Tottenham Hotspur’s Christian Eriksen, centre, waves to the crowd at the end of their English Premier League soccer match between Tottenham Hotspur and West Bromwich Albion at White Hart Lane in London, Monday, April, 25, 2016 (AP)
For all Mauricio Pochettino's fighting talk about remaining in the Premier League title chase, it was hard not to glimpse a white flag over White Hart Lane after Tottenham Hotspurs' lacklustre draw with West Bromwich Albion on Monday.
Instead of piling pressure on leaders Leicester City, who are now seven points ahead with three games remaining, Spurs have now given their rivals firm sight of a title which would be secured by victory at Manchester United on Sunday.
This is how many experts predicted the title race would play out. For weeks the focus has been on whether Claudio Ranieri's side would blink in the spotlight. But while they dazzled with a compelling 4-0 win over Swansea on Sunday, one day later Spurs appeared blinded by the expectation of those who assumed they would win their remaining games with their customary panache.
Amid the hype over Leicester's first title in their 132-year history, it is easy to forget that Spurs last finished on top in 1961. And when they did so, the team was founded on the steely focus of Danny Blanchflower and uncompromising strength of Dave Mackay.
The Tottenham side who took the field on Monday was much less experienced, with players like Dele Alli and Eric Dier in their first full season. Alli, particularly, looked like the occasion got to him on Monday and appeared to punch Claudio Yacob in a first-half incident that was captured by TV cameras.
Although referee Mike Jones missed the incident, Alli could still face retrospective action in the form of a misconduct charge and a three-match ban that would rule him out of Spurs' final games.
The midfielder has been one of the season's revelations, and is tipped to play a major role for England in the European Championships. But Alli failed to exert much authority on Monday when Spurs struggled to break down a resilient Albion side with little to play for.
Pocchetino suggested Alli has already become a target for the opposition. "Sometimes the opponents find him and try to provoke, they know he has a strong character and may react."
Despite Monday's result, the Argentine refused to admit that the title race was over although he was full of praise for their title rivals. "Leicester deserve to be in their position - fully deserve it - it will be a fantastic season if in the end they win the title, but it is impossible to compare both teams.
"We need to use this experience for the next few seasons - we are very young. We are very proud of our season. The gap is seven points and we have three games to play. But we need to believe."
But it will not get easier for Tottenham, who next travel to Chelsea, where they have not won since 1990.
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