Tottenham’s miserable week continued as they followed their Champions League humiliation at the hands of Bayern Munich with a damaging defeat at Brighton.
The Spurs captain suffered a freak arm injury in the process, and Aaron Connolly compounded Tottenham’s problems by doubling Brighton’s lead on his first Premier League start.
And although Spurs made a positive start to the second half, Connolly killed off any hope of them launching a fightback as the 19-year-old Irish striker produced a well-taken strike for his second goal to seal Brighton’s first home win since March.
Tottenham have now failed to win in their last away 10 games in the Premier League, stretching back to a 2-1 victory at Fulham on 20 January, and have lost 17 in all competitions in 2019 – more than any other top-flight side.
Last week’s home win against Southampton offered Spurs some relief after being dumped out of the Carabao Cup by League Two Colchester but the pressure is mounting on Pochettino with his side having now taken 11 points from a possible 24 this term.
Not only was it Brighton’s first win since the opening day but it was Graham Potter’s first at the Amex, lifting the Seagulls to 12th before the afternoon kick-offs, with Tottenham set to slip out of the top six.
Tottenham in crisis?
Questions were being asked after Tottenham’s Carabao Cup exit but having conceded 10 goals in five days, Spurs are now bordering on a crisis.
Pochettino has become one of the most coveted managers in Europe during his first five years in charge, with his side gradually improving each year and reaching last season’s Champions League final.
Yet just four months on, Spurs were jeered off at their palatial new home after the defeat to Bayern.
Pochettino is facing the most searching questions of his Tottenham tenure, admitting that “sometimes critics can make you realise you need to wake up”.
And if that second-half capitulation against Bayern wouldn’t act as a wake-up call, then what would?
Lloris’ early howler hardly helped their cause and it then took time for them to regroup.
On Friday, Pochettino said he has no doubt over the commitment of his players, particularly those in the final year of their contract such as Christian Eriksen, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen, the latter pair retaining their places despite shortcomings being ruthlessly exposed in midweek.
There was no questioning Vertonghen’s desire to put his body on the line, blocking Dale Stephens’ goalbound volley with his head before needing treatment after a clash of heads with Maupay.
But just as it looked like Spurs had got a foothold in the game, they conceded a second.
Alderweireld was then found wanting after the break as he stood off Connolly, turning his back as the youngster cut inside before firing into the bottom corner.
And while Eriksen had another quiet game in midfield, he was not alone.
His tame long-range strike was Tottenham’s only shot on target in the first half, and although Spurs won three corners in quick succession at the start of the second half, they still couldn’t muster an effort on goal.
Later on, the ball squirmed away from Son Heung-min in the box while Harry Kane fired over, before substitute Lucas Moura was twice denied by Mat Ryan as Spurs failed even to claim a consolation, seemingly leaving Pochettino and Spurs at a crossroads.
Welcome win for Potter
While the football Brighton have played since Potter’s appointment in May has been admirable, some had begun asking if the Seagulls would need to adopt a more pragmatic approach to avoid another relegation battle this season.
They came into the game with two points from their previous six games and could not believe their luck as Lloris gifted Maupay his third goal since joining from Brentford in the summer.
With Spurs reeling and Brighton gaining an early advantage, the hosts had the freedom to play as Potter prefers, and after latching onto Stephens’ through ball, Connolly had a strong shout for a penalty turned down as Moussa Sissoko nudged the youngster as he raced into the box.
But moments later, Connolly got in front of Ben Davies to flick Dan Burn’s cross goalwards and slam in the rebound, before side-footing wide from Pascal Gross’ squared ball.
The Seagulls remained comfortable for most of the second half, with Gross going for goal from a tight angle and curling a free-kick against the crossbar, before Lewis Dunk released Connolly down the left for his second goal.
Gross then spurned a late chance to make victory even more emphatic, firing straight at Gazzaniga from the edge of the box.
Injury added to insult for Lloris
After being at fault for Southampton’s goal last Saturday, Lloris committed another glaring error in just the third minute at the Amex as he tried to catch Gross’ inswinging cross instead of tipping it over the bar and his momentum saw him stagger backwards into his own goal.
The France captain dropped the ball before he crossed the goal-line, allowing compatriot Maupay to head home, but injured his arm as he tried to break his fall and had to be replaced by Paulo Gazzaniga.
The 32-year-old had treatment for several minutes and needed oxygen before being carried from the field so looks set for a lengthy lay-off, but that should not mask the fact it was a mistake you do not expect a keeper of his standing and experience to make.
And while he got away with it last week, this one proved costly as Spurs never recovered in what is shaping up as a pivotal month for the future of Pochettino and Spurs, which ends with a trip to Premier League leaders Liverpool on 27 October.
Man of the Match – Aaron Connolly (Brighton)
‘We couldn’t change the game’ – what they said
Brighton manager Graham Potter: “Overall I was really, really happy with the performance. Great personality on the pitch, we attacked well, defended well.
“When we made mistakes we recovered, we created chances and played on the front foot as much as we could.
“I am delighted for the players, we have worked really hard and haven’t got the results we could have got but that is life in the Premier League. The margins are small.”
Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino: “It was difficult to assess the team. In the first few moments we conceded and then lost our goalkeeper.
“It was very negative for the team, the emotion was massive. We did not play well. We are disappointed about that. Brighton played well.
“We cannot say that they did not deserve the three points. We never recovered from those opening few minutes. We could not change the dynamic of the game.”
Early drama at the Amex – the stats
- Hugo Lloris was subbed off after eight minutes – the quickest a keeper has been replaced in a Premier League match since Lloris against Leicester in April 2015 (four minutes).
- At two minutes 30 seconds, Neal Maupay’s opener for Brighton was their fastest goal in the Premier League.
- Brighton ended a run of eight Premier League home games without a win (D3 L5).
- Brighton equalled their biggest margin of victory in a top-flight game and scored more than once in a Premier League home game for the first time in 16 games, since beating Crystal Palace 3-1 in December 2018.
- At 19 years 250 days old, Aaron Connolly is the first teenager ever to start a Premier League game for Brighton and the first to score in the league for the Seagulls since Jake Forster-Caskey against Charlton in April 2014 in the Championship.
Both sides return to action after the international break, with Brighton visiting Aston Villa on Saturday, 19 October, while Tottenham host Watford (both 15:00 BST).