Antonio Conte challenges Daniel Levy to sack him after Spurs throw away two-goal lead
By Tom Prentki at St Mary's Stadium
Over to you, Mr Levy. It took Antonio Conte just 10 minutes to dismantle Tottenham – claiming his players were “selfish”, the club hard-wired to fail and even delivering a swipe at his chairman for failing to deliver silverware.
Now, how Levy reacts in the coming hours and days ahead is likely to determine the path of this club for the years ahead, with little doubt that this was a clear challenge. Conte speaks his mind but never before has Levy suffered the embarrassment of a manager questioning the culture he has built in his 23 years at Tottenham.
“They don’t want to play under pressure, they don’t want to play under stress,” Conte said after the draw at St Mary’s. “It is easy in this way. Tottenham’s story is this. 20 years there is the owner and they never won something, but why? The fault is only for the club, or for every manager that stayed here. I have seen the managers that Tottenham had on the bench,” he added, alluding to his belief that the psychological frailty of the players has transcended the reigns of big-name managers before him.”
🗣️ “They're used to it here. Don't play for something important. They don't want to play under pressure or under stress. Tottenham's story is this. 20 years there is the owner & they never won something. Why?”
Antonio Conte is absolutely FUMING in his post match presser 😤 pic.twitter.com/jPqMxnZUtQ
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) March 18, 2023
The extraordinary attack came after Conte’s side capitulated in the final 16 minutes to bottom-of-the-table Southampton. Their hopes of finishing in the top four are looking less likely by the day.
The Italian had joked about the club sacking him during the week but Saturday’s quotes will make grim reading for Levy, who was jeered by the Spurs supporters that had travelled to St Mary’s.
Conte attributed the club’s lack of silverware in their recent history to a fragile mentality and highlighted their trophy drought under Levy. It could yet end with the former Chelsea manager being relieved of his duties.
“Until now I’ve tried to hide the situation but now, no. I see selfish players, I see players that don’t want to help each other, who don’t have the heart,” Conte said.
Asked about the impact of his own uncertain future on the team’s performances, the Italian immediately shut down the questioning accusing a reporter of “trying to find another alibi, an excuse for the players.”
This came after Spurs had been leading 3-1 through goals from Pedro Porro, Harry Kane and Ivan Perisic before Theo Walcott and a late penalty from James Ward-Prowse saw Ruben Selles’ side claim the unlikeliest of points after Che Adams had equalised early in the second half.
Despite the two goal-cushion they had going into the final stages, Conte’s side had never looked assured. In conceding the first two of Southampton’s goals they looked sluggish. Perisic and Clement Lenglet failed to track Walcott’s run for the first and Sekou Mara easily outjumped Oliver Skipp to set up the second.
“The most important thing if you want to become a strong team, if you want to become competitive, if you want to fight to win, is the desire, the fire that you need to have in your eyes, in your heart, and you have to show this in every moment,” said Conte, who spoke almost uninterrupted for more than ten minutes.
“When you are not a team, anything can happen, in any moment. Today is the last situation. Don’t forget that in FA Cup we lost to Sheffield United, who played with young players. We were able with a strong team, to be dropped from the FA Cup.
“Here we’re used to it for a long time. The club has the responsibility for the transfer market, every coach that stayed here has the responsibility. And the players? The players? Where are the players?” he asked incredulously.
The context of this capitulation will have been excruciating for Tottenham supporters.
Southampton had not managed three goals in a Premier League game since winning away at Spurs in February last year. They were the joint lowest scorers in the league before this fixture and lost both of their central defenders to injury in the first half.
They had also had less time to prepare, having lost to Brentford at St Mary’s on Wednesday evening. It was, for want of a better word, very ‘Spursy.’
Southampton claimed a point after being awarded a penalty when Simon Hooper adjudged Pape Sarr to have fouled Ainsley Maitland-Niles on the edge of the box.
Var agreed, Conte did not and Ward-Prowse scored powerfully into the top right corner.
“There was a lot [of pressure],” said the Saints captain. I know Fraser [Forster] very well, he used to be my next-door neighbour, so I’ve taken a few penalties against him in my garden with my little boy.
“You have to have belief. We’re in the mix and we have to be positive and look up the table,” he added of Southampton’s hopes of avoiding the drop.
“It feels great, I’m very proud,” said Selles. “I think we didn’t deserve to be 3-1 down. You can see the togetherness from the captain to the team, together with the crowd.” An otherwise unremarkable first half saw the strange sight of both sides being forced to make two changes due to injury. Southampton lost Armel Bella-Kotchap and Jan Bednarek to shoulder and rib injuries that required hospital treatment after the game.
Meanwhile, Spurs saw Richarlison leave the pitch in tears after just four minutes, while Ben Davies limped down the tunnel eight minutes before half-time.
A makeshift Southampton defence came unstuck at the end of the first-half as Romain Perraud followed Dejan Kulusevski inside, leaving plenty of space for Son Hueng-min Son to pick out Porro with a cross-field pass and he took his time before firing into the roof of the net.
The equaliser was a simple goal made by Romeo Lavia picking out Walcott’s run and he squared for Adams to toe-end the ball into the corner.
Southampton’s home form is dismal and they were trailing again when Kulusevski, Spurs’ best player on the day, came in off the right and crossed to the far post where Kane ghosted between Maitland-Niles and Kyle Walker-Peters to become the first player to score nine headed goals in a Premier League season since Duncan Ferguson in 1998.
Perisic then celebrated his goal – a shot down into the ground and beyond Gavin Bazunu – with the nonchalance of a player who presumed that the day’s work had been completed, and of course, it ought to have been.
But three minutes’ later Southampton were back in it when Ward-Prowse crossed to the far post where Sekou Mara rose to nod it back across for Walcott to side foot home.
Then the most improbable of comebacks was complete when Sarr brought down Maitland-Niles on the edge of the box and Ward-Prowse scored against former teammate Forster. Southampton will have to hope it is not too little, too late.
FT: Southampton 3 Spurs 3
Spurs throw away the chance to go third, that really should have been game over after 1-3.
Southampton rewarded for their endeavour, throughout the game they pushed forward in numbers and tried to play positive, attacking football.
Spurs will feel aggrieved about the late penalty. Sarr did not know Maitland-Niles was coming up on his blindside and there was minimal contact. Once the on-pitch decision was given though, always likely to be over-turned.
98 minutes: Southampton 3 Spurs 3
Oh Spurs have missed a golden chance to win it! They lumped a free-kick forward and it popped out to Perisic. He whipped in a cross with his left foot, and there was Lenglet with a diving header but he skewed it wide. That could have been a different story had it been Harry Kane.
96 minutes: Southampton 3 Spurs 3
Good defending from Oliver Skipp, Spurs doing more of the defending in the dying minutes. They will stay fourth rather than going third if it stays like this.
94 minutes: Southampton 3 Spurs 3
Southampton have a goal kick after Perisic's cross flies behind for a goal kick. They are almost there, for what could be a precious point.
GOOOOAAALL! Ward Prowse levels
Southampton make it 3-3 in the 93rd minute. Forster went the right way but Ward Prowse found the top right corner. Southampton rewarded for their persistence.
Spurs will be fuming with that. The former Arsenal player has given them a chance to equalise in the 90th minute!
James Ward Prowse to take against former Southampton goalkeeper Forster...
Southampton win a corner, James Ward Prowse whips it and Salisu wins a header to keep it alive.
Sarr tried to volley the ball clear but the referee judges that he has kicked Maitland-Niles first! That feels harsh on the Spurs midfielder. There was not much contact.
Var having a look.
86 minutes: Southampton 2 Spurs 3
Spurs are trying to slow this game down and take the sting out of it. This has been an entertaining second-half. Southampton have some really interesting young players, but their greenness could cost them.
84 minutes: Southampton 2 Spurs 3
Skipp over-runs the ball in midfield and concedes a free-kick on halfway. Spurs are making a couple of changes: Emerson Royal on for Porro and Sarr on Kulusevski. Conte trying to stiffen up his midfield to see this game out.
81 minutes: Southampton 2 Spurs 3
Southampton pushing numbers forward and gambling, which is leaving them stretched at the back, but Maitland-Niles does well to mop up and win a foul from Kane.
79 minutes: Southampton 2 Spurs 3
Southampton went ever so close to an equaliser after brilliant play from Sulemana, dancing through challenges in the Spurs midfield, but Forster did well to save Mara's low shot with his feet.
GOOOAAALLL! Walcott pulls one back
Just before the 77th minute, Southampton are back within one! Mara did well to win a header at the back post after a cross was stood up from the right by Ward Prowse, and there was Walcott to score a simple finish from six yards.
GOOOOAAALL! Perisic has surely settled it
Southampton cleared the initial corner but Spurs kept it alive. Once again, Kulusevski's cross from the right caused a problem, and Southampton's defensive header popped down to Perisic at the edge of the box whose shot was sent into the turf with power. It bounced up beyond Bazunu into the top scorer. Surely all over.
74 minutes: Southampton 1 Spurs 2
Kulusevski does well to hold on to possession and win a corner to huge cheers from the Spurs fans.
72 minutes: Southampton 1 Spurs 2
Southampton have a completely fresh forward line on now, can they make the difference? Walcott has stayed on and is going to get a rare 90 minutes.
Perraud with a good dig from outside the area but it was a comfortable enough save for Forster.
69 minutes: Southampton 1 Spurs 2
Southampton are making a couple of changes in their final sub window: Armstrong, Adams and Elyounouss off, replaced by Mara, Sulemana and Alcaraz. It was a slight surprise that Sulemana did not start.
GOOOOAAALLL! Kane heads Tottenham into a lead
Textbook from two of Tottenham's best players. Kulusevski ducked inside from the right and whipped in a peach of a cross from the right, and Kane worked himself a position between Walker-Peters and Maitland-Niles and planted a header into the net. A mis-match at the back post.
65 minutes: Southampton 1 Spurs 1
Che Adams is the latest played to go down with an apparent injury, but after taking some tablets he looks fine to continue.
63 minutes: Southampton 1 Spurs 1
Southampton fans not happy that Lavia was awarded a foul in his own half. Spurs won the ball back in a promising position and there was a half-hearted appeal for another handball.
Then Southampton threaten on the break themselves, but Skipp does well to block Adams' shot. There is surely another goal in this game.
60 minutes: Southampton 1 Spurs 1
That's what Southampton have to be careful off...Tottenham find themselves breaking at speed with a four on three with the ball at Kane's feet. Southampton's defence backed off but rather than looking for a runner, Kane blasted over the bar from just outside the area.
58 minutes: Southampton 1 Spurs 1
Walcott with another arcing run, this time into the left channel, but his cross with his weaker foot was all wrong and Forster saved easily. Southampton are still looking to throw punches whenever they can. This has been a promising performance in general play.
54 minutes: Southampton 1 Spurs 1
This game is swinging from end to end, Southampton need to be careful they do not make this the basketball game Spurs so often profit from. There are appeals for a Tottenham penalty here, after Maitland Niles blocked Perisic's shot with his arm.
Var had a long look at it, but they decide no penalty. That was borderline at best. Southampton will be relieved to have gotten away with that.
51 minutes: Southampton 1 Spurs 1
Southampton are flowing forward now, Spurs struggling to stem the tide. Walker-Peters is the free man on the right and his cross flashes across the area. Then Hojbjerg is penalised for handball in a position that is very much JWPT (James Ward Prowse Territory). Almost 30 yards out, left of centre.
He is one short of Beckham's Premier League free-kick record...good effort! Up and over the wall but dips on to the roof of the net.
47 minutes: Southampton 1 Spurs 1
There have only been two shots on target in this game, both of them goals. Jan Bednarek has gone to hospital with the rib injury that forced him off in the first half. Spurs win a free-kick just outside their area.
GOOOAAAALL! Adams equalises 45 seconds into the half
What a jolt that is for Spurs. It was a superb, progressive pass between wing-back and centre-back from Lavia, into the channel for Walcott who squared across the six-yard box for Adams to poke home. Walcott in behind Lenglet and Perisic too easily there.
We are back under way in the second half
Southampton get us started in the second half.
A strange half of football
2+2 - Southampton vs Tottenham is just the second game in Premier League history to see both sides make two substitutions each before half time, after Newcastle vs Wigan in April 2006. Update. https://t.co/KlzwRCMjMF
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 18, 2023
HT: Southampton 0 Spurs 1
Pedro Porro's goal the difference in a disjointed half shaped by four players - Bednarek, Bella-Kotchap, Davies and Richarlison - going off with injuries.
Southampton started well, but could not take advantage of some promising positions. Spurs have threatened in flashes, and will be favourites to go on and kill this off with Southampton using Maitland-Niles as a centre-back alongside Salisu.
45+7 minutes: Southampton 0 Spurs 1
Some hesitation between Dier and Forster in the Tottenham box, and the defender clears. Then Armstrong produces a positive dribble into the Spurs box, Dier heads away at the expense of another corner.
Ward Prowse takes it short, and Armstrong's cross is charged down. Another Southampton corner. Surely they have to whip this one in? They do, but Forster punches clear.
45+5 minutes: Southampton 0 Spurs 1
Romero gets Spurs out of dodge with a good block after Skip gifted the ball to Lavia in a promising position.
Spurs really need to go for more goals against a vulnerable Southampton. They have the forwards to kill this off, sitting on a lead is a dangerous strategy.
45+3 minutes: Southampton 0 Spurs 1
Southampton trying to respond, but Romero cuts out a forward pass into the box and puts it out for a throw. Spurs fans in good voice now. A win here will put them above Manchester United.
Southampton work a short corner to Walker-Peters but his shot flies over the bar.
GOOOAAAALLl! Porro scores his first Tottenham goal
The right wing-back had already had two shots on goal, and he made no mistake with the third.
Southampton's defence were dragged over to the left with Perraud narrow on Kulusevski, and Son spread play to Porro in acres of space.
Porro took a touch and blasted into the roof of the net with his right peg. Southampton up against it now.
45 minutes: Southampton 0 Spurs 0
Perraud defends well at left-back after some good Tottenham interplay.
There will be SEVEN minutes of stoppage time because of all the injuries.
43 minutes: Southampton 0 Spurs 0
Salisu defends well in his penalty area, heading away Porro's cross. Maitland-Niles is playing at centre-back alongside him. If Spurs do not punish such a makeshift defence then they will go home kicking themselves. Still not much fluency in Tottenham's footbal.
40 minutes: Southampton 0 Spurs 0
Good defending from Romero to mop up Walcott's teasing ball across the box. Romero played Walcott onside in the first place, another dart in behind causing Spurs problem.
Forster thought he had retrieved Salisu's header from the corner, but was adjudged to have carried the ball over the line. Another corner, Ward Prowse over it.
Salisu gets his head to it, but his effort was always looping over.
37 minutes: Southampton 0 Spurs 0
Ben Davies' race is run, replaced by Ivan Perisic. That means FOUR players have gone off with injuries inside the first 40 minutes of this game, two for each team.
Son goes close! Cracking strike with his left foot from 25 yards, whistling wide of the far post.
35 minutes: Southampton 0 Spurs 0
Southampton's turn to enjoy some possession in the attacking third, but Dier positions himself well to head clear. Ward-Prowse is penalised for handball on halfway as Spurs tried to mount a counter-attack.
Would you believe it...now Ben Davies is down holding his hamstring. Are we about to lose a fourth player to injury?
33 minutes: Southampton 0 Spurs 0
Good chance for Kane on his left foot after a low cross ran across the Southampton area, but Salisu produced a vital defensive block.
Now Bednarek is down. Ainsley Maitland-Niles is going to replace him. So Southampton have lost both of their starting centre-backs to injury. A nightmare for Ruben Selles.
Spurs surely have to take advantage.
32 minutes: Southampton 0 Spurs 0
Play is continuing with Bednarek off the pitch, Southampton playing with 10 men until the ball next goes out of play.
Southampton rather naively try to spring a counter rather than putting the ball out and Spurs rob them of possession, but could not take advantage of the counter.
Bednarek is back on but nursing a whack in the ribs. Southampton did not want to lose a second central defender to injury.
Another update from Tom Prentki
Break in play whilst Jan Bednarek is down receiving treatment. The are brief choruses of "we want Levy out" from the away end.
26 minutes: Southampton 0 Spurs 0
Another Spurs half-chance falls to Porro. Son's cross from the left sat up for him to hit on the volley, but he never got his knee over the ball and it sailed over the bar. Spurs will feel they can target Salisu, who is prone to being dragged out of position.
Kulusevski takes him on this time, skipping by Salisu, but his cross is deflected behind for a corner. Better from Spurs. Southampton defender the corner, and then play is stopped with Bednarek down.
24 minutes: Southampton 0 Spurs 0
Walcott's movement is stretching Spurs and pushing them back. The home fans give their team applause for their hearty efforts, even if they are yet to create a really big chance.
But here come Spurs on the counter, with Kane away in the right channel. He could have tried the early ball across to Son but took it on himself, and Southampton recovered to block his shot from a tight angle. Rare you say this, but I think Kane made the wrong decision there.
21 minutes: Southampton 0 Spurs 0
Southampton making in-roads down the flanks again, this time the right, and they have a corner. The home team are playing with a surprising level of fluency given their position in the table.
Lavia takes the corner, somewhat surprisingly, but it was too deep.
Great banter via Tom Prentki
As Theo Walcott is jeered with every touch, Saints fans retort with "Theo Walcott, he's won more than you."
18 minutes: Southampton 0 Spurs 0
Walcott looked to be in behind the Spurs defence, but Forster narrowed the angle and saved a tame shot. Eventually, the flag does go up for offside. Moments earlier, Spurs threatened but Porro scooped his shot from the edge of the box over the bar. Spurs do now have a corner.
Oh that was close! Spurs caught Southampton napping with a short one, and Kulusevski whipped in a delicious cross that Dier glanced wide of the post.
15 minutes: Southampton 0 Spurs 0
Spurs with some possession in the Southampton half after a sloppy giveaway by the home team in midfield, but eventually Porro's forward pass is cut out.
An Elyounoussi dribble gets Southampton on the attack again, and they worked the ball patiently to Perraud wide left, and his cross deflects behind for a corner.
Ward Prowse tries to play one short to the edge of the box, but it is semi-intercepted. The sun is now shining on the south coast.
12 minutes: Southampton 0 Spurs 0
Walcott tries to make a stretching run behind the Spurs defence but the flag goes up for offside. I think Selles wants to use his pace against Dier and Lenglet, even if his top speed is diminished nowadays.
Porro tries another diagonal pass towards Son but Bazunu is off his line quickly to claim at the edge of the area.
10 minutes: Southampton 0 Spurs 0
Southampton will be pleased with their start to this game. They have numbers pushed forward when they attack and are carrying a threat. Selles' change today has been to pair Walcott alongside Adams in a front two.
Spurs fans singing "you're just a s--- Aaron Lennon" at the former Arsenal man.
Looking back through the pre-match pictures
It seems Richarlison was already feeling something in the warm up.
7 minutes: Southampton 0 Spurs 0
We have another injury problem, what a disjointed start to the game. Bella-Kotchap is down, holding his shoulder. The way the physio is treating him it looks like it could be a dislocation, it was a 50:50 challenge with Davies.
Bella-Kotchap is indeed coming off, what a blow for Southampton. Salisu to replace him.
Two players off injured in the first seven minutes, one for each team.
4 minutes: Southampton 0 Spurs 0
Spurs have an early injury problem, Richarlison has a muscular problem and leaves the pitch in tears. Tom Prentki has the latest from the ground:
Richarlison off injured in the fourth minute. Looks devastated as he slaps hands with Conte then walks down the tunnel.
Spurs fans singing "you're going down with the West Ham"
2 minutes: Southampton 0 Spurs 0
Bella-Kotchap with some good defending on the cover early on. Spurs seeing most of the ball in the first couple of minutes. They have a couple of former Southampton players in the side today - Forster and Hojbjerg - while Walker-Peters makes his 100th appearance against his former club.
Big chance for Southampton! They got in down the left, and Perraud's cut back was a good one, but Armstrong's shot was blocked before Ward-Prowse's shot was deflected behind for a corner.
A few minutes earlier, Son did not connect with a volley from a good Porro cross-field pass.
Spurs get us started, kicking from left to right in their blue away strip. Will Southampton squeeze or sit off in the early minutes?
The players are in the tunnel at St Mary's
Tottenham's away form could cost them Champions League football unless they shape up. No trophy and missing out on the top four would be a disappointing campaign.
Tom Prentki is at St Mary's for us today
Southampton, once famed for their shrewd recruitment, have not included any of their five January signings in today's starting 11 to face Spurs.
Son, Kane and Richarlison all have excellent records against Southampton. All three start today.
Antonio Conte on what he wants from his team
My expectation is to start the game the right way and play a good game from the start until the end.
From the first minute you have to be strong in your mind. The important thing is the present and the future, we have 11 games to go and every game we to try and get points. Every game in England is hard.
Ruben Selles on Southampton's changes
I expect to see a good performance, we have a clear game plan. We changed the players to adjust and adapt for this game.
We didn't get the key moments right against Brentford and we conceded the second goal trying to chase the game.
Three days later we have a big match in front of us and we go for it.
Should be in for goals today
Southampton have scored at least once in each of their last 14 Premier League games against Spurs, since a 2-0 home loss in December 2015. However, they've kept just one clean sheet in their last 21 against them, a 1-0 win in January 2020.
Tottenham's kit today
Happy hunting ground
Harry Kane has been directly involved in 17 goals in 15 Premier League appearances against Southampton (11 goals, 6 assists), only having a hand in more against Leicester.
Southampton team and subs: Lavia, Stuart Armstrong and Walcott come in
Our team to face Tottenham 😇
Three changes for #SaintsFC this afternoon 🔴⚪️ pic.twitter.com/DeyxSPvoS1
— Southampton FC (@SouthamptonFC) March 18, 2023
Tottenham team and subs: Conte sticks with winning team
Your unchanged Spurs starting XI 🔢 pic.twitter.com/U9tNtsab8a
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) March 18, 2023
Can Spurs finally rid themselves of inconsistency?
It is hard to know what to expect from one game to the next from Tottenham, but despite their binary win-lose-win-lose form they are still in a strong position in the race for a top four finish.
Win this afternoon at Southampton and Spurs will go above Manchester United into third, although United would have two games in hand due to playing in the FA Cup quarter-finals this weekend. Newcastle's win at Nottingham Forest on Friday night cranks up the pressure on Spurs, and third and seventh in the Premier League are currently separated by just eight points. With Spurs and United facing trips to St James' Park after the international break, the battle for Champions League football could be really exciting, with Brighton very much involved.
Southampton has proved a tricky away assignment for Spurs though, with just one win in their last five league visits. Since Ruben Selles took charge, Southampton have conceded just three goals in five league games but scoring is still proving a challenge. They missed chances to put 10-man Manchester United to the sword last week and a home defeat to Brentford on Wednesday was a blow. Southampton might be bottom, but are only five points from 12th.
For Spurs, Conte has some selection decisions to make. Ben Davies started further forward as a left wing-back in the win over Nottingham Forest, which might say more about the form of Ivan Perisic and Ryan Sessengon's injury status. Spurs fans have been calling for Richarlison to be given more starts, and his all-round game impressed against Forest when he was unfortunate to have a goal chalked off for offside. Given Forest's flimsy away record though, Spurs still have work to do to win over the sceptics. When performances are unconvincing, wins can start to feel like temporary reprieves. Consecutive league games against Southampton, Everton, Bournemouth and Brighton are a good chance for Spurs to find some consistency.
Full team news on the way shortly.