Andre Villas-Boas thinks Tottenham may have succeeded in their final day push for Champions League football had referee Andre Marriner awarded Gareth Bale a penalty - rather than book him for diving.
Arsenal's 1-0 victory over Newcastle meant Tottenham had to settle for a fifth-place finish despite their own 1-0 win over Sunderland, which came courtesy of Bale's wonder-strike. Had Marriner awarded Villas-Boas' team a penalty in the first half when Bale collided with Sebastian Larsson, the Portuguese insists it could have been Spurs who finished fourth.
Villas-Boas thinks had Spurs taken a first-half lead from the spot, that would have applied too much pressure on to Arsenal, who did not score until the 50th minute. "I don't want to put the spotlight on the referee, but I think it (was) absolutely decisive," the Tottenham manager said.
"Apart from the distance that separates the grounds, the emotions are felt very strongly. It would have certainly been felt at Newcastle, and it would certainly change the running of this game too. Sunderland would have to be more adventurous, and so there would be more space."
Villas-Boas has repeatedly defended Bale this season amid accusations that he dives, and he thinks Marriner got the decision to give him a fifth yellow card of the campaign for simulation wrong.
"It was extremely disappointing decision in my opinion for the fact that Andre was on the conference at start of season and we spoke about Gareth's incidents," Villas-Boas said. "It was a poor decision. It could have potentially changed the nature of the other game too."
While Bale's goal was worthy of earning Tottenham a place in the Champions League, the harsh reality is that the team started sowing the seeds of their own downfall a long time ago. On March 3 after Spurs won the derby at White Hart Lane, the Gunners went unbeaten until the end of the season while Tottenham dropped points in five matches.
Despite his troubles, the 35-year-old Villas-Boas ended the season with 72 points - more than Spurs have ever accumulated since the Premier League began.
"It's very, very unusual that we didn't make it," the former Chelsea manager said. "If you look at past seasons with that number of points you would normally achieve it. It's difficult for me. Obviously we would ideally have achieved that fourth spot, we certainly did enough to deserve it, but we didn't in the end."
With Chelsea and both Manchester clubs expected to spend big this summer, Villas-Boas reiterated his desire to bring in new players for next year's tilt at the top four. Villas-Boas also repeated his stance that Bale would stay despite interest from Real Madrid. "That's the information we have," he said.