Tottenham Hotspur blew a chance to strengthen their grip on fourth place in the Premier League as they suffered a last-gasp 1-0 home defeat by Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday.
Antonio Conte’s side produced a lacklustre display and looked set for a frustrating stalemate before Belgian Leandro Trossard made things even worse with a 90th-minute winner.
After four successive victories the pre-match mood in north London was one of optimism but Tottenham’s performance was in stark contrast to the bright spring sunshine.
Sluggish and unimaginative in possession, Tottenham’s feared attacking duo of Harry Kane and Son Heung-min were virtual spectators in a first half in which the home side managed only one attempt at the Brighton goal.
Spurs showed a little more urgency after the break with Son having a couple of shots blocked, but Brighton always carried the greater goal threat and deservedly took the points when Trossard burst into the left side of the penalty area and beat Hugo Lloris with a low shot with the outside of his right foot.
Trossard is having a big impact in the top-four race having been on target in Brighton’s 2-1 win at Arsenal last week.
Tottenham stayedin fourth place with 57 points but they are only three points ahead of local rivals Arsenal who have two games in hand and play later on Saturday at Southampton.
Brighton moved up to 10th with 40 points.
Tottenham’s performance was all the more surprising considering the goals that have flowed of late in big wins against West Ham United, Newcastle United and Aston Villa.
The surge in form had seen Spurs emerge as favourites for fourth spot and a return to the Champions League — a scenario that looked unlikely for most of the season.
But Graham Potter’s well-organised side, just as they did when beating Arsenal, showed they can frustrate opponents and offered Tottenham a painful reality check.
“A difficult game, we knew this,” Conte said. “It was a tactical game. I think a draw would have been a fair result.
“We started very slowly and in this type of game you have to move the ball more quickly. Maybe the weather… I want to find an excuse, but it was not a good game for us.”
Brighton smothered Spurs in the opening period with the hosts forced to pass the ball around harmlessly in their own half, much to the frustration of the home faithful.
The visitors went close when Enock Mwepu’s shot was deflected wide by Ben Davies.
Tariq Lamptey then delivered a dangerous cross that evaded everyone in the box while Alexis Mac Allister missed the ball from point-blank range after a corner deflected to him.
Tottenham raised the tempo in the second half but apart from a brief flurry were unable to build any momentum and they could really have no complaints at a defeat which added another twist to a battle for fourth place no one seems capable of winning.