A League Cup game in September is far from a Champions League Final, but Tuesday’s League Cup match between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea was a Jose Mourinho performance culled from his best designs.
The ex-Chelsea manager spent weeks planting the underdog sees in the media, had a touchline argument with current Blues boss his former midfielder Frank Lampard, and saw his Spurs come back to win in penalties with a performance very much set up by the tactics.
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Mourinho played down the touchline spat with Lampard, but would do no such thing in describing his side’s performance.
Spurs used a 3-5-2 and gave Chelsea possession, something that helped the visitors claim a 1-0 lead, but Tottenham registered more shots on target and claimed a deserved late equalizer set up by Mourinho’s latest signing Sergio Reguilon.
“We were ready to fight, I told you,” Mourinho said after the game, via the BBC. “I told the players before the penalties that they were magnificent in the second half, we made Chelsea look ordinary. The team waited for the right moment…. I have to think about three games at the same time but the players only thought about this game, they were phenomenal. Phenomenal.”
There was a concerning moment that turned out to be comical when Eric Dier ran off the field in the second half and Mourinho zipped down the tunnel.
The manager followed Dier into the bathroom, apparently, and encouraged the English back to handle his business quickly.
“Jose wasn’t happy but there was nothing I could do about it, nature was calling,” Dier said after the game. “I heard there was a chance while I was off the pitch but thankfully they didn’t score.”
It is a bit surprising that this doesn’t happen more often. Hey, when you gotta go…
“With Eric you can imagine what happened, to leave the pitch,” Mourinho said via Football.London. “I was just going to push him a bit as we had one player less. It was the consequence of what he did, tired, dehydrated. I cannot play him on Thursday or I would kill him.”
There’s more good news for Spurs, who move within three wins of a first trophy under Mourinho: Heung-min Son’s hamstring injury isn’t too serious and the South Korean should be back after the international break.
Mourinho also lavished praise on goal scorer Erik Lamela, Spurs’ danger man on the day. The manager said neither Lamela nor Dier will play in Thursday’s Europa League tie against Maccabi Haifa in North London.