Adam Lallana has admitted that European football looks unlikely for Southampton next season, but is determined not to let the season peter out.
Saints missed the chance to close the gap on fifth placed Tottenham after falling to a 3-2 defeat at White Hart Lane on Sunday, as the team lost ground on the sides above them in the Barclays Premier League table.
The manner of the loss at White Hart Lane made it especially tough to take for Lallana, who followed up Jay Rodriguez’s strike to put Saints into a 2-0 lead inside the opening half an hour of play.
“We’re massively disappointed,” he told reporters after the game.
“We started the game really well, not just myself and Jay, I thought the whole team were on the front foot causing them problems and we could have had maybe another one or two goals. But, I think we took our foot off the pedal and maybe that shows our naivety at this level and we were punished by a good Tottenham team.
“I thought we were brilliant in the first half for 35-40 minutes, but then we got a bit complacent at times and maybe didn’t show Tottenham the respect they deserve which came back to bite us in the second half.
“We came out of the traps very slowly which is exactly what we said not to do at half-time in the dressing room, and we got punished for it, simple as that.”
The result leaves Saints eleven points behind Tottenham with seven games to go, and with other teams above Saints having games in hand, a top six position looks increasingly difficult to achieve, with Lallana conceding that qualifying for Europe is a long shot.
“If we had won this one then we would have been closing in on Tottenham rather nicely, but it wasn’t to be,” he assessed.
“They got the breaks and the luck, but give a bit of credit to them, they had a tough game on Thursday and they were at it for 90 minutes, so fair play to them.
“We can say we’ve given Tottenham a really good game in their own back yard, but apart from that there are not many positives to take because we were 2-0 up and we’ve let it slip so we’ve got to bounce back as quickly as possible now.”
The defeat leaves Saints in ninth place, one point back from Newcastle in eighth, who are the team next up for Mauricio Pochettino’s men at St Mary’s, which Lallana says provides an opportunity for the team to build from.
“We’ve all got lots to play for,” he said. “We’re all professional and we all love playing football, so we have to play as well as possible.
“We’re playing Newcastle next so it’s in our hands still, and we’ve just got to keep striving for every point in every way possible.”