Vertonghen: Spurs must learn how to finish games but loss to Newcastle is a one-off
Jan Vertonghen says Tottenham “have to learn how to kill games” – but he is confident Sunday’s home defeat against Newcastle was a one-off and that the Lilywhites can start another unbeaten run.
Spurs went into the match having avoided defeat in 14 Premier League games and they seemed to be heading for victory – and a place in the top four – after Eric Dier headed them into a first-half lead against a side with one of the worst away records in the top flight.
However, Newcastle substitutes Aleksandar Mitrovic and Ayoze Perez both struck in the final 16 minutes to turn the match on its head as the Magpies triumphed at White Hart Lane for the third season in a row.
Tottenham have now lost a lead on eight occasions this season, costing them 11 points in the Premier League – including five in their last two games - and five points in their Europa League group.
“We’re a tough team to beat but I think we have to learn how to kill games,” said Vertonghen. “We had the chance to make it 2-0 or 3-0 and we didn’t.
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“We were trying to get a second goal but Newcastle had the better chances. I think we were running forward and trying to force something and it gave Newcastle the space with their pace to create more chances.
“Especially in the first half we had to finish it. We didn’t score the second goal and Newcastle had the quality on their bench to turn things round, and that’s what they did.
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“In my opinion it’s nothing to do with experience, we were just in that vibe and we wanted to win. We started very well and we’re an attacking team and we try to go forward, and then you know you give chances away sometimes. Normally we can cope with that but not this time.
“To lose a game like this at home is very painful. I felt we were very strong, very confident and it’s hard to lose these games.”
Despite his frustration, Vertonghen remains positive about Spurs’ prospects. After all, this time last season Pochettino’s side had already lost four home games in the league – against Liverpool, West Brom, Newcastle and Stoke - while this was their first of the campaign.
The Belgian is confident it is just a blip and, while he is disappointed Tottenham’s unbeaten run is over, he is aware the Lilywhites have had more draws (eight) than wins (six) in the league and that simply avoiding defeat is unlikely to earn a place in the Champions League.
“It’s hard because you know you have to win these matches if you want to be in the top four,” he said. “It’s been the story in the last couple of seasons, but there is a difference in this team. We feel like this is an incident and the last couple of years that was a bit different. We really feel like this is an incident and we can be there again next week.
“The unbeaten run was good but we can start another one now. Of course we wanted to keep the run going but sometimes it’s better to win two games and lose one than to draw three so hopefully we can win a couple now.”
There were boos around White Hart Lane after the final whistle and Vertonghen said: “It’s just disappointment from the supporters. We were disappointed and they were as well so I can understand.”
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs