Sunday 15 December 2019

Mourinho masterminds Tottenham comeback

Tottenham 4 Olympiacos 2

Harry Kane heads home Tottenham’s fourth goal in last night’s Champions League win over Olympiacos. Photo: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images
Harry Kane heads home Tottenham’s fourth goal in last night’s Champions League win over Olympiacos. Photo: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Sam Wallace

High-fiving ball-boys, humiliating Eric Dier, despairing at soft goals, and then overseeing a comeback from two goals down. One evening that felt like it encompassed the three years of a typical Jose Mourinho club cycle, and yet there is still so much more of this to come.

This was Mourinho back in the Champions League, experiencing the kind of drama for which his new club have developed a taste in this competition, with their often-bewildered defence and an attacking force that gets them out of trouble.

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Spurs have qualified in second place for the knockout rounds in February with a spring back in their step and the final game against Bayern Munich in two weeks immaterial to the positions of the top two.

They fell two behind in this game to the kind of defensive aberrations that plagued Mourinho's predecessor Mauricio Pochettino, and yet one was reminded that there is still so much left to admire in the team when they have a game to chase.

Mourinho made the big call to remove Dier with not even half an hour played and the situation serious and the contribution of his replacement, Christian Eriksen, was good enough that no one could say his new manager was doing it to grandstand.

Eriksen was exceptional in a four-goal comeback, and so too Dele Alli, scorer of the first and the recipient of half a lap of honour when he came off late in the game. He had created the third for Serge Aurier. The move for the second had begun with some quick thinking by a ball boy and to finish it there was Harry Kane.

Tottenham Hotspur's Serge Aurier scores their third goal. Photo: Andrew Couldridge/Action Images via Reuters
Tottenham Hotspur's Serge Aurier scores their third goal. Photo: Andrew Couldridge/Action Images via Reuters

The striker now has 23 goals in as many games for his club and England, coming alive after a quiet first half to score twice.

Not quite the flourish of the early half-time tunnel departure for Jose Mourinho that he felt able to effect on Saturday at West Ham United, when he left with a swish of the metaphorical cloak and disappeared out of sight. This time, in the closing seconds, he was left staring over at another Spurs corner in the hope they could right some of the catastrophes of an extraordinarily bad opening period.

Mighty

Until Alli's goal late in the first half, they had been two goals down. In fact, this was the first time since February 2002, and in his second appearance in the competition as a new Porto manager against the mighty Real Madrid, that Mourinho found himself two down in a Champions League game.

Harry Kane celebrates after scoring his team's second goal. Photo: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images
Harry Kane celebrates after scoring his team's second goal. Photo: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Olympiacos had seized on two great opportunities. The first when Youssef El Arabi, the Morocco international, dropped a shoulder and went past Harry Winks before sweeping a low shot past Paulo Gazzanig. Then again when a low corner eluded four Spurs defenders and the tall Portuguese centre-half Ruben Semedo stroked it in from close range.

Mourinho had begun the night without even an introduction from his new club, the clearest sign yet that they are still not sure how the Pochettino dethroning has gone down with the home support. By 20 minutes, and two goals behind, it felt much like the Spurs league form of Mourinho's predecessor. He had picked the same team who beat West Ham, with the exception of Ben Davies, whose place was taken by Danny Rose, although it was not long before Mourinho changed his mind.

There were 27 minutes on the clock when Eriksen began fussing over his socks and the only question then was who was going to play the role of the mistaken selection. It was Dier who bit the bullet, charging off dutifully to make it clear that he had no problem with any of this. Spurs were better with Eriksen playing in Dier's deep-lying midfield position and trying to open up Olympiacos's defence.

Even so, Son Heung-min and Lucas Moura were reduced to marginal roles before the break.

Tottenham Hotspur manager Jose Mourinho celebrates. Photo: Andrew Couldridge/Action Images via Reuters
Tottenham Hotspur manager Jose Mourinho celebrates. Photo: Andrew Couldridge/Action Images via Reuters

They were gifted a goal in time added on at the end of the first half when Tunisian defender Yassine Meriah missed a simple clearance and Alli was on hand to roll the ball in from very close range.

The introduction of Eriksen was crucial for Spurs. This was something more like the Dane's best form. Gradually, Eriksen eased ownership of free-kick duties and all other crucial moments off Kane and other interested parties and settled into the kind of performance that Pochettino could count on in his midfielder's best days.

The equaliser came when Moura's tackle - and then the ball boy's quickthinking in recycling the spare in the multi-ball system - gave Aurier the chance to take the throw-in immediately.

The Brazilian was off down the right wing and, looking up, saw Kane delaying his run and pointing to where he wanted the ball delivered. Moura dispatched the cutback first time. On the touchline, Mourinho sought out the ball boy to congratulate him because that is the new Spurs manager's current mood, although he has been known to blame them in equal measure when things go wrong.

Dele's cross after 73 minutes was crisply struck from the right by Aurier for the third. Eriksen's free-kick was headed in by Kane for the fourth and, on the touchline, Mourinho leapt into the embrace of his new assistants as if none of this had ever been in doubt. (© The Daily Telegraph)

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