A visibly bemused and exhausted-looking Ryan Mason, fresh off of a history-making win for Tottenham Hotspur over Southampton, held his first post-match press conference as Spurs manager on Wednesday. Mason, who at age 29 became the youngest ever person to manage a Premier League match, guided his team from a 1-0 halftime deficit to a 2-1 win, with Gareth Bale and Son Heung-Min both scoring in the second half.
After the match, Mason praised his Spurs side, especially their improved second half performance.
“First of all the feeling is a massive relief. It’s been a whirlwind the last two or three days but thankfully we got the win and most importantly I felt second half we were outstanding.
“The performance, the commitment, the energy was brilliant because I thought in the first half we found it very difficult. It was quite tough to get out and they were very good. They created some chances. Hugo pulled off two world class saves for us but I thought as the game wore on we gained control of it and I thought there was only one team that was going to win the match.”
Spurs looked a touch disjointed and leggy in the first half, playing with unfamiliar tactics and an emphasis on pressing and playing out of the back, but rallied with a strong second half. Asked about what he told the squad during the halftime break, Mason said he tried to keep it simple.
“It was just about giving them the belief, the energy, to have the bravery to play and express themselves but within that we had to compete as well because I felt there were some situations in the first half where they were quicker to the first ball.
“The duels and tackles I felt they were coming out on top but we changed that second half. We gained full control of the match and we played the game pretty much in their half I thought and I thought we fully deserved to win the match overall.”
Mason singled out Gareth Bale, who came into the match ostensibly in place of the injured Harry Kane, for praise. Bale’s second half tying goal was taken from an acute angle, and was emblematic of the kind of quality that Spurs fans hoped that he would bring on his Tottenham return this year. It’s the first time Bale had started a Premier League match since the North London Derby in mid-march, and his goal was his sixth in the Premier League in extremely limited minutes, 11 in all competitions.
“Gareth’s an exceptional player, he’s had an exceptional career. Especially when you don’t have Harry in the team you need someone who can produce moments in the final third. That was the decision for Gareth today, and thankfully he’s repaid that, the effort he’s showed and the quality for the finish was absolutely outstanding.”
With Mason’s first win under his belt, all eyes are now turning to Sunday’s Carabao Cup final against Manchester City at Wembley Stadium. Mason said that this win was important because it set the tone ahead of what will be a massive opportunity for a beleaguered Tottenham side.
“When you go into a big game like Sunday is it is always ideal to go into it with a win. I thought the manner in which we won the game says a lot about the group, the belief, the commitment, the energy it was outstanding in the second half and I am very proud of the group for the effort they showed tonight.”