For the better part of an hour on Tuesday, it looked like Jose Mourinho’s honeymoon at Tottenham Hotspur would last exactly one match.
Just days after Mourinho — who was hired to replace the fired Mauricio Pochettino last week — led Spurs to the club’s first Premier League win since September, Tottenham fell two goals behind Greek side Olympiacos early in the Champions League group stage encounter in London.
But Spurs roared back for a 4-2 victory in the Portuguese manager’s home debut, with Harry Kane scoring twice.
A lucky Dele Alli strike just before halftime gave Spurs a lifeline. Kane equalized after the break with the first of his two goals before Serge Aurier scored what would stand up as the winner with under 20 minutes remaining, much to Mourinho’s delight (via Turner Sports):
Kane added insurance in the 77th minute.
Despite their recent struggles in the Prem, Spurs were the heavy favorites heading into the match. Olympiacos had managed just a single point in their previous four games in Europe’s top club competition, and sat at the bottom of Group B with virtually no chance to advance to next year’s knockout stage.
Early on, though, none of that seemed to matter. Youssef El-Arabi got the visitors on the scoreboard less than six minutes into the contest when he capitalized on an error by fullback Danny Rose (and the other Spurs defenders’ slow response to it) by lashing an uncontested left-footed drive past Tottenham goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga:
The early goal stunned the crowd inside Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Maybe the Spurs players, too, for Olympiacos proceeded to double its advantage in short order.
Ruben Semedo was the (unlikely) scorer this time around, the central defender crashing toward the net to tap home a deflected corner kick from close range:
The two-goal lead was nothing less than the visitors deserved. Spurs looked sloppy, nervous, tentative— much like they had toward the end of Saturday’s win at West Ham. Fortunately for them, the Greeks gifted the hosts a goal just before halftime that changed everything.
When Olympiacos’ defender Yassine Meriah whiffed on a routine clearance, Alli pounced on the guests’ lone gaffe of the opening stanza to give Tottenham a fighting chance over the final 45 minutes:
Whatever Mourinho told his players at halftime did the trick. Although Olympiacos continued to carve out chances as Spurs pressed forward, the home team was far sharper following the intermission.
That cohesion was on full display in the second half, and it earned Tottenham — which advanced all the way to the Champions League final last year, losing to English rival Liverpool — a spot in the knockout stage alongside Bayern Munich.
It’s a second win on the trot for Mourinho, who has to feel good even if it’s clear that he has a lot of work to do to shore up Spurs’ leaky defense in the weeks and months to come. He won’t have much time to prepare for his next big match, however.
After facing Bournemouth this Saturday, Tottenham will travel south for a high-profile midweek trip to Manchester United, which fired Mourinho almost exactly a year ago. Mourinho will want desperately to make a winning return to Old Trafford. Assuming Spurs don’t slip up against the Cherries at home, the outcome of that match will determine if Mourinho’s honeymoon continues well into December.
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