Ange Postecoglou was pleased Tottenham regained their composure to storm back to earn a crucial 3-2 home win over Brentford but told both sets of players to enter the UFC ring if they want to focus on grappling over goals.
Spurs were sluggish in the first half and trailed to Neal Maupay’s 15th-minute opener, which saw him mock James Maddison’s darts celebration and appeared to be the catalyst for a fiery contest between the London rivals.
Whatever Postecoglou said at half-time did the trick though with Tottenham scoring twice in 72 seconds through Destiny Udogie and substitute Brennan Johnson before Richarlison made it three goals in eight second-half minutes when he steered home with 56 minutes on the clock.
Ivan Toney set up a grandstand finish when he pounced on Udogie’s error to score in front of England boss Gareth Southgate, but Spurs held on to leapfrog Aston Villa and reclaim fourth spot following a chaotic encounter.
Asked if Maupay’s darts celebration had fired up his team, Postecoglou replied: “I hope not because that’s exactly what I’m talking about.
“I’m not a fan of it. I don’t like the whole bravado, pushing people around. If you’re that brave about things, my players and their players, get into a UFC cage and I’ll see how brave they are.
“We’re out there to play football and that’s what I want our guys to do, focus on playing football and they shouldn’t get motivated by things that aren’t really that important to us.
“Like I said, we got sucked in first half. Second half was better.
“I think we started the game well, started with good intensity and good tempo, obviously they score and then we lost our way.
Three points on the board! 🎯 pic.twitter.com/IPWZzvAXwF
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) January 31, 2024
“We lost focus. I was a bit frustrated with our inability to stay disciplined, just too many stops and starts, it kind of plays into their hands, lots of set pieces and throw ins.
“We spent more time talking to the referee than playing the game. I was a bit frustrated we lost our real clear focus.
“Second half, I think for 25-30 minutes we were outstanding, scored three great goals and probably should have had a couple more.”
Spurs started on the front foot but were rocked when Udogie gave away possession to Christian Norgaard, who sent Toney away and while Guglielmo Vicario denied him, Maupay was on hand to bundle home and score for a fourth consecutive match.
Tottenham got sucked into Brentford’s game-plan after with the rest of the first 45 stop-start and containing plenty of melees, but a double substitution at the break inspired the hosts’ comeback with Johnson and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg introduced.
Udogie slotted home after a slick one-two with Werner, who then set up Johnson at the back post in the 49th-minute.
When Richarlison fired in for his seventh league goal in as many matches, after Maddison’s shot had been blocked, Spurs were on track for three points but another poor Udogie pass allowed Toney to tee up a dramatic finale in N17.
Maddison was forced off late on with cramp, but Postecoglou’s side survived seven minutes of stoppage-time to return to the top four.
Opposite number Thomas Frank stoked the fire further after full time when he questioned why Tottenham had allowed Maupay’s darts celebration to irritate them.
“If that’s what’s irritating them, then they have a problem,” Frank said.
“Is that fair enough? If they are talking about darts celebrations winding them up, then I think they have an issue, personally.”
On Postecoglou’s UFC suggestion, Frank added: “Yeah, I agree. Just in general concentrate on playing football.”