Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho believes Manchester City’s two-season ban from the Champions League has opened the door for a host of teams to qualify for next season’s competition.
Mourinho’s men moved up to fifth in the Premier League – which could be enough to secure Champions League football should City’s appeal against the ban fail – thanks to Son Heung-min’s stoppage time winner to beat Aston Villa 3-2 on Sunday.
Spurs are also now just one point behind Mourinho’s old club Chelsea, who they face at Stamford Bridge next weekend.
However, all of the top 10 are now within six points of what could be a Champions League place.
“A window opens for many teams,” said Mourinho. “What seemed far, now the fifth place is not far. Arsenal, Everton, Sheffield United, Wolves. Everyone will feel they have the chance.”
Tottenham had to bounce back from a nightmare start at Villa Park when Toby Alderweireld sliced into his own goal.
Alderweireld had not travelled with his teammates to Birmingham after attending the birth of his son this week and admitted to feeling heavy legged after he turned Anwar El Ghazi’s deflected cross into his own net after just nine minutes.
But the Belgian quickly made amends at the other end by smashing a loose ball from a corner high past the helpless Pepe Reina to equalise.
“It wasn’t my best performance. It was a beautiful week for me with the birth of my son but yesterday I had to travel eight hours so it was difficult,” said Alderweireld.
“My legs were not sharp. But I’m happy to help the team with the goal, the lads helped me today.”
Villa could have been two in front before Tottenham levelled as only a goal-line block from Ben Davies denied Douglas Luiz.
However, Dean Smith’s side find themselves in a relegation battle as they have now conceded more goals than any other team in the league.
“They have a front four that can hurt anyone, that’s why we had to get forward and defend on the front foot,” said Smith, with Villa still just one point above the bottom three.
“On the whole I thought we dealt with them really well but we’re disappointed with the goals we conceded.”
A rash challenge by Bjorn Engels on Steven Bergwijn handed the visitors the chance to go in front just before the break, albeit it took a VAR review to award a penalty.
Son’s spot-kick was saved by Reina, but the South Korean followed up to prod home and become the first Asian player to score 50 Premier League goals.
Engels also made amends as an attacking force as he rose highest to head home Jack Grealish’s corner eight minutes into the second half, but Mourinho was furious at Alderweireld’s defending.
“I’d say he’s scored three goals: the own goal, his goal and then when he loses the duel with Engels,” added the Portuguese.
Tottenham took the game to the hosts in the final quarter, but struggled to find a way past the inspired Reina.
The on-loan AC Milan goalkeeper saved three efforts from Son and denied Dele Alli when one-on-one.
However, Son had the final say by composing himself to slot just beyond Reina’s reach with virtually the last action of the game and send Spurs closer to a fifth straight season of Champions League football.
Earlier, Arsenal hauled themselves back into contention to qualify for next season’s Champions League with a 4-0 win over Newcastle thanks to second half goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Nicolas Pepe, Mesut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette.
Just a second league win for the Gunners under Mikel Arteta lifts Arsenal into 10th in the Premier League, but just six points adrift of Tottenham in fifth.
Manchester City’s two-season ban from European competition means fifth will be enough to secure a Champions League place unless the English champions succeed in appealing that sanction to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Arteta, who left City to take his first senior managerial role at the Emirates in December, could be the beneficiary of his former employers’ punishment.
And there was plenty of encouragement for the Spaniard in Arsenal’s second half performance after an all too familiar subdued first 45 minutes.
Both sides started the day in the bottom half of the table on 31 points and it showed before the break.
The visitors had the better chances as Joelinton screwed wide before Bernd Leno turned Sean Longstaff’s deflected shot to safety.
Arteta handed Eddie Nketiah his first Premier League start up front at the expense of the out-of-form Lacazette.
However, it took over half an hour for the 20-year-old to get a sight of goal when he fired too close to Martin Dubravka.
Nketiah should have scored when he hit the bar from Pepe’s cut-back in an explosive start to the second period from Arsenal.
But Aubameyang showed his young apprentice how to pounce in front of goal as he rose highest to power home Pepe’s floated cross on 54 minutes.
One of the revelations of Arteta’s early days in charge has been Bukayo Saka’s performances as a makeshift left-back.
No Arsenal player has created more goals than the 18-year-old this season and Saka nutmegged Valentino Lazaro before teeing up Pepe to fire home the hosts’ second from close range.
Newcastle have scored just 24 goals in 26 league games this season and their lack of a goal threat was obvious as they chased the game in the final half hour.
Ciaran Clark spurned a great chance to bring the Magpies back into the game by firing wide with just Leno to beat before the mercurial Allan Saint-Maximin curled a shot off the post.
Lacazette replaced Nketiah five minutes from time and made a huge impact to give his confidence a much-needed boost.
Firstly, the Frenchman crossed for Ozil, whose tame shot squirmed through Dubravka’s grasp.
Luck then shone on Lacazette to end a nine-game goal drought as his right-footed shot flicked off his left foot and flew into the top corner in the fifth minute of stoppage time.