| 5.2°C Dublin

I wish I could've made 11 changes - Jose fumes after defeat

Royal Antwerp 1 Tottenham Hotspur 0

Close

Tottenham Hotspur manager Jose Mourinho. Photo: Getty Images

Tottenham Hotspur manager Jose Mourinho. Photo: Getty Images

Getty Images

Tottenham Hotspur manager Jose Mourinho. Photo: Getty Images

Jose Mourinho accepted the blame for his Tottenham Hotspur side's defeat in Belgium. Asked why he had made four half-time substitutions, the manager said: "I wish I could have made 11. But I take full responsibility. I picked this team."

He may have made the selection, but he was right to feel let down. With nine changes from the side which displayed such resolve at Burnley, giving opportunity to players such as Dele Alli and Steven Bergwijn to demonstrate why they should be regularly involved, he saw his starting XI playing as if they had been barely introduced.

Passes went astray, movement was limited, they were frequently caught dallying in possession. Good interactions too often broke down before they reached the opposition area.

Like the one Gareth Bale instigated and Carlos Vinicius surrendered with a tame pass to an opponent. In the opening skirmishes, Bale had a couple of shots well wide, Giovani Lo Celso at least tested the goalkeeper Jean Butez, as did Bergwijn. But nothing in the way of genuine chances were likely to be forthcoming from a showing as lacklustre as this.

Close

Tottenham's Harry Kane, battles for the ball with Royal Antwerp's Jeremy Gelin. Photo: AP

Tottenham's Harry Kane, battles for the ball with Royal Antwerp's Jeremy Gelin. Photo: AP

AP

Tottenham's Harry Kane, battles for the ball with Royal Antwerp's Jeremy Gelin. Photo: AP

 

And, as Spurs stumbled, Antwerp provided telling evidence as to why they are unbeaten at home in 14 months.

Unlike Mourinho, their manager Ivan Leko stuck to the 11 that secured three points against local rivals Beerschot at the weekend. And how familiarity had the upper hand. Ritchie De Laet, who won the Premier League with Leicester City, brilliantly organised the back three, forever getting in the way of Tottenham initiatives.

Up the other end of the pitch, they used their wing-backs to drive in behind the visitors' defence: Simen Juklerod twice got in down the left, while Koji Miyoshi was a regular threat down the right, one incursion requiring Harry Winks to scrabble a cross behind.

With Spurs so far off the pace they appeared to be playing walking football, the inevitable happened. Dieumerci Mbokani caught Ben Davies lingering on the ball, piled forward and squared to Lior Refaelov. The Israeli international had clearly been studying the way Marcus Rashford finishes and leathered the ball past Hugo Lloris.

Close

Royal Antwerp's Ritchie De Laet tackles Tottenham's Lucas Moura. Photo: Reuters

Royal Antwerp's Ritchie De Laet tackles Tottenham's Lucas Moura. Photo: Reuters

REUTERS

Royal Antwerp's Ritchie De Laet tackles Tottenham's Lucas Moura. Photo: Reuters

 

Furiously applying several underlinings to his notes as he watched, Mourinho brought on the half-time cavalry in the shape of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Eric Lamela, Lucas Moura and Son Heung-min.

"I tried to improve the situation, but it was not enough," he explained. "The dynamic of the first half was still there. In the end, Antwerp got what they deserved and we got what we deserved."

Indeed, the purpose of wholesale change was almost immediately undermined after a poor back pass by Winks sent Refaelov charging in on goal once more. A brilliant sliding tackle from Davinson Sanchez saved the blushes.

Moments later Miyoshi got in behind yet again and somehow Mbokani spooned his invitation of a cross over the crossbar from no more than a yard out. The other wing-back Juklerod then obliged Lloris to save sharply.

Mourinho had seen enough and sent on Harry Kane to replace Bale. But even the appearance of the team's talisman could not alter the game's trajectory.

Lamela found Son with a cross, but Abdoulaye Seck closed him down, before Serge Aurier's searching cross was then missed by a diving Lamela.

Close

Royal Antwerp players celebrate their victory. Photo: PA

Royal Antwerp players celebrate their victory. Photo: PA

PA

Royal Antwerp players celebrate their victory. Photo: PA

 

And, as Antwerp pressed, the break was always on. Indeed, Juklerod should have scored after barrelling through from halfway. Instead, he hammered the ball into an empty stand. Antwerp stayed resolute, their red-wall defence refusing to yield, to secure victory.

For Spurs it was not a defeat terminal to their chances of progress; they have sufficient remaining fixtures in this competition easily to get back on track. But it may signal the end of some of Mourinho's fringe players getting another start.

© Daily Telegraph, London

Telegraph.co.uk


Privacy