The Spurs boss left Toby Alderweireld and Kieran Trippier in London – only to see Inter Milan come from behind with two goals in the dying minutes.
But Pochettino said: “Why disrespect the players that aren’t on the pitch? You can blame me and say ‘gaffer, you were so so rubbish in your selection of the starting XI.
“But please don’t disrespect the players who were playing, because it’s my decision. Kieran Trippier, Toby Alderweireld, we have 25 players. And you ask me with your question, that you can play only 11 and the other 13 or 14 players are rubbish? are s***?”
Christian Eriksen put Spurs ahead with a deflected effort eight minutes after the break. But Mauro Icardi hit a sensational volley from the edge of the box and Matias Vecino headed a 92nd-minute winner.
It is now three defeats in a row for the first time in the Pochettino era. England captain Harry Kane also failed to register a single shot on target to intensify calls for him to be rested.
But Pochettino insisted on defending his players over their late collapse. He added: “Until 86 or 87 minutes, we controlled the game. We created big chances to score, I think Handanovic was fantastic in a few actions, and in Europe until you kill the game, it’s not over.
“Against Watford and against Liverpool , [Alderweireld and Trippier] were on the pitch. They are easy targets. It’s easy to talk about the players that aren’t here like Hugo or Dele Alli or Sissoko.
“It’s so easy, it’s so easy. I don’t know. Sorry, but I am so disappointed because I am a person that respects you a lot and the players.
“When my decision is to play with an eleven, you must respect my decision because I am the manager. You cannot disrespect.
“Please. To be a player is so difficult, and of course for me it is easier on the touchline. I don’t run. It is so painful to hear when some people are not here, and you judge in that way and you kill players who give their best. It’s so unfair.
“After 46 years old, loving this game, I understand that sometimes some tough periods can arrive. And of course, I am so disappointed because I told you after MU be careful, be careful, and the tough period arrived. I tried to change that dynamic, but when the dynamic is not good the most important is to work harder than before and be strong.”
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