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‘We believe in him’: Pochettino backs Lamela after sinking Hammers

London (AFP) – Mauricio Pochettino believes Erik Lamela is finally ready to fulfil his potential after the revitalised winger fired Tottenham to a 1-0 win against London rivals West Ham on Saturday.

Lamela struck with a cool header late in the first half at the London Stadium to give Tottenham their fourth successive Premier League victory and lift them into the top four.

That made it five goals in just eight appearances this season for Lamela, who was making only his second league start of the campaign.

Lamela could start more often after this influential display underlined his improvement since returning from over a year of injury problems that required surgery on both hips.

Pochettino has often kept Lamela on the bench in the past, but the Tottenham boss says the Argentine is earning his trust.

“The form of the player sometimes changes. The most important thing is to trust him,” Pochettino said.

“We believe in him. He is a player that is more mature. He is more relaxed, he’s calm in front of goal. That is the key.”

With Tottenham chasing silverware on several fronts, Pochettino challenged Lamela to maintain his fine form for the rest of the season.

“He needs to be consistent. To manage things in the right way and understand where he came from,” he said.

“He had a lot of injuries in five years with us. The last two seasons were tough for him. But we are patient and take care of the player.”

Lamela added: “I was injured a lot and now I’m feeling good and enjoying the moment.”

Thanks to Lamela and a sturdy defensive display, Pochettino’s side were able to celebrate five successive top-flight London derby wins for the first time since January 1961.

It was the ideal warm-up for next week’s crucial Champions League trip to PSV Eindhoven and the Premier League clash against champions Manchester City a few days later. 

“The first half we were better than West Ham. Maybe we deserved one or two more goals,” Pochettino said.

“In the second half, we suffered a bit. It’s three important points at the start of a very tough period of us.”

West Ham’s second consecutive loss punctured the optimism sparked by their win over Manchester United earlier in September. 

Adding to West Ham’s woes, winger Andriy Yarmolenko was taken to hospital after suffering a serious ankle injury.

“Tottenham had one chance and scored. That can happen when you play against one of the best teams in the league,” said Hammers boss Manuel Pellegrini, who will discover the extent of Yarmolenko’s injury on Sunday.

Probing intelligently through Lamela and Lucas Moura, Tottenham worked an early chance for Moussa Sissoko, whose deflected strike flashed just over. 

– Extra gear –

Harry Kane has endured constant claims that he is suffering from post-World Cup fatigue and the England captain once again looked a little laboured in his movement.

When Moura’s pass sent Kane through on goal, the Tottenham striker couldn’t find the extra gear to accelerate away from the West Ham defence and his shot was scrambled clear.

Despite Kane’s lethargy, Tottenham were the dominant force and took the lead in the 44th minute.

Sissoko twisted and turned on the right flank before whipping over a cross that Lamela met with a perfectly-timed run, the Argentine heading powerfully past Lukasz Fabianski from close-range.

Tottenham keeper Hugo Lloris made an even better stop, leaping to his left to repel a header from Marko Arnautovic early in the second half.

Lloris won another duel with Arnautovic on the hour, this time keeping the striker’s low drive with an out-stretched hand.

Davinson Sanchez squandered a chance to kill off West Ham when the defender, picked out by Kieran Trippier’s cross, headed woefully over from close-range.

West Ham pressed hard in the closing stages, but Javier Hernandez’s effort was ruled out for offside and Lloris denied Arnautovic as Pochettino’s men held firm.

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