Tactical sacrifice works for Spurs
FIRED UP: MAGIC RECAPTURED AS TEAM MAKES LAST-16
Eric Dier became the first Tottenham Hotspur player to discover Jose Mourinho’s ruthless streak as the Portuguese manager’s decision to haul off the midfielder after half an hour ultimately proved a masterstroke on Tuesday.
Mourinho’s first home game in charge after replacing Mauricio Pochettino was turning ugly as Greek side Olympiakos Piraeus led 2-0 inside 20 minutes of the Champions League Group B game.
But Mourinho acted decisively, sacrificing Dier’s defensive shield, and sent on Danish playmaker Christian Eriksen who, just as on Saturday in Mourinho’s debut win over West Ham United, had been left on the bench.
It took a while for the tactical switch to work but Dele Alli levelled on the stroke of halftime and the second half saw Tottenham run riot with Harry Kane scoring twice either side of a thumping effort by Serge Aurier.
Tottenham have qualified for the last-16 and in Mourinho’s first two games in charge have scored seven goals and conceded four, perhaps confounding those who said he would bring boring football to north London.
While the Dier-Eriksen swap worked a treat, Mourinho, 56, said it had been the hardest part of his evening.
“The most difficult moment for me was not the goals but the change I had to make,” said Mourinho. “It hurt the player but also hurt me.
“But it’s important the player understood ... it was about the team not the performance. I apologised to Eric and made it clear I didn’t do it to hurt him.
“Christian gave us what we needed at that time.”
Mourinho, sacked by Manchester United last season, has been charm personified since joining Tottenham. As well as praising his players’ response to adversity, and the fans, he waxed lyrical about a ball boy, whose sharp thinking allowed Aurier to take a quick throw-in that led to Harry Kane’s 50th-minute equaliser.
“To do that you have to be a very good ball boy,” Mourinho said with a straight face. “I was, between 10 and 16 years old a very good ball boy and he was a very good ball boy.
“He was reading the game and wasn’t looking at the stands. I wanted to invite him to the dressing room to celebrate but he had disappeared.” –
COOL CAT. Spurs’ Serge Aurier celebrates after scoring his team’s third goal during their Uefa Champions League match against Olympiacos at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Tuesday night.