(Reuters) - Tottenham Hotspur were held to a 1-1 draw at Brighton & Hove Albion on Tuesday, giving fresh hope to Chelsea in the battle for a Premier League top-four finish while edging the hosts further away from the relegation zone.
A tame encounter sprung to life early in the second half when England forward Harry Kane fired Tottenham ahead with his 26th league goal of the season, but the advantage was short-lived as Brighton won a penalty within seconds of the restart.
Spurs full back Serge Aurier clipped the heels of Jose Izquierdo and Pascal Gross managed to squeeze his spot-kick past keeper Hugo Lloris to the relief of the home fans.
The draw left fourth-placed Tottenham eight points clear of Chelsea in fifth, but last season’s champions have a game in hand in the battle to secure Champions League qualification.
Tottenham made a raft of changes to their team ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final with Manchester United at Wembley but manager Mauricio Pochettino was not making excuses.
“Today was not because we rotated the team,” he said. “Everyone is ready to play but Brighton were very difficult opponents and we need to give credit to them.”
For Brighton, who face Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool in their final three league games, it was another precious point in the battle to avoid the drop and left them eight points clear of the relegation zone in 13th.
“What I was most delighted with was the character of the team to concede the way we did and then react the way we did,” Brighton manager Chris Hughton said.
It was a cagey first half as Brighton defended resolutely, sacrificing any attacking intent to keep Spurs at arm’s length.
Kane, who is second in the league scoring charts behind Liverpool’s Mo Salah (30), was reduced to glimpses of goal, while the only clear-cut opening fell to Son Heung-min.
Kane teed up the Korean, who made a sharp burst into the box and fired low towards the corner but his effort was brilliantly turned around the post by Mathew Ryan’s full-length save.
The match burst properly into life minutes after the restart when Tottenham took the lead and Brighton equalised in the space of a few moments.
Kane blasted home after Son showed quick feet to keep the ball in play and set up the England striker in the 48th minute.
Brighton immediately surged forward and won a penalty when Aurier clipped the heels of Izquierdo as Brighton’s Colombia winger cut into the area. Spurs keeper Lloris got a hand to Gross’s spot kick but he could not keep it out.
Reporting by Toby Davis; Editing by Ken Ferris