Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino said his players “are not machines” after their title hopes suffered an unexpected setback thanks to a dramatic comeback win by Wolves at Wembley.
Spurs led through Harry Kane’s spectacular 25-yard strike in the first half but Wolves punished a poor second-half performance, scoring three times in the final 18 minutes to end their hosts’ five-game winning run.
The north London side would have moved only three points behind leaders Liverpool with a win, but the defeat and the Reds’ 5-1 win over Arsenal means the Merseyside club ended the day nine points clear.
“We have had a very good run in the last few weeks and to keep that level is difficult,” said Pochettino, whose side won 6-2 and 5-0 against Everton and Bournemouth respectively in their last two games.
“We tried to play a little more in the second half, but we were too direct and I think we started to pay for the effort in the other games.
“We are not machines. We need to understand that we cannot get ourselves in this situation.”
Willy Boly brought the visitors level with a powerful header in the 72nd minute and Raul Jimenez then beat Hugo Lloris with a weak effort from the edge of the area to put Wolves in front.
Helder Costa added a third on the counter-attack three minutes from time.
Spurs, who did not have a single shot in the second half, remain second in the table but Manchester City can go back above them when they visit Southampton on Sunday.
Flat second half costs Spurs
Spurs’ performance in the second half was in a stark contrast to their previous two games, when they scored 11 goals.
That free-scoring form had led manager Pochettino to admit his side were “intruders” in the title race, but a fifth league defeat of the season halts the momentum they had built.
The north London side played well in the first half and had 10 efforts on goal, though most – including Kane’s goal – came from distance. Christian Eriksen and Son Heung-min were particularly lively.
But after the break they were flat and lacked cohesion, the influence of Kane, Son and Eriksen diminished, and the introduction of Lucas Moura failed to spark them into life.
The tension inside Wembley increased as the home support witnessed their team lose control of the game as Wolves, who had barely threatened in the first half, grew in confidence.
After Boly’s deserved equaliser, the Spurs fans tried to squeeze more from their team but it was Wolves, helped by some slack defending, who created all of the chances late on.
“We did not dominate the ball in the second half,” Pochettino said.
“We were wrong in the way we tried to play, too much long ball and our energy dropped in the second half.”
Resolute gameplan works for Wolves
Wolves’ fans, players and manager Nuno Espirito Santo celebrated wildly at full-time.
They did not create chances in the opening 45 minutes but, unlike Everton and Bournemouth before them, defended well enough to stay in the game.
Then, when Spurs’ performance dipped, they began to exert control on the game and Nuno made the right substitutions.
Joao Moutinho was introduced to the base of midfield in the 68th minute and dictated play, as well as providing the pin-point cross from the set-piece for Boly’s equaliser.
Striker Costa, meanwhile, came on in the 59th minute and made an excellent run before a clinical low finish to seal the game with Wolves’ third goal.
Victory means they jump to seventh in the table, one place and three points behind Manchester United.
They began 2018 as a promotion-chasing Championship side but end it as a team in the top half of the Premier League with a famous win over a title contender.
“It is good for the dressing room but to play like this at Wembley – the home of football – is the big thing,” Nuno said.
“We have achieved something very special in getting to the Premier League and it has been a very special year.
“The second half was really really good. We managed possession, had chances and goals.
“We had a lot of belief after the equaliser – I would have said a draw was a good result, but I cannot control the emotions of the boys if they see space in front of them.”
Man of the match – Willy Boly (Wolves)
A first for Pochettino – the best stats
- This was Pochettino’s first Premier League defeat against a newly promoted side while in charge of Spurs – the Argentine was unbeaten in 27 such meetings (W25 D2).
- Wolves recorded their first Premier League win over Spurs since February 2010 (1-0 under Mick McCarthy), having gone winless in their previous five meetings in the competition (D2 L3).
- This was only the third time Spurs have lost a Premier League home game by two or more goals under Pochettino – the other two were against Liverpool (3-0 in August 2014) and Manchester City (3-1 in April 2018).
- Spurs suffered a Premier League home defeat after opening the scoring for the first time since May 2016 (2-1 v Southampton).
- Wolves have only lost two of their seven Premier League games against ‘big six’ opponents this season (W2 D3 L2), managing to avoid defeat in each of their three away games (W1 D2).
- 47% of Spurs’ goals in the Premier League this season have been scored in the month of December (20/43).
- Jimenez has been directly involved in 10 of the team’s 23 goals in the Premier League this season (six goals and four assists).
- Kane has had a hand in 12 goals in his past 12 Premier League appearances against newly promoted teams (11 goals and one assist).
Tottenham’s next game is on New Year’s Day at Cardiff (17:30 GMT). Wolves host Crystal Palace a day later at 19:45 GMT.
Match ends, Tottenham Hotspur 1, Wolverhampton Wanderers 3.
Second Half ends, Tottenham Hotspur 1, Wolverhampton Wanderers 3.
Offside, Wolverhampton Wanderers. Rúben Neves tries a through ball, but Morgan Gibbs-White is caught offside.
Attempt saved. Morgan Gibbs-White (Wolverhampton Wanderers) header from the centre of the box is saved in the top centre of the goal. Assisted by Matt Doherty.
Corner, Tottenham Hotspur. Conceded by Matt Doherty.
Goal! Tottenham Hotspur 1, Wolverhampton Wanderers 3. Hélder Costa (Wolverhampton Wanderers) left footed shot from the centre of the box to the bottom left corner. Assisted by Matt Doherty with a through ball following a fast break.
Corner, Tottenham Hotspur. Conceded by Willy Boly.
Substitution, Wolverhampton Wanderers. Morgan Gibbs-White replaces Ivan Cavaleiro.
Raúl Jiménez (Wolverhampton Wanderers) is shown the yellow card for excessive celebration.
Goal! Tottenham Hotspur 1, Wolverhampton Wanderers 2. Raúl Jiménez (Wolverhampton Wanderers) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the bottom left corner. Assisted by Ivan Cavaleiro.
Jonny (Wolverhampton Wanderers) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur) is shown the yellow card.
Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur) has gone down, but that’s a dive.
Kieran Trippier (Tottenham Hotspur) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Hélder Costa (Wolverhampton Wanderers).
Corner, Wolverhampton Wanderers. Conceded by Kieran Trippier.
Foul by Davinson Sánchez (Tottenham Hotspur).
Ivan Cavaleiro (Wolverhampton Wanderers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Corner, Tottenham Hotspur. Conceded by Conor Coady.
Goal! Tottenham Hotspur 1, Wolverhampton Wanderers 1. Willy Boly (Wolverhampton Wanderers) header from the centre of the box to the bottom left corner. Assisted by João Moutinho with a cross following a corner.
Corner, Wolverhampton Wanderers. Conceded by Ben Davies.
Substitution, Tottenham Hotspur. Lucas Moura replaces Dele Alli.
Substitution, Wolverhampton Wanderers. João Moutinho replaces Leander Dendoncker.
Attempt missed. Ivan Cavaleiro (Wolverhampton Wanderers) left footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Hélder Costa.
Foul by Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur).
Conor Coady (Wolverhampton Wanderers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Wolverhampton Wanderers. Hélder Costa replaces Adama Traoré because of an injury.
Attempt missed. Raúl Jiménez (Wolverhampton Wanderers) right footed shot from the left side of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Ivan Cavaleiro with a cross.
Hand ball by Adama Traoré (Wolverhampton Wanderers).
Offside, Wolverhampton Wanderers. Rui Patrício tries a through ball, but Adama Traoré is caught offside.
Attempt blocked. Matt Doherty (Wolverhampton Wanderers) header from the left side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Ivan Cavaleiro with a cross.
Corner, Wolverhampton Wanderers. Conceded by Toby Alderweireld.
Attempt blocked. Adama Traoré (Wolverhampton Wanderers) right footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Rúben Neves.
Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Ryan Bennett (Wolverhampton Wanderers).
Delay over. They are ready to continue.
Delay in match Kieran Trippier (Tottenham Hotspur) because of an injury.
Kieran Trippier (Tottenham Hotspur) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Ivan Cavaleiro (Wolverhampton Wanderers).
Second Half begins Tottenham Hotspur 1, Wolverhampton Wanderers 0.