BURNLEY, England (Reuters) - Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino all but conceded his team's title hopes were over after they fell to a 2-1 defeat at Burnley on Saturday.
"I said, for me this game is going to be key to put pressure on our opponents. If we didn’t win, we cannot put pressure and we cannot think now of being a real contender. It is a massive opportunity lost for us," said the Argentine.
Pochettino vented his frustration at referee Mike Dean in a furious confrontation at the end of the game but he said that the blame for the loss lay squarely at his team.
"You want to win for the emotion, you know how important was the game and when you feel so disappointed and upset, you make some mistakes," he said.
"We made some mistakes on the pitch and I made some mistakes afterwards on the pitch. I need to go to the dressing room and drink some water but what happened, happened. We need to see inside ourselves," added the Spurs boss who said he might apologise to the referee.
Pochettino is likely to face an FA charge over his behaviour at the conclusion.
"I think I am going to accept everything that can happen from the FA. The thing happened on the pitch and I hope that it’s not going (any) further."
Spurs remain five points behind leaders Manchester City and Liverpool but missed a chance to put some real pressure on the top two.
City face Chelsea in the League Cup final on Sunday and Spurs could have drawn within two points of Pep Guardiola's side while Liverpool face Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday.
But instead of giving Juergen Klopp's side something to worry about ahead of that game, Spurs are left wondering why they are not yet in true contention.
"I think it was a fantastic opportunity for us to be a real contender and to show we are there because we deserve it. What is important to see ourselves and say we need to improve," said Pochettino.
"We need to defend better, we need to play better in possession to improve our quality.
"Never was the game you can say was under control. We create some chances but not enough. In this kind of level, if you want to be a contender you need to come here and show your credentials but it did not happen," he said.
The only positive for Spurs was the return of Harry Kane, who had brought his side level with a 65th minute goal on his return from a six-week injury absence.
Spurs had won all four Premier League games that Kane missed and Pochettino said there was a lesson to be learned.
"That showed the most important is the collective. You can win, you can lose. Harry scored, I am so happy he is back, that is going to help but no one is more important than the team," he said.
(Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Pritha Sarkar)