Antonio Conte admitted that Rob Holding endured a “really tough” night against Son Heung-min as Tottenham beat Arsenal 3-0.
Spurs blew the Premier League top-four race wide open again by claiming all three points in Thursday’s mammoth north London derby. Arsenal could have sealed Champions League football for next season with a win, but Spurs had other ideas.
Harry Kane scored a first-half brace to set the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium hosts on their way.
The England captain’s goals came either side of the red card for Arsenal’s Holding for two yellow cards. However, Spurs boss Conte insisted that the defender could have been booked first earlier than the 26th minute.
“It was very clear both situations,” Conte told BBC Sport of the decisions by referee Paul Tierney.
“Usually when you lose it is normal to complain. Holding deserved to take a yellow card before and the referee decided to wait a bit.
“Son against Holding was a really tough day for him.”
Arsenal had the brighter start to the game, but Tottenham grew into the contest.
They took the lead from the penalty spot, Kane slotting from 12 yards after Cedric Soares’ push on Son Heung-min.
The two yellow cards came and Holding went, before Son made it 3-0 early in the second half.
Conte delighted with Tottenham win
“For sure a good result,” Conte added. “The most important thing was to get three points. This way we continue to stay in the race for a place in the Champions League.
“Tonight was very difficult because when you must win it is never easy. I know the pressure that is on the shoulders of the players and on my shoulders.
“To play in this way with this intensity and this passion makes me very happy. I have to thank my players and the fans because the atmosphere was amazing. They pushed us from the start until the end.
“Now I ask our fans to do the same on Sunday because we have another must-win game against Burnley. We are playing against a team trying to avoid relegation.”
Indeed, Burnley beat Tottenham at Turf Moor earlier in the season amid an inconsistent patch of form under Conte.
And while the top-four race is still in Arsenal’s hands, Conte insisted that he has seen all the key traits from his team to think they could clinch it.
“I’m pleased to see my players with this concentration, really focused, also with the right calm and a positive pressure,” the Italian said.
“We are improving in these aspects and to be stable, these are steps to becoming an important team.”
As for Arsenal, they go to Newcastle on Monday night after Tottenham face the Clarets on Sunday.