Ange Postecoglou was pleased Premier League leaders Tottenham passed their latest exam with a hard-fought 2-1 win at Crystal Palace and was in no mood to stop fans dreaming of a title challenge.
Spurs moved five points clear at the summit after they recovered from a sluggish first half at Selhurst Park to score twice in 13 second-half minutes.
An own-goal from Joel Ward broke the deadlock in the 53rd minute when he deflected James Maddison’s cross beyond Palace goalkeeper Sam Johnstone and it was 2-0 soon after when Tottenham captain Son Heung-min steered home after Brennan Johnson’s assist.
Jordan Ayew reduced the deficit for Palace in the fourth minute of stoppage-time, but Spurs held on to extend their unbeaten top-flight run to 10 matches and move five clear of Manchester City and Arsenal, who play Manchester United and Sheffield United respectively across the weekend.
“Let them dream. That’s what being a football supporter is all about. It’s fair to say this lot have suffered a fair bit, so I’m certainly not going to dampen that,” Postecoglou said.
“Top of the table is great and the results are great but it’s more in the manner we’re doing it. Pretty much from the first game we’ve had all sorts of different challenges we’ve had to overcome.
“Every time there has been a real focus and clear-headedness about the group collectively to deal with that.
“That has been a really pleasing thing and because they’re getting rewards from that, then that gives us the opportunity to accelerate the growth of giving them more tools out there to help them for whatever we need to overcome.
“I thought tonight was going to be a real difficult game for us. Coming here, Palace’s result last week, it’s a tight ground, they’d only conceded three goals in the four games so far and how were the lads going to cope with the fact we weren’t going to create as many chances as we had been?
“I really liked the way we worked through that as a group.”
After returning to the Premier League summit with a 2-0 win over Fulham on Monday, Spurs struggled in the first half at Selhurst Park and were indebted to fine early saves from Guglielmo Vicario to deny Ayew and Odsonne Edouard.
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Postecoglou, who had lambasted his side for their second-half showing earlier in the week, introduced Emerson Royal for Ben Davies at the break and watched Ward put into his own net from Maddison’s cross to open the scoring.
It was 2-0 when Son fired home for his eighth goal of the campaign following Johnson’s smart pass, his first assist since a £45million deadline-day transfer from Nottingham Forest.
While Ayew managed to reduce the deficit – in the fourth minute of stoppage time after a lengthy VAR check – Tottenham stood firm to claim a fourth-straight win and show another side with a dogged defensively display, despite enjoying more than 70 per cent possession.
Postecoglou added: “I have always felt that matchdays are about the players. What we try to do on a daily basis is give them the tools to find the solutions.
“We prep them for their exam at the weekend, but we don’t know what the questions are going to be. They’ve got to work them out themselves.
“In an exam you are not asking anybody for help. You have to work it out yourself and hopefully what we’ve given them is the tools.”
Palace boss Roy Hodgson was disappointed to suffer a second-consecutive defeat and admitted his substitutes weakened his team.
“I thought it was an aggressive and quite-controlled first half from our side, but of course the first goal then produces a second,” he said.
“That is when we start putting players on the field, players who have not really played with the first team, Jes (Rak-Sakyi), (Naouirou) Ahamada, (Matheus) Franca and we lost the intensity we were able to do in the first half.
“In the end it became easy for them (Tottenham) to see the game through.”