more consistency.
Should the Lilywhites fail to get their act together, then the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and United may ultimately beat them to top four and leave many of the clubs top players long term futures in doubt.
Despite making huge improvements in recent seasons, Spurs fans have seen their team ultimately crumble when it matters in the Premier League in the last few years. Pochettino’s biggest regret must be not tipping Leicester City to the title a few seasons ago.
It looks like this season will be the latest near miss for the club in terms of winning the league.