Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho has questioned his team’s mental strength after their dismal 3-1 loss at Sheffield United delivered a potentially fatal blow to their chances of qualifying for the Champions League.
Harry Kane had an equaliser disallowed by VAR after Lucas Moura was adjudged to have handled the ball in the build-up to the goal, in what proved to be a pivotal moment in Thursday’s match.
The Portuguese boss said he had learned a lot about his players by their poor reaction to the decision.
“You have to be ready to cope with negative moments and go until the last minute,” he said. “In spite of my efforts in the dressing room, now I feel I know more about the profile of my players.
“I felt that in the second half we wouldn’t be strong enough to cope with a team that when they’re winning just defends and counter-attacks. So congratulations to them.”
Mourinho has also called on his side to show their motivation in the remaining six games to finish as high as they can.
The Champions League spots, even if they go down to fifth, look to have gone and a place in the Europa League is not in the bag.
Mourinho said when a professional player needed external motivation “he is in trouble”.
“The motivation should be self-motivation, directly related to your professionalism, directly related with respect for your job, your club, the fans,” he said. “That is the most important thing.
“The manager can just help but the nature of the player as a professional is the most important.
“Clearly if these boys don’t care about results and don’t care about the position we finish at the end of the season we’ll be in big, big trouble for the future.”
The disallowed goal was one of the most controversial VAR calls of the season and Spurs winger Steven Bergwijn was left scratching his head.
“In my opinion it is a goal,” the Dutchman said. “He (Moura) can’t put his hands anywhere. They also pushed him in the back, so there are two things wrong.
“I don’t understand why we didn’t get a free-kick, maybe it is because we played through but I think he has to give the goal.”
Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho is hoping to exact revenge on former employers Manchester United, while Liverpool aim to move within one win of the title as the Premier League’s return kicks up a gear across a four-day weekend of action.
The English top flight got its first taste of empty stands and strict hygiene protocols on Wednesday as Aston Villa’s goalless draw with Sheffield United and Manchester City’s 3-0 victory over Arsenal restarted the campaign.
Despite the muted atmosphere, there remains plenty to play for at both ends of the table with the clash between Tottenham and United pivotal in the battle for Champions League qualification.
Both sit outside the top four with nine games remaining. However, United’s position in fifth could be good enough to secure a return to the Champions League if Manchester City’s appeal against a two-season ban from European competition is unsuccessful.
Spurs could prove to be the biggest winners of the three-month lockdown.
Before the break, Mourinho claimed he could not wait for the season to finish as injuries to Harry Kane, Son Heung-min, Moussa Sissoko and Steven Bergwijn appeared to have ended their campaigns.
All four are now fit again and victory would lift Tottenham to within one point of the club that sacked Mourinho in December 2018.
“The reality is we are now in a better position to where we were before,” said Mourinho.
“We got Harry and Sonny back, the players with the best stats in terms of scoring and assists. They give us this kind of attacking power.”
United were the form side in the league prior to the lockdown.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men are unbeaten in 11 games but also benefited from the break as Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba return from long-term injuries.
Rashford has made waves for his power off the field with a campaign to provide vulnerable children with food vouchers forcing a British government U-turn.
But the England international is desperate to get back on more familiar ground after being sidelined by a back injury since January.
“It’s been a long time, but I think I needed it,” Rashford told Sky Sports.
“Within my body I definitely feel confident again and ready to play games. The timing has worked out well for me.”
Solskjaer said Pogba is “raring to go” after an injury-ravaged season and could be paired with January signing Bruno Fernandes in the United midfield for the first time.
– Liverpool excitement building –
City’s victory over Arsenal means Liverpool cannot seal a first league title in 30 years against Everton on Sunday, much to the blue side of Merseyside’s relief.
Jurgen Klopp’s men are just two wins away from the historic feat and victory at Goodison Park will allow them the chance to win the league on home soil when Crystal Palace visit Anfield on Wednesday.
“You can feel it,” said Klopp of the excitement building around his side’s return. “I feel the intensity everywhere.”
The match will take place in Liverpool despite fears over fans congregating outside both stadiums in the city. Goodison and Anfield are separated by less than a mile.
Klopp has urged his supporters to be “the best stay at home fans in the world”.
The earliest Liverpool could now be crowned champions is on Monday should the Reds win and City lose at home to Burnley.
At the other end of the table, Norwich, Villa and Bournemouth sit in the relegation zone, but just three points separate second-bottom Villa from Brighton in 15th.
Rock-bottom Norwich can ramp up the pressure on those above them even more should they close to within three points of safety in the first match of the weekend against Southampton.
Friday (all times GMT)
Norwich v Southampton (1700), Tottenham v Manchester United (1915)
Watford v Leicester (1130), Brighton v Arsenal (1400), West Ham v Wolves (1630), Bournemouth v Crystal Palace (1845)
Newcastle v Sheffield United (1300), Aston Villa v Chelsea (1515), Everton v Liverpool (1800)
They fell behind to Steven Bergwijn’s first-half opener, but Matt Doherty equalised and even Serge Aurier restoring Tottenham’s lead couldn’t knock Wolves out of their stride.
It was a bitter blow for injury-hit Tottenham, who suffered three consecutive defeats in all competitions for the first time this season.
Heading into this weekend, Spurs had kept just three clean sheets in 22 games in all competitions since Mourinho took charge.
So Mourinho dropped defenders Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen as part of four changes following last week’s defeat at Chelsea, with keeper Hugo Lloris sidelined by a groin injury.
Those switches included midfielder Eric Dier dropping back to center-half and exploited Mourinho’s reshuffle time and again.
Tottenham had their chances and took the lead with a superb counter in the 13th minute.
Giovani Lo Celso picked out Aurier’s run down the right and when the right-back’s cross reached Dele Alli, his shot was pushed out by Rui Patricio into the path of Bergwijn, who slotted home from close-range.
It was the Dutch winger’s second goal since joining Tottenham from PSV Eindhoven in January.
But the hosts remained creaky at the back and Nuno’s men crafted an impressive equaliser in the 27th minute.
Ruben Vinagre ran onto Jota’s pass and fought his way past Aurier to the touchline, where he delivered a teasing cross into the six-yard box.
Dier and Japhet Tanganga both made a hash of attempting to clear and Doherty made them pay as the defender fired past Paulo Gazzaniga for his seventh goal of the season.
Spurs In Disarray
Jose Mourinho said this week Tottenham have to “survive” in the race for the top four until they get some of their injured stars back.
Their hopes have been hit by the loss of Harry Kane, Moussa Sissoko, and Son Heung-min, but Tottenham were potent enough despite those absences and Aurier put them back in front in first-half stoppage-time.
The Ivory Coast international took Alli’s pass, cut inside Vinagre and curled a brilliant strike into the far corner from just inside the area.
Yet, in what proved a crucial miss, the unmarked Alli ghosted onto Ben Davies’ cross for a glancing header that crept wide.
Nuno sat on the Porto bench as reserve keeper when Mourinho guided the Portuguese club to Champions League glory in 2004.
And, trying to record his first victory as a manager over Mourinho at the third attempt, Nuno was back on level terms in the 57th minute.
Adama Traore bullied his way past Tanganga and found Jimenez, who slipped a pass to the over-lapping Doherty.
Doherty’s low cross reached Jota and he tapped in his sixth goal in three games from virtually on the line.
Tottenham’s back five were in disarray and Jota and Jimenez combined to win it in the 73rd minute.
Jota was the catalyst with an incisive burst beyond Dier and Davinson Sanchez.
His pass found Jimenez and the Mexican striker easily tricked his way past Tanganga, opening space for a fine finish that sparked wild celebrations from Nuno and his staff on the touchline.
The 33-year-old could have joined Tottenham had Chelsea signed a forward in January, but instead he netted his first club goal since August and his first in the Premier League since April.
Alonso, 29, maintained the theme of exiles getting back in favour as the left-back struck in the second half of his first league start since Chelsea’s win at Tottenham in December.
Antonio Rudiger’s own goal came too late to ruin Chelsea’s first win in five league games, moving them four points clear of fifth-placed Tottenham in the race to qualify for the Champions League.
Ending Tottenham’s three-game winning streak in the league was the perfect response to Monday’s home defeat against Manchester United.
It was no more than they deserved after a vibrant performance that finally answered Lampard’s call for a killer instinct in the final third.
Tottenham have now won just once in their last 34 visits to Stamford Bridge, making it a painful return for their former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, who was beaten by Lampard for the second time this term.
Mourinho had ramped up the mind games on Friday when he claimed to know Lampard was planning to use the same five-man defence that helped the Blues win at Tottenham earlier this season.
Mourinho was spot on, with Lampard making four changes in a return to the system he predicted, but he could not come up with an effective solution.
Lucas Moura and Steven Bergwijn, more often used as wingers, led a makeshift Tottenham attack in the absence of Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and Dele Alli, who was dropped after reacting angrily to his substitution in the midweek defeat against Leipzig.
Chelsea, pressing hard from the start, were always on top and when Alonso’s superb pass picked out Mason Mount, the young midfielder’s shot was pushed away by Hugo Lloris.
It was a warning Tottenham failed to heed and Giroud put Chelsea in front in the 15th minute.
Giroud had looked impressive in his substitute appearance against United.
And his physical style and clever movement were crucial to the goal as he held off Toby Alderweireld to reach Jorginho’s pass for a shot that Lloris saved with his foot.
The rebound fell to Ross Barkley but his scuffed effort in the post and cannoned back to Giroud, who lashed a blistering strike past Lloris at his near post.
Willy Caballero almost gifted Tottenham a goal out of nothing before the break.
Needlessly rushing off his line, Caballero completely missed the ball and Tottenham defender Japhet Tanganga prodded just wide.
Mourinho had been scribbling away in his notebook before the interval, but there was no discernable change in Tottenham’s toothless display as Alonso increased Chelsea’s lead in the 48th minute.
Giroud guided the ball into Mount’s path and he worked it to Barkley on the edge of the Tottenham area.
With the visitors backing off, Barkley picked out Alonso, who blasted into the far corner from 20 yards.
It could have been worse for Tottenham as Giovani Lo Celso was fortunate to escape a red card when he stamped on Cesar Azpilicueta.
Chelsea should have won by more and Alonso’s free-kick hit the bar before Rudiger deflected Erik Lamela’s shot into his own net in the 89th minute.
After receiving the news that Son could be sidelined for the rest of the season by a fractured right arm on the eve of the game, Mourinho compared his side’s prospects for the rest of the season to hanging from a fourth-floor building by the balcony.
The hosts could easily have fallen flat on their face inside the first 90 seconds as Leipzig amazingly passed up four chances to open the scoring.
Patrik Schick flashed a shot wide from the edge of the box before Werner’s effort was blocked and Lloris turned Angelino’s driven shot onto the post.
Lloris then had to be alert again to deny Werner adding to his 25 goals this season from close range.
After weathering that early storm, Spurs went close to at the other end through Steven Bergwijn.
The Dutch international has enjoyed an impressive start to his Tottenham career and forced Peter Gulacsi into a smart save low to his left.
Leipzig are challenging Bayern Munich’s grip on the German title this season and the visitors were not overawed by the stage in their first-ever Champions League knockout tie.
Lloris was forced into another save by Schick before the towering Czech also headed just wide from a corner.
Werner then wasted the best chance of the first half when he fired too close to Lloris with just the French number one to beat.
Leipzig could have regretted not making the most of their supremacy during the first 45 minutes as Gulacsi saved well from Lucas Moura and Bergwijn fired the rebound wide early in the second period.
However, after grinding out wins over Manchester City, Norwich, Southampton and Aston Villa in recent weeks despite conceding plenty of chances, Spurs’ luck ran out.
An ill-timed lunge from Ben Davies chopped down Konrad Laimer inside the area and Werner confidently converted the resulting penalty.
Moments later only a fine save by Lloris denied Schick a second at the end of a flowing move involving Christopher Nkunku, Angelino and a delightful dummy from Werner to tee up his strike partner.
The introduction of Erik Lamela and club-record signing Tanguy Ndombele from the bench gave Tottenham a much-needed injection of creativity for the final 25 minutes.
However, their best effort came from a set-piece when Lo Celso’s powerful free-kick was turned onto the post by Gulacsi.
Lucas then headed over a great chance two minutes from time as Spurs peppered the Leipzig box with crosses, but Julian Nagelsmann’s men held out for a landmark win.
Son Heung-min struck deep into stoppage time as Tottenham’s chances of Champions League football next season were boosted by a 3-2 win at Aston Villa on Sunday.
A third consecutive Premier League victory lifts Spurs up to fifth — which could be enough to secure Champions League qualification with Manchester City facing a two-season ban from the competition — and within one point of fourth-placed Chelsea.
Jose Mourinho’s men were worthy of their victory after bouncing back from a nightmare start when Toby Alderweireld sliced into his own goal.
The Belgian quickly made amends at the other end with a thumping finish before Son followed up after Pepe Reina had saved his penalty to put the visitors in front.
Slack defending threatened to cost Tottenham all three points when they allowed Bjorn Engels to equalise early in the second half.
However, Engels was the culprit to cost Villa a point in their battle to beat the drop as he wrongly controlled a long ball forward in the 94th minute and Son sprinted clear to finish calmly.
Alderweireld had not travelled with his teammates to Birmingham after attending the birth of his child on Saturday and admitted to feeling heavy-legged after he turned Anwar El Ghazi’s deflected cross into his own net after just nine minutes.
Tottenham were all over the place defensively and only a goal-line block from Ben Davies denied Douglas Luiz from doubling Villa’s lead from Jack Grealish’s pass moments later.
However, Villa find themselves in a relegation battle due to their own defensive deficiencies.
No team in the Premier League have now conceded more than Dean Smith’s men.
Alderweireld made amends for his earlier error by smashing a loose ball from a corner high past the helpless Reina.
A rash challenge by Engels on Steven Bergwijn handed the visitors the chance to go in front just before the break, albeit it took a VAR review to award a penalty.
Son’s spot-kick was saved by Reina, but the South Korean followed up to prod home and become the first Asian player to score 50 Premier League goals.
But Spurs allowed Villa back into the game early in the second half.
El Ghazi fired the warning shot that Hugo Lloris did well to save.
Yet, Mourinho will have been furious at how easy his side made it for Engels to head home a Grealish corner on 53 minutes.
Tottenham took the game to the hosts in the final quarter, but struggled to find a way past the inspired Reina.
Son placed a shot too close to the Spanish goalkeeper from the edge of the box; Villa defenders scrambled to block Bergwijn’s effort behind before Reina again stood tall to block from Alli.
The on-loan AC Milan stopper was needed to perform more heroics in the closing stages as he twice denied Son.
However, the South Korean had the final say by composing himself to slot just beyond Reina’s reach with virtually the last action of the game and send Spurs closer to a fifth straight season of Champions League football.
Frank Lampard out-witted Jose Mourinho as Chelsea powered to a 2-0 win at Tottenham on Sunday that featured a double from Willian, a red card for Son Heung-min and allegations of racist abuse.
Billed as a showdown between Mourinho and Lampard, an explosive London derby showed the student is more than a match for the man who served as his mentor during their time together at Chelsea.
Blues boss Lampard pulled a tactical masterstroke as he cleverly changed his team’s formation, leaving Tottenham manager Mourinho unable to respond as Willian opened the scoring with a blistering strike and increased Chelsea’s lead with a penalty before half-time.
Tottenham’s South Korean star Son was sent off for a needless kick at Antonio Rudiger in the second half as Chelsea swept to a sweet victory over their former manager.
With top four rivals Manchester United losing at Watford earlier in the day, it will be a happy festive period for Lampard’s fourth placed side, who sit six points clear of seventh placed Tottenham after ending a run of four defeats from their last five Premier League games.
There was little Christmas cheer for Tottenham, who may have to answer for the behaviour of their fans amid claims Rudiger was racially abused and an object was thrown at Chelsea keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.
A fan was seen directing a ‘monkey gesture’ at Rudiger and three announcements over the tannoy that “racist behaviour from spectators is interfering with the game” painted a bleak picture of the latest racist incident to scar European football this term.
Lampard had already beaten Mourinho last season when his Derby met the Portuguese coach’s Manchester United in the League Cup and once again he proved too smart for his old boss.
After a hug and handshake between Lampard and Mourinho, there was a poignant minute’s applause for Tottenham and England World Cup winner Martin Peters, who died aged 76 on Saturday.
Those shows of respect marked the end of the civilities as Tottenham fans booed Marcos Alonso vociferously and chanted about his involvement in a fatal car crash in Spain several years ago.
Chelsea had the perfect response to the cruel taunts as they completely dominated possession in the early stages and took the lead in the 12th minute.
With Tottenham too slow to mark up, Willian took a short corner to Mateo Kovacic and when the Brazilian received the return pass, he adroitly side-stepped Serge Aurier before curling a superb finish into the far corner of Paulo Gazzaniga’s net.
There was an extra edge about Willian’s celebrations given the abuse of Alonso as he sprinted to pose in front of the Tottenham fans.
Aware of Chelsea’s frailties at the back, Lampard had switched to a five-man defence and dropped Jorginho in a move that allowed N’Golo Kante to return to his preferred deep-lying midfield role.
The tactical tweak worked a treat and Tottenham’s only decent chance of the entire match was wasted by Harry Kane, who fired over from Moussa Sissoko’s cross.
With the supply lines to Kane shut down, Lampard’s team deservedly doubled their lead in first-half stoppage-time.
To the chagrin of Tottenham’s fans, Alonso was the catalyst as he chased a long ball into the penalty area and was clattered by Gazzaniga’s desperate rush off his line.
After a VAR review, the spot-kick was awarded, with Willian calmly slotting past Gazzaniga for his fifth goal of an exceptional campaign for the winger.
That made it an alarming 14 goals conceded in all competitions by Tottenham since Mourinho replaced Mauricio Pochettino.
Any hopes of a Tottenham comeback were quashed in the 62nd minute by Son’s needless clash with Rudiger.
Falling to the turf after a collision with the Chelsea defender, Son responded by kicking both feet at Rudiger.
A lengthy VAR review led to Son’s dismissal for violent conduct, sparking an ugly end to the clash as Tottenham fans appeared to tarnish their club with sick racist taunts at Rudiger.
The 56-year-old, who had been out of work since leaving United last December, signed a contract until the end of the 2022-23 seasons after Spurs acted to halt their slide down the table.
The club reached the Champions League final last season but are languishing in 14th spot in the Premier League after picking up just three wins from 12 games. They are 11 points off the top four positions which allow qualification to European club football’s top competition.
“I want to try, obviously, everything to bring happiness to everyone who loves the club,” added the new manager, who has won domestic league titles in Portugal, England, Italy and Spain.
Mourinho was due to take training on Wednesday before his first press conference on Thursday. His first game in charge is at West Ham on Saturday.
His glittering CV includes Champions League titles with Porto and Inter Milan.
He also won three Premier League titles over two spells in charge of Chelsea, and returned to England to manage Manchester United in 2016, where he won the Europa League and the League Cup.
“In Jose we have one of the most successful managers in football,” said Spurs chairman Daniel Levy. “He has a wealth of experience, can inspire teams and is a great tactician.
“He has won honours at every club he has coached. We believe he will bring energy and belief to the dressing room.”
Mourinho was sacked by United last December and has been without a club since, most recently working as a TV pundit.
Despite his troubles in the latter stages of his tenure at Old Trafford he remains a big name, but is a divisive figure and there will be questions over whether his pragmatic style can mesh with Tottenham’s tradition of attacking football.
Pochettino had transformed Spurs’ fortunes since arriving in 2014, qualifying for the Champions League four times.
Although he failed to win a trophy, Tottenham made a dramatic run to the European Cup final for the first time in their history in June, losing 2-0 to Liverpool in Madrid.
But that masked a worrying dip in domestic form in the second half of last season and Pochettino was unable to reverse the slide in this campaign.
They were also bundled out of the League Cup by fourth-tier Colchester United and suffered an embarrassing 7-2 defeat at home to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
Former Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp told the BBC that poor results had forced the club’s hand.
“The same voice after six years starts to wear a little thin, a new man can find another 10 percent, they will find a spring in their step for Jose’s first game,” he said.
Mourinho has a tough task on his hands. No team with as low a tally as Spurs have after 12 games — 14 points — has ever gone on to record a top-four finish.
Pochettino, operating on a tight budget in comparison with his rivals, nurtured a squad of young players to become household names including Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen.
A series of Spurs players paid warm tribute to their departing manager.
Tottenham and England forward Kane tweeted: “Gaffer. I’ll be forever thankful to you for helping me achieve my dreams.”
South Korean forward Son Heung-min said in an Instagram post that “words are powerless to express my gratitude”.
The Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust released a statement expressing “concerns” and seeking clarity over how the new boss and the board would work together.
The group asked: “Is the manager solely accountable? How much has the board’s line on wages and transfers contributed to player unrest and disaffection?”
Jose Mourinho was on Wednesday appointed new Tottenham Hotspur head coach to replace sacked Mauricio Pochettino.
The Portuguese former Chelsea and Manchester United manager signed a contract until the end of the 2022/23 season, the north London club said in a statement.
Pochettino, 47, transformed Spurs’ fortunes since arriving from Southampton in 2014 and although he failed to win a trophy he took the club to the Champions League final for the first time in their history just six months ago.
“He’s incredible. He could have been a fantastic footballer with his physique, mentality, and skill,” said the Portuguese, who worked with Nadal’s uncle, Miguel Angel when he was on the coaching staff at Barcelona.
“I am happy that he isn’t a footballer. In tennis, he is what he is.”
Jose Mourinho has pledged to return to football at a “top level” a month on from being sacked by Manchester United.
“I want to coach,” Mourinho told BeIN SPORTS. “I am too young, I am in football for a long, long time, but I will be 56 in a couple of weeks and am really too young.
“Where I am going to stay is where I belong, I belong to top football. I belong to top-level football and (that) is where I am going to be.”
The English giants have thrived since the Portuguese’s departure, winning all six of their games under caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
That is in start contrast to the form under Mourinho that saw United fall 19 points behind Premier League leaders Liverpool after just 19 games before he was let go after two-and-a-half years in charge.
Mourinho’s time at Old Trafford was riddled with clashes with key players, most notably Paul Pogba.
The French World Cup winner was one of United’s first signings after Mourinho was appointed for a then world-record £89 million in 2016.
But Pogba was dropped for Mourinho’s final three Premier League games in charge.
“The phrase I kept with me from (former United manager) Sir Alex Ferguson was, ‘the day a player is more important than the club, goodbye’. Not anymore,” added Mourinho.
“The manager is there to coach them, the manager is not there to keep the discipline at any cost.
“The structure must be made, the structure must be there to protect the manager and for the players to feel that everything is in place and that they are not going to arrive into a situation where they feel more powerful than they used to be.”
Not only have United’s results picked up under Solskjaer, but the attacking brand of football employed by the Norwegian is an embodiment of that he knew as a player at Old Trafford for 11 years under Ferguson.
The Red Devils have scored 17 goals in the last six games.
However, Mourinho also turned on those who have criticised his far more cautious approach, claiming he deserved to be respected like Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola and Napoli boss Carlo Ancelotti for his success in a glittering coaching career.
“It is very easy to play well and not win, it is very easy to be behind a certain idea of a certain football without results.
“The people that win and the people that win consistently — because you can win isolated and then disappear — has obviously a different idea about that.
“If you speak about Guardiola, Ancelotti, about one where obviously I belong, that have a career of victories for a long, long period, where are the young ones with a real impact in terms of results? Where are they?”