Walter Mazzarri said Tottenham Hotspur’s third goal “cut our legs completely” but felt Watford were doing well until Spurs’ three-goal blast effectively had the game won before half-time.

Denied the availability of three frontline centre-halves – Miguel Britos, Younes Kaboul and Sebastian Prodl – through injury and suspension, the Hornets boss approached a tough away test positively an attack-minded starting XI. And for the opening half-an-hour the Hornets did ask some questions of their high-flying opponents before Dele Alli’s stunning 25-yard curler started a passage of three goals in 11 minutes that saw Eric Dier and Son Heung-min also score before the break.

Son was to complete the scoring with his second ten minutes into the second half but Mazzarri reflected: “When you’re already losing the first half 3-0 the second half becomes very difficult.

"I think we started well; in the first minutes we were playing at the same level but they had three great shots from outside [the penalty area] from three champion players and they managed to score all three. The third goal, it cut our legs completely.

“In the first 30 minutes we played very well. We were doing great plays, we were just missing the last pass. The end result doesn’t say how well we played at the beginning.”

The victory – perhaps only until this evening – moved Spurs to within four points of leaders Chelsea and Mazzarri hailed the qualities of Mauricio Pochettino’s side: “They are phenomenal, great players. They’ve got everything; technique, physical condition. If we would have had more luck from their shots then maybe we could have made their life a bit more difficult.”

The Hornets boss also admitted it was “not nice at all” to see England striker Harry Kane come on with 30 minutes remaining with his side 4-0 down and joked: “I would have liked someone else to be in my position, I maybe change with my assistant, and then even (Moussa) Sissoko came on.”

But he added: “My mentality is always to try to score, even if you’re losing 4-0, but it was not easy because you have to decide if to defend in order not to [concede] five or six goals or to continue to attack."