Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino admitted his side's preparations for the FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea were affected by the death of coach Ugo Ehiogu on eve of the fixture. The former England international and the club's Under-23 coach was rushed to hospital after suffering a cardiac arrest and died in the early hours of Friday [21 April] morning aged 44.
Nevertheless, Spurs produced a spirited display and ran the Blues close before late strikes from Eden Hazard and Nemanja Matic settled the tie. Harry Kane and Dele Alli goals had cancelled out Willian's double, but Antonio Conte's side powered their way to their 12th final in the world's oldest cup competition.
Both teams wore black armbands and a minute's applause was held at Wembley to mark the death of Ehiogu, who played for Aston Villa and Middlesbrough in the Premier League. And Pochettino was eager to pay tribute to the former defender after admitting his Tottenham team had been hit by the news.
"Of course it was a big shock," the Argentine boss admitted. "He was a person who was very close to us and in that moment you realise real life. It is true that we are fighting to win games but it is all relative after this type of situation. One more time I want to send all my condolences both family and friends and for all the Tottenham family. It is a big loss for us."
While defeat came in cruel circumstances for Tottenham, who dominated long periods of the game but were unable to put Chelsea away, it could act as a pivotal moment in the race for the title. Conte rested Diego Costa and Hazard from the start and though both players were called on in the final half an hour victory without their two main players could act as a psychological boost ahead of the final month of the campaign.
But Pochettino is unwilling to put to much significance on the loss, and insists Tottenham's attempts to claw back Chelsea's four-point lead at the top will resume against Crystal Palace on Wednesday [26 April].
"I think that is not important," he added. "We will move on. We are disappointed by tomorrow we will work again on the train ground to change agin. To be focused again in the Premier League. If you play in the way that you play today you cannot be worried. I think you give your best and it was impossible.
"Football today does not pay you what you deserve in the end but I understand totally football and sometimes you play well and don't win. Now we can only be a little disappointed. We will try to close the gap to try and catch up with them."
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