Redknapp: We're still in hunt10/04/2012 - 08:20:47
Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp insists there is still “all to play for” in the race for Champions League qualification, but accepts yesterday’s 2-1 home defeat by Norwich makes it tough to overhaul third-placed Arsenal.
The industrious Canaries – who are now all but guaranteed top-flight survival with 43 points, perched in ninth place – went ahead through Anthony Pilkington on 13 minutes and were then denied what looked a clear penalty for a foul by Ledley King on Grant Holt after which Spurs levelled through a well-taken effort from Jermain Defoe.
The expected second-half onslaught, however, failed to materialise, with Benoit Assou-Ekotto denied by a fine save from John Ruddy before Gareth Bale hit the underside of the crossbar.
It was, though, the Norfolk side who went on to claim all three points through a 20-yard strike from winger Elliott Bennett.
It could prove a costly defeat for Spurs, who not so long ago looked set to mount a serious title challenge, but following a run of just one win in eight league games have seen first Arsenal overtake them back up into third, while Newcastle are level on points.
Redknapp, however, insists all is not yet lost as they look to secure a return to elite European football.
“It is all still to play for. It is going to be close, but there are still five games to go. It is the team who wants it most,” he said.
“We would settle for finishing fourth. Champions League football is the key.
“It would be lovely to finish above Arsenal, but that is going to be tough know.
“It is still all to play for – Chelsea have to play Arsenal, Newcastle have to play Chelsea, Chelsea have to play Liverpool away, so who knows?”
Redknapp accepted his side “had a bad day”, but defended his team selection, with midfielder Scott Parker rested to protect against hamstring injury.
“We get hold of the ball more when we played 4-3-3, I think we control the ball more, but one or two didn’t look quite right,” he said.
Norwich manager Paul Lambert was full of praise for his side, many of whom have come up from npower League One in successive promotions, hailing it as the “best performance” of his three-season tenure.
Lambert sees no reason why several of his hard-working team should not earn international recognition.
“People are going to clamour for him with England, but you could do a lot worse than look at him, the way he is playing and with the work-rate he has got,” said Lambert.
“On merit and the way the team are playing, maybe people should look at them [for international call-ups].
“I don’t want people to dismiss them as being at ’little old Norwich’. They have earned the right to make a name for themselves.”
The Canaries manager, however, was less than impressed by the decisions of referee Michael Oliver.
“That tackle wouldn’t have looked out of place at Murrayfield,” said Lambert of King’s foul on Holt.
“How he has missed that, I don’t know. Everyone in the ground saw that. It is bizarre.”
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