Michael O'Neill's five key quotes following cup defeat against Spurs
STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 23: Jose Mourinho (r), Manager of Tottenham Hotspur interacts with Michael O'Neill, manager of Stoke City ahead of the Carabao Cup Quarter Final match between Stoke City and Tottenham Hotspur at Bet365 Stadium on December 23, 2020 in Stoke on Trent, England. The match will be played without fans, behind closed doors as a Covid-19 precaution. (Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images).

Stoke City’s run in the Carabao Cup came to an end after they suffered a 3-1 defeat by the hands of Tottenham Hotspur at the Bet365 Stadium.

Despite being level after a goal eight minutes into the second half, two late strikes from Ben Davies and Harry Kane helped guide Spurs into the semi-finals of the competition.

However, there were plenty of positives for the Potters to take out of a clash against much superior opposition.

On Stoke's performance

After the game, Michael O'Neill admitted that he was proud of his side's second-half showing, he said:

"We expected Spurs to come with a strong team. Maybe not as strong as they started but they have got all over the pitch, quality in terms of what they brought off the bench as well.

"I thought in the second half we took a lot of credit for our performance, it was much better. In the first half, it was a little bit timid a little bit passive. We did not affect the game anywhere as much as we hoped.

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"I thought in the second half we were far more positive in our approach. We got ourselves level in the game with a good goal but unfortunately, Spurs showed their class.

"The third goal is a poor goal to lose, we lose the ball in a poor area and the second goal we can clear the ball better but they showed real quality in terms of the two finishes."

On the game as a learning curve

Due to Spurs looking strong so far in the Premier League, O'Neill revealed that the whole experience can be treated as a learning curve.

"It is a learning curve. We had a difficult situation with Andy (Lonergan) having to come in and play who I thought did very well. There were two young centre backs playing in the back three tight in Nathan Collins and Harry Souttar.

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"I think we haven't played against that quality lets be honest in terms of the front three of Bale, Kane and Dele Ali, and then with Son and Lamela coming in.

"We were playing the highest quality in terms of Premier League quality. We were tested and we were stretched, we knew we would be but overall I thought we gave a decent account of ourselves especially in the second half."

On Lonergan's performance

O'Neil handed Lonergan his club debut after joining at the start of the month and considering it was his first game since March 2019, the former Northern Ireland manager was impressed with the 37-year-old's performance.

"He did very well. I thought we put him under some unnecessary pressure in the first half by going back to him.

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"Spurs press was very good, they were aggressive in terms of how they pressed and we tended to turn down the opportunity to play the ball forward and passed it back to Andy and put him under pressure. So he had to kick a lot.

"He made some good saves and certainly he had no chance with any of the goals."

On hope for Premier League return

This encounter was the first time both sides had faced off since 2018, when the Potters were still in the Premier League and O'Neill said that he is trying to build a side that will get them back playing top-flight football.

"For 10 years this club was used to Spurs, Manchester United, Arsenal and all the top teams coming her over our period in the Premier League.

"We are not there at this minute in time. Our ambition is to go back there and we are trying to build a team to get back there.

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"Tonight we were missing a lot of big players. We were missing (Jon Obi) Mikel, (Sam) Clucas, Joe Allen, Tyrese Campbell with the goalkeeping situation.

"We were far from full strength tonight, but if we can get those players back in the second half of the season and possibly do a bit of business in the transfer window, then we can make a push hopefully to be in the top six at the very least to try to get the club back to where we believe it can be.”

On the injury of Fox

Finally, after full-back Morgan Fox had to be forced off in the first period due to injury, O'Neil admitted that it was disappointing to see another player added to his squad's current injury list.

"Morgan is really our only natural left-back. Josh Tymon can do a job there, James (McClean) went to wing-back and I thought James did well there.

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"We will just have to look at. It is another injury that we could do without, but we may have one or two back in time for Saturday's game."

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