Tottenham have the belief in themselves to be Premier League champions, insisted manager Mauricio Pochettino after his side found the mental and physical resources to net another late winner to beat Newcastle 1-0 and leapfrog Manchester City into second place.
In the absence of the injured Harry Kane and Dele Alli, Spurs turned to Son Heung-min for inspiration and the South Korean struck seven minutes from time with the help of a goalkeeping error from Martin Dubravka.
Pochettino’s men also scored late on to beat Fulham and Watford in their last two league outings and are now just four points off leaders Liverpool, who are in action at West Ham on Monday.
“It is a massive result to be in a very good position in the table,” said Pochettino.
“We don’t need to be in some position like today to convince ourselves about our capacity or potential. We believe in ourselves.
“It is a different thing to say if we are going to be capable to fight until the end to be champion. Today I think we are there because we deserve to be there.”
In keeping with a season of struggle, Tottenham were forced all the way by a dogged Newcastle, buoyed by a stunning 2-1 win over Manchester City in midweek that carried the Magpies five points clear of the relegation zone.
Lucas Moura headed a glorious early chance wide, Erik Lamela hit the crossbar and Christian Eriksen was denied by a remarkable goal-line clearance from Fabian Schar.
However, Spurs got the break they needed for another vital three points when the tireless Son’s powerful effort slipped beneath Dubravka’s grasp to undo all of Newcastle’s good work in holding out for 83 minutes.
“For me the most important is that the team are in a great level of belief, character and mentality,” added Pochettino. “With a lot of (adverse) circumstances we are showing we can win in any stadium and against any club.
“It’s about now praising the squad or players to be in the position we are in the Premier League. A position no one believed at the beginning of the season we would be.”
Son’s tally is now 14 for the season and continuing his scoring streak of nine goals in nine games for Spurs either side of his departure to the Asian Cup will be even more crucial in the coming weeks with Kane and Alli still some way off a return.
And Pochettino lauded Son’s stamina to keep performing after three international tournaments in the past eight months on top of his club commitments.
“Sonny is like a battery that you have that you work, work, work, work but when the battery is gone, it’s gone,” added Pochettino.
“He gives you everything and then when he is exhausted he says he needs to be changed or needs to rest. When he’s on the pitch he always gives 100 percent with or without the ball. That is a very good example for everyone to follow.”
Newcastle played without club record £20 million signing Miguel Almiron as the Paraguayan did not have international clearance to make his debut, so Rafael Benitez named the same side that started against City with the same gameplan to defend deep and frustrate their opponents.
However, the visitors had chances of their own to spring another surprise as Salomon Rondon hit the post and Hugo Lloris made a flying save from Ayoze Perez early in the second-half.
“It was a pity because we had some chances in the first-half and the beginning of the second-half we had two clear chances when we hit the post,” said Benitez, who bemoaned the fact one error had cost his side.
“The goal we could avoid and is something we were not expecting.”