Mourinho, ball boy inspire Spurs comeback in Champs League
Jose Mourinho is showing his old magic touch in his early days at Tottenham.
The team is winning again. And its ball boys are proving to be as sharp as his players.
Tottenham marked Mourinho’s first home match in charge by coming from two goals down to beat Olympiakos 4-2 and reach the Champions League’s knockout stage with a game to spare. Real Madrid and Manchester City also qualified Tuesday, without having to win their home matches.
But it was Mourinho, back in the competition where he made his name 15 years ago as a surprise title-winner with Porto, hogging the limelight once again. He reacted to Spurs going 2-0 behind after 19 minutes by making an early substitution, bringing on out-of-favor playmaker Christian Eriksen who helped turn the game.
Then, after the quick thinking of a ball boy proved vital in the build-up to Harry Kane’s equalizing goal early in the second half, Mourinho went up to the young lad and gave him a hug.
This win came three days after Mourinho began his tenure at the north London club with a 3-2 win at West Ham, Tottenham’s first away victory in the Premier League in 11 months. Bigger tests will come for Mourinho and Spurs, in both competitions, but they couldn’t ask for much more than a pair of wins and qualification for the Champions League knockouts in his first week in charge.
There are now six teams into the last 16, with Paris-Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Juventus having already secured progress after four group games.
Two more heavyweights, in City and Madrid, joined them despite being held to home draws.
City guaranteed topping Group C with a 1-1 draw against Shakhtar and could yet play Madrid in the last 16, with the 13-time European champions squandering a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with PSG and ensure a second-place finish in Group A.
The biggest winner Tuesday was Bayern, whose striker Robert Lewandowski scored four goals in 15 minutes in a 6-0 win at Red Star Belgrade. The best goal was scored by Paulo Dybala, whose whipped free kick from near the byline kissed the crossbar before it crashed into the net to seal Juventus’ 1-0 win against Atletico Madrid.
Atletico has still to qualify. Juve doesn’t have that problem, and advances as Group D winner.
Mourinho was eager to ingratiate himself to Tottenham fans who might still be skeptical about his appointment as Mauricio Pochettino’s replacement. But he got off to the worst possible start in his first match in what he has described as the “best stadium in the world.”
Olympiakos, which arrived in last place in the group, scored through Youssef El-Arabi and Borges Semedo and overran Spurs, prompting Mourinho to replace defensive midfielder Eric Dier with the more creative Eriksen.
Dele Alli profited from poor defending to pull a goal back just before halftime and the quick-thinking ball boy rushed forward to help Serge Aurier send a snappy throw-in to Lucas Moura, who crossed for Kane to convert.
Aurier and Kane scored goals in the 73rd and 77th minutes, respectively, to clinch victory for Spurs, with Kane breaking the record of Alessandro del Piero to become the player to score 20 Champions League goals in the fewest games — 24. Del Piero managed it in 26 games for Juventus.
Bayern’s big win in Zagreb made it five wins from five in the group, and continued interim coach Hansi Flick’s winning start in four games since taking over from the fired Niko Kovac.
Real Madrid began the match against PSG knowing qualification was secure, because Galatasaray had drawn 1-1 with Club Brugge in the early game.
Still, Madrid needed to win to keep alive hopes of finishing in first place and went into a 2-0 lead with a goal in each half from Karim Benzema.
Kylian Mbappé and Pablo Sarabia scored in the 81st and 83rd minutes, respectively, to seal the draw and top spot for PSG. Gareth Bale hit the post with a free kick in injury time for Madrid.
Krepin Diatta scored an injury-time equalizer and was one of two Brugge players sent off for a second yellow card immediately after the goal in a dramatic ending to the game against Galatasaray.
The 20-year-old forward was given his second booking after he took off his shirt to celebrate and the visitors were reduced to nine men seconds later when Clinton Mata was also sent off for breaking a corner flag in two pieces with a kick as he joined in the celebrations.
Man City was below par in settling for the point it needed to reach the last 16 for a seventh straight season.
Ilkay Gundogan’s 56th-minute goal for City was canceled out 13 minutes later by Manor Solomon at Etihad Stadium.
Shakhtar is in second place and will secure qualification if it beats Atalanta at home on the same night. Atalanta is last, but now only two points behind Shakhtar after winning 2-0 against Dinamo Zagreb.
Dybala ensured Juventus will finish top of Group D by scoring a free kick on the stroke of halftime from a near-impossible angle, about two meters in from the byline. The shot was so powerful that goalkeeper Jan Oblak didn’t have enough time to raise his arms before the ball flew past him.
Atletico, which would have qualified with a win, could still get beaten to second place by Bayer Leverkusen, which is only a point back in third after beating Lokomotiv Moscow 2-0 away.
Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80
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