Tottenham head coach Jose Mourinho revealed record signing Tanguy Ndombele did not want to be selected in the Boxing Day win over Brighton.
The France international, who has recovered from a recent groin injury, was a surprise omission as Spurs came from behind to win 2-1.
Adam Webster put the Seagulls ahead before goals from Harry Kane and Dele Alli extended Spurs’ unbeaten record on 26 December to 14 games.
But Ndombele’s absence was the big talking point and the Portuguese was happy to clear the situation up.
“I cannot say he is injured, in five minutes we start a training session and you can go to the stands and watch it, he is going to be training normally so I cannot say he is injured,” Mourinho said.
“I can say that yesterday he told me he was not feeling in condition to play the game.
“Not based on injuries, based on fears of previous injuries that he has had since the beginning of the season.
“Feeling not ready to start the game, but I cannot say he is injured, I can say he is not in condition to start the game, which is different.”
Spurs certainly looked to be missing Ndombele’s creativity and mobility in the first half as, minutes after Kane’s goal was ruled out by VAR, they fell behind to Webster’s header.
They were much better after the break and Kane’s 10th league goal of the campaign – the sixth successive season he has reached the landmark – and Alli’s fifth goal in eight games under Mourinho saw Spurs earn a big three points in the race for the top four.
Mourinho said: “We didn’t start well and you could even say that we were a bit unlucky, because in one minute we are winning 1-0, then the VAR correctly disallowed the goal, so the next minute you are 0-0 and a couple of minutes later you are losing 1-0.
“So I think the boys felt it. The second half was different, second half they brought everything they have to bring.
“We spoke about tactical details, we spoke about principles, the emotional side of it and the second half was really, really good and even if we were not winning this game I would be disappointed of course but I would have the feeling the boys have everything, not forgetting we played a very good team and that I think that is also important to say.”
Brighton looked like ruining Spurs’ Boxing Day record with an impressive first-half performance, but they could not cope with a strong second-half response.
“We are disappointed because we have come away with nothing, so clearly that is a frustration for us,” boss Graham Potter said.
“In terms of the performance, there were plenty of positives. I thought it was an even game, the first half was really positive.
“The effort was there, probably their first goal is a disappointing one for us because it changes the environment.
“We weren’t able to see out that period of time, but overall there are plenty of positives and frustration but we have to take that frustration to Bournemouth in a few hours.”
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