Pochettino refuses to call second-place Spurs title contenders

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Let’s give credit where credit is due: Mauricio Pochettino is, if nothing else in the world, remarkably consistent.

[ RECAP: Spurs thrash Bournemouth in hot pursuit of top-two ]

No, we’re not talking about the fact that under his leadership Tottenham Hotspur have achieved a top-three finish in three straight seasons — and appear headed for another one this season — but about the way in which he maintains the same mindset and mantra no matter what the Premier League table says.

On Wednesday, barely an hour after Tottenham hammered Bournemouth 5-0 — on the back of a 6-2 demolition of Everton on the weekend — to go second in the PL table, a point ahead of defending champions Manchester City, one might assume that Pochettino would finally relent and admit that his side is a bonafide title contender.

One would, of course, be wrong — quotes from the BBC:

“We are in a very good position, but Liverpool and Manchester City are the real contenders.

“It is one thing to be a point above them, but Manchester City are the reigning champions and Liverpool are doing fantastic. We are between them and there is still a lot of work to do.

“It is important to manage confidence in the right way, a victory makes us believe, of course, but we think step by step and make sure we can be ready to arrive at the next game in the best condition. The competition is very demanding, be sure to be ready to compete in three days.

“We are only halfway to the end of the season, we need to replicate the same second-half of the season. It is up to us, if we show the same quality and same belief and behave in the way we behave, then maybe at the end of the season we can talk in the way that maybe we fight for big things.

“I am so pleased [with the win] the effort was fantastic. To have one day less after Everton I am very pleased with the performance.”

While Pochettino’s comments were laughably predictable, there’s probably also a hint of truth in them. Sure, Spurs sit second in the table at the halfway point of the season, but the fact remains that Man City are still the side most likely to finish as runners-up or catch Liverpool.

[ MORE: Emotional Solskjaer hails Pogba: “He is happy now” ]

What Spurs have managed to achieve thus far, under very tough circumstances — no signings in the summer transfer window, no home stadium and a constant rash of injuries from August to December, to name a few — has been nothing short of miraculous. That said, the necessary reinforcements aren’t likely to arrive in January and that will almost certainly lead to Spurs running out of gas down the stretch, as has been the case in recent seasons.

However, the fact that Pochettino has managed to stabilize the on-field results with so much background noise serving as a distraction is arguably his greatest miracle to date. At some point, chairman Daniel Levy would be wise to back his manager and show him that (the new) White Hart Lane is a place he can win titles.

PSG extends manager Thomas Tuchel through 2021

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No wonder Thomas Tuchel was in such a jovial mood regarding his job security yesterday.

Paris Saint-Germain announced on Saturday that it has handed manager Thomas Tuchel a one-year contract extension, pushing the expiration of his contract to the summer of 2021. The addition extends his initial two-year deal he signed last summer when he joined the club after leaving Borussia Dortmund.

The news is somewhat surprising given that Tuchel had come under fire for PSG’s struggles down the stretch of the season, first with the club’s elimination from the Champions League in the Round of 16, and then for the failures down the stretch of the domestic campaign. It took weeks to formally clinch the league title as the team skidded through April, and the club fell to Stade Rennes in the final of the Coupe de France. Still, according to a number of reports, the deal was signed back in March making the end to the season irrelevant.

The German boss was able to joke about his future after PSG’s season-ending defeat to Stade de Reims on Friday, laughing at reporters who asked about his job security heading into the summer, “Honestly, I am worried… I get the impression that everybody knows something that I do not!”

Less than 24 hours later, news of his extension was official. “The entire Paris Saint-Germain family is delighted to see Thomas Tuchel extend his contract ,” said PSG chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi. “For a year now, Thomas has been bringing fantastic energy every day, not only to players, but to the entire club.”

Ultimately, PSG won the Ligue 1 crown handily, ending the season with a 16-point cushion. The first half of the season was an unmitigated success, starting the league season on a 14-match winning streak and not suffering a single loss until early February. They also performed well in the Champions League, losing just once in a very difficult Group C that featured Liverpool, Napoli, and Red Star Belgrade. The costly slip came against Manchester United where they fell 3-1 in the second leg at home despite a 2-1 first-leg advantage.

Tuchel’s extension also comes with its head-scratchers, as the German was critical of club hierarchy after Friday’s defeat. He hit out at the front office for allowing Neymar to leave the club early to join up with the Brazilian national team, with the 27-year-old suspended for the final match of the year. “No, Neymar has not been released,” Tuchel said when asked about Neymar’s absence from the squad. “In any case, he has not by me. It is not a sporting thing, so I do not know. You will have to ask the club.”

“Correct, this season has had its problems,” Tuchel continued later. “The goal moving forward has to be to stay more focused. That goes for the team, as well as the club. We must be stricter and pull in the same direction to achieve our goals.”

RSL’s Savarino downs Atlanta United in 94th minute

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Atlanta United dropped its second straight match, this time in gut-wrenching fashion, as Jefferson Savarino scored a 94th minute winner to hand Real Salt Lake a 2-1 win over Frank De Boer‘s bunch.

Josef Martinez appeared to have rescued Atlanta with his 78th minute equalizer, cancelling out Sebastian Saucedo’s first-half opener, but Savarino struck a blistering stunner from outside the box with the minimum three minutes of added time already passed. Savarino used straight muscle to shield a charging Leandro Gonzalez Pires off the ball, and the strike punished Brad Guzan for creeping just inches too far towards his near post.

The late winner redeemed a Real Salt Lake defense that fell asleep just a fraction too early on Martinez’s goal, as a low cross from Franco Escobar should have been easily dealt with, but the Venezuelan waited for the right moment and pounced in front of a snoozing Justin Glad to poke home the delivery.

While the two sides split the possession, RSL out-shot Atlanta and held the lead most of the way after Bofo put them in front just past the half-hour mark. The 22-year-old was given way too much space just outside the top of the box and placed a curler past Guzan for the opener for his second goal in two weeks.

The win gave RSL its third straight victory in what has become a streaky season. The campaign so far features two winning streaks and two losing streaks through 13 matches, with just one draw among the group. For Atlanta, the second straight loss leaves them stuck in fourth, squandering the chance to pass third-placed Montreal who sits a just point ahead.

LA Galaxy moves third in West with 1-0 win over Orlando

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A Jonathan dos Santos howitzer was enough to give the LA Galaxy a 1-0 win over Orlando City at home to move them into third place in the Western Conference standings.

The win not only boosted the Galaxy back up the standings but also stopped a brutal four-game losing skid that had threatened to erase the fabulous winning start to the season. It marks the club’s first clean sheet since a 0-0 draw with Minnesota United in late April.

The winner came in the 19th minute, a blast for his second goal of the season and first since mid March.

The clean sheet did not come easily. Dave Bingham stopped a Nani penalty in the 32nd minute after dos Santos tackled Sebastian Mendez in the area. Perry Kitchen – off the bench for his 2019 debut – was on hand to clear off the line after Bingham whiffed on a 68th minute Sacha Kljestan cross, while Bingham came up big three minutes later to stop a header by Chris Mueller off a corner.

Los Angeles’s victory moves them to 25 points, one behind Seattle who has a game in hand, and two ahead of Houston who has played three fewer games. For Orlando, they remain on 15 points, good for 10th in the East.

Ligue 1: PSG, Lille stumble to finish line

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Paris Saint-Germain’s late-season stumble came to a final conclusion on Friday as the Parisian giants lost to Stade de Rimes 3-1 on the road to close out the Ligue 1 season.

Kylian Mbappe scored in the 59th minute, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Baba Rahman, Mathieu Cafaro, and Pablo Chavarria all who found the back of the net for the hosts. The loss marks PSG’s third in the final seven weeks of the season, and fourth in the last 10. They had not lost a single league match all season until a 2-1 result against Lyon in early February, the first of five eventual league defeats.

PSG finished the year 16 points atop the league table, but having wrapped up the title weeks ago, the club’s poor finish to the year could weigh on Thomas Tuchel’s job security moving forward. Tuchel responded to continued questions about his precarious position with a joke, saying, “Honestly, I am worried… I get the impression that everybody knows something that I do not!”

Still, the bright spot was Mbappe’s goal, his 33rd of the league campaign, the most for any Frenchman in the domestic top-flight since 1966.

Elsewhere, second-placed Lille saw an eight-match unbeaten streak come to a close as they fell on the final day of the season to Stade Rennes by a 3-1 scoreline. Loic Remy scored a 35th minute equalizer for Lille but Ismaila Sarr’s 59th minute strike proved the difference, while M’Baye Niang’s second of the day – a 75th minute penalty – added icing on the cake. Still, Lille’s season is considered an unabashed success, finishing 16 points back of PSG and three above third-placed Lyon to qualify for the Champions League group stage.

Lyon saw victory on the road to close out the season thanks to a 91st minute winner from Tanguy Ndombele who gave the visitors a 3-2 win at Nimes. A second goal from Maxwel Cornet had brought Lyon level just two minutes prior, and Ndobele’s near-post flick on a Leo Dubois cross completed the comeback win. They finish safely in third, ending the season on a six-game unbeaten streak with five wins in that span. Two games in early April – losses to 20th-placed Dijon and 15th-placed Nantes – likely cost them a shot at second place.

Monaco is safely in the top flight next season, but barely, as they fell at Nice 2-0 on the final day to finish just two points above the relegation zone. They finish with just one win in the final nine matches, and were saved by a seven-match unbeaten run through February and March that 15 of their 36 points on the season.

Marseille finished the season with a 1-0 win over Montpellier thanks to a 58th minute Florian Thauvin strike, but it wasn’t enough as St. Etienne finished five points clear in fourth on 66 points, with Marseille on 61 in fifth, missing out on a Champions League place.