Tac­ti­cal sac­ri­fice works for Spurs

FIRED UP: MAGIC RE­CAP­TURED AS TEAM MAKES LAST-16

The Citizen (KZN) - - Sport - Lon­don

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.” –

Pic­ture: Getty Im­ages

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.

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