Eric Dier

Mauricio Pochettino says Tottenham will need to improve greatly on their performance against Cardiff City and learn to kill games off if they want to stay in the top four until the end of the season.

Eric Dier gave Spurs a 1-0 lead after only eight minutes at Wembley but the hosts were unable to increase their advantage, even though their visitors had 10 men for the final 30 minutes after the dismissal of Joe Ralls.

Spurs moved up to third place in the table but Pochettino said: “It wasn’t the best performance. I think we fully deserved the victory and the three points, and that’s the most important thing because we’re in a very good position in the table — one point off the top.

“We played after the defeat against Barcelona and always it’s so difficult — of course I’m happy because of the victory — but I think we can play better and we need to play better if we want to be a contender in the end for the top four.

“We scored early in the game and then we had a lack of control to kill the game. It looks like it’s going to be an easy afternoon but it can be so complicated if they score from the set pieces and wide free kicks.

“Maybe we [would be] talking now in a different way and sure it would be a drama to draw against Cardiff [when they have] one player less. We need to kill the games. We need to have more control, more calm, when you play in your home.”

Ralls was shown a straight red card in the 58th minute for hacking down Lucas Moura, and Cardiff boss Neil Warnock was angered by Harry Kane’s conduct between the challenge and the dismissal.

Having applauded the Spurs striker sarcastically at the time, he stated after the match that Kane was trying to “make an issue of it and get the referee to think it is worse than it is,” adding: “I don’t think you should try and get other pros sent off, just because he and Spurs are having a poor game.”

Pochettino responded: “When it was in the moment I said ‘send off,’ ‘red card’ — the same reaction to the referee. Of course, it was so tough, the foul. [Cardiff] complain of course. If we were in the opposite then sure we would complain the same as them.

“You know [Warnock] better than me and he’s so expressive. He shows a lot of passion. I don’t know him in his life but sure I know him in football after six years here.

“I think it’s good. He killed me four years ago and then he said ‘he’s a very good coach’ and ‘he’s very nice’ “We cannot take it seriously in that moment, what happened on the pitch (with the sarcastic clapping) — the passion. I understand it’s part of the football and he’s a person I respect a lot and it’s so nice to meet him on the pitch.”

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