Tottenham's players were left proud of their battling performance and the reaction of their fans, despite their unbeaten run coming to a painful end with Monday night’s 4-1 home defeat by rivals Chelsea.
Nine-man Spurs eventually succumbed to Nicolas Jackson’s late hat-trick after Cristian Romero and Destiny Udogie were sent off either side of the interval in one of the most chaotic and controversy-packed games in Premier League history — one which also included five disallowed goals.
James Maddison and Micky van de Ven were also forced off injured, the latter with a serious-looking hamstring problem, at the start of 12 minutes of first-half stoppage-time after Cole Palmer’s penalty had cancelled out Dejan Kulusevski’s deflected strike.
Asked by Standard Sport to sum up the night, Spurs’s Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg said: “I was in the battle, so it’s easier for you guys to have a clear vision.
“Listen, I think we went down with the flag held high. We gave it our all. We showed what we had in our hearts but the result hurts a lot.”
Jackson’s 94th-minute strike finally made it 3-1 to Chelsea to break the resistance of Spurs’s nine men, though Eric Dier’s excellent equaliser was ruled out for a marginal offside and Rodrigo Bentancur and Heung-min Son missed good chances to level the score at 2-2.
Rather than flood out of the ground, the home fans greeted Chelsea’s third goal with a standing ovation for their side in a moment which left a mark on Kulusevski. “It was unbelievable, honestly,” the Swede told Standard Sport. “Some things are bigger than life, bigger than football, bigger than the wins. I was really proud of that moment and the fans. I was grateful and it makes me want to give more back.
“It was a little bit of bad luck [at 2-1] honestly with the Dier goal, the chances of Bentancur and Sonny. We had the chances, but it didn’t work out. We did fight, at least. You cannot do more than that.
“It has to give us fuel. We lost the game, we hate to lose, it was the first of the season, but we have to make sure this doesn’t happen again and we play XI versus XI, because then [we are] much harder to beat.
“We were proud, absolutely. We were very, very angry, but the coach was very proud and the players also.
“You cannot ask for more than this. We played with two guys off and we still competed at a high level. We created a lot of chances and did good, honestly.”
Centre-half Romero is expected to be banned for the next three matches, ruling him out of the games against Wolves, Aston Villa and Manchester City, while his defensive partner Van de Ven is potentially facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines after appearing to pop his hamstring.
Maddison was also substituted with an ankle injury, but had wanted to continue.
In another blow, forward Richarlison also revealed he will undergo surgery on his pelvis “soon”.
Dier and Hojbjerg finished the game at centre-half, and 18-year-old Ashley Phillips, who is yet to play for Spurs, could now be thrust into action.
“[Tuesday] we have a day off, and when we see each other on Wednesday we’ll gather the pieces and the focus and concentrate on the next game,” said Hojbjerg. “Everyone has to show their availability and show they are prepared to do what it takes. The result hurts a lot, but we have to keep going.”
Kulusevski added: “The players that came in were amazing. We train really, really hard and everybody is ready. You saw Eric Dier, he came in, did his first appearance and was unbelievable, so the guys are ready.”