I Was There

Published on November 29th, 2019 | by Yongjia Cui

Edgy home debut has a happy ending for Mourinho

A 4-2 victory and a place in the last 16 of the Champions League – things went well for Jose Mourinho on his home debut as Tottenham’s new manager, but they could have gone horribly wrong.

Beating Olympiakos ensured that the feel-good factor continued for Spurs after their 3-2 win at West Ham the previous Saturday, but the Mourinho era looked to have hit early problems as they went 2-0 down to the Greeks.

His predecessor at Tottenham, Mauricio Pochettino, failed to deliver any silverware during his five years in north London, whereas the Portuguese has landed 20 major honours at the five clubs he has managed. Mourinho is a serial winner, but Spurs are still finding their feet under him, particularly at the back.

They may have bid farewell to Pochettino, but the defensive problems and lack of confidence which plagued his final months at the club manifested themselves as early as the sixth minute as Olympiakos – bottom of Group B with one point – took the lead through Youssef El-Arabi.

Things got worse, with less than 20 minutes on the clock, as Ruben Semedo doubled the visitors’ lead. Mourinho took decisive action, substituting Eric Dier for Christian Eriksen in the 29th minute, and Dele Alli pulled one back for the hosts on the stroke of half-time.

After the match, Mourinho revealed that he had felt the players were ” in need of some love at that time and not the critical one” during the break. Whatever he said did the trick as his team tore into their opponents in the second half, with their new boss bringing his characteristically emotional body language into his technical area at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Harry Kane levelled the score just five minutes after the second half began, assisted by Lucas Moura and following Serge Aurier’s rapid throw-in. The ball boy who had swiftly retrieved the ball for Aurier received a hug from Mourinho and praise from him after the game.

Aurier added a goal of his own in the 73rd minute as Spurs went ahead for the first time, and Kane sealed the win with his 20th Champions League strike in 24 games; two fewer matches than previous record holder Alessandro del Piero took to reach that number with Juventus.

There remains much work to be done by Mourinho, and his first aim is to chase down the Premier League’s current top four as they threaten to pull away from the following pack. But with Champions League knockout football assured, he can get down to focusing on that task.

Photos by Yongjia Cui.

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