THERE will be no easy route into the Champions League this season.
Tottenham are back above Arsenal and into the top four – but only by the skin of their teeth having battled past Burnley with a huge helping hand from VAR.
Mikel Arteta might just add referee Kevin Friend and video assistant Stuart Attwell to the list of people he feels are against his side, who now sit two points behind Spurs.
Harry Kane converted a controversial penalty on the brink of half time to leave the Clarets hoping for help elsewhere in their bid to stay up and take the battle for the final Champions League spot down to the final day.
After savaging Arsenal on Thursday to move to within a point of their rivals, Spurs had the chance to ratchet the pressure up on the Gunners ahead of their trip to Newcastle on Monday night.
Dejan Kulusevski dropped to the bench after suffering from a stomach bug which had started to spread amongst the squad ahead of the game.
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Spurs fans will have been sick with worry at the thought of a virus costing them a place in the Champions League – just as it did in 2006 when a dodgy lasagne ripped through the squad before a game at West Ham and Arsenal clinched the last spot in the top four.
There was little sign of illness early on however, with the only blot you could see from the north Londoners was former Clarets boss Sean Dyche’s name appearing on the team sheets.
Though you could be mistaken for thinking he was still around given the way Burnley had setup.
They have been more attacking under Jackson but were back to Dyche basics here – looking to frustrate Spurs just as they had in the 1-0 win at Turf Moor which sent Conte potty in February.
With a makeshift backline thanks to injuries the plan seemed to be to sit back and hope for some luck and heroics from Nick Pope in goal, something they almost got.
The visitors hardly left their half for the first 20 minutes with the England man having to deny Heung-min Son, ハリーケイン, Ben Davies and Emerson Royal.
When he wasn’t there – Nathan Collins stepped in to hook Kane’s header off the line and away for a corner.
As the chances slipped by the early Spurs cheers turned to an anxious mumble – especially when Hugo Lloris had to charge down and save from Maxwel Cornet after he was sent through by Collins.
What had looked like it was going to be a procession for Spurs had descended into a first half full of frustration.
But then Burnley’s plan of packing the box finally came back to bite them in the final moments before the interval.
After Kane had pulled an effort wide from Lucas Moura’s cut-back, VAR worked its magic for Spurs – spotting that an aimless hoick from Davinson Sanchez had brushed the outstretched arm of Ashley Barnes.
Almost no one else in the stadium had spotted it in real time, but referee Friend was sent to the monitor and quickly awarded the spot kick.
Kane showed no concern for Son’s bid to catch Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah in the race for the Golden Boot and collected the ball before leaving Pope rooted to the spot and sticking his 16th Premier League goal this season in the bottom left corner.
Burnley’s frustration at the decision spilled into the tunnel as Barnes protested with Friend.
That tempers were on edge was understandable for both sides.
There is so much on the line in both camps and after Burnley had seen two headers, from Kevin Long and Collins, steered just wide, there was more niggle as cheap fouls sparked petty scraps on the half way line.
Spurs were getting drawn in and switching off at times – allowing Barnes the space to clatter an effort against the post from range, shortly after Kane had sent his own dipping over Pope’s bar.
Burnley’s hopes of staying in this were back with their goalkeeper.
Pope comfortably held Bentancur’s header from a Son corner before diving low to deny the South Korean after a swift attack had seen his defence sliced open with ease.
The keeper again stood tall to deny Son from Ryan Sessegnon’s cross. It would have been a walk in the park for Tottenham without the Burnley man.
In the end it was a gritty battle, with Conte and the fans dragging their side kicking and screaming over the line.
They will have to do just that in the fight for Champions League football.