Tuesday 26 November 2019 10:28 pm

Tottenham 4-2 Olympiacos: Mourinho's changes spark Spurs comeback to seal last 16 qualification

It was far from perfect, but once again Jose Mourinho brought his fabled winning touch to Tottenham. 

Right from kick-off, against an Olympiacos side who were winless in 12 Champions League games, all the home team’s flaws were there: nerves, disorganisation, individual errors, confidence visibly disappearing. 

Then followed the drama, the roaring comeback and, ultimately, qualification for the knockout stages of the Champions League.

It was far from the Mourinho of old, but his first week in the job has brought two wins and plenty of positives to build on as Spurs embark on a new era. 

Shellshocked


The entertainment and adulation at the final whistle felt a long way off after 19 minutes. The hosts started shakily and were punished by Olympiacos who, by contrast, flew out of the starting blocks.

Six minutes was all it took for heads to drop as Danny Rose’s poor clearance, Harry Winks’ weak challenge, and Paolo Gazzaniga’s slow response allowed Youssef El Arabi to smash in from the edge of the box.

Worse was to follow. Davinson Sanchez chased back Daniel Podence to prevent an inadvertent Winks assist, but Rose and Winks were once again culpable on the near post as Ruben Semedo tapped in from a corner.

Dier discarded

Mourinho has a reputation for making first-half substitutions; for doing away with football’s conventions, being decisive and ditching players early on. 

In just his second game in charge of Spurs it was Eric Dier who was offered up as the sacrificial lamb to slaughter. With the scoreboard reading 0-2 after 29 minutes Christian Eriksen – a player who has previously made clear his desire to leave the club – was summoned and Dier was discarded. 

Eric Dier and Christian Eriksen
Dier was swapped with Eriksen after just 29 minutes

There was no question that Spurs had been awful in the opening stages and not many would argue against the idea of a substitution. But it remains to be seen whether Dier’s confidence is affected by a vote of no confidence from his new boss. 

The change had no effect on the game’s turning point: Yassine Meriah inexplicably missing a low Serge Aurier cross to allow Dele Alli a simple but important goal back before half-time.

Tide turned


The second period was a complete reversal as Spurs began on the front foot and never let up on their tiring Greek opponents. 

Aurier’s quick throw-in sent Lucas Moura away and the Brazilian picked out Harry Kane, with his fortuitous finish off his standing foot equalising and being marked down as genius from an in-form marksman. In true Mourinho style, there was a high-five for the eager Spurs ball boy who started the move.

With the ball pinging from end to end in frenetic fashion, Mourinho made a canny change, substituting Moura for Moussa Sissoko after 60 minutes to switch to a 4-4-2 formation and establish some control. From then on Spurs never let it go.

Classy Kane

Now brimming with confidence, Tottenham went for the kill. Eriksen grew in influence, finding progressive passes, and although he fired a well-positioned free-kick wide it wasn’t to matter.

Dele Alli and Harry Kane
Alli and Kane were back to their best for Spurs

Alli’s cross found Aurier via Son Heung-min’s flicked header and the much-maligned full-back powered a sweet finish into the bottom corner to make it 3-2. 

Spurs then scored their 17th goal in five Champions League games, Eriksen’s signature whipped free-kick picking out Kane’s head from close range. It was a goal which put Spurs’ progression beyond doubt and moved Kane into the record books. 

His 13th Tottenham goal of the season, and his sixth in five European games, put him onto 20 in the Champions League altogether in just 24 appearances – a staggering ratio which sees him surpass Juventus great Alessandro Del Piero as the fastest man to the tally.

With the Spurs attack purring like this, he will doubtless plunder plenty more.

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