A special new ingredient to the ‘Spursy’ mix

If José Mourinho did not appreciate the true meaning of the word Spursy before taking over, he surely does now after a topsy-turvy first home game in charge.

A special new ingredient to the ‘Spursy’ mix

If José Mourinho did not appreciate the true meaning of the word Spursy before taking over, he surely does now after a topsy-turvy first home game in charge.

Two goals downinside 20 minutes to Group B’s weakest link, Tottenham were all over the shop for most of the first half but came back with four goals to go marching into the last 16 of the Champions League.

There was even some of the old swagger back, especially from Dele Alli, who was Tottenham’s best player for the second successive game, having looked a lost soul for much of the past year or so.

Alli sparked the comeback with a goal before half-time, and got a huge hug from Mourinho and standing ovation from the crowd when he was replaced in the closing minutes.

By then Spurs were cruising, but it had been a different story for most of the first half. Forget the old adage about being wary of Greeks bearing gifts, it was Tottenham’s players who were in a generous mood, allowing Olympiacos to outplay them and race into a two goal that prompted a tactical change in the 26th minute, replacing Eric Dier with Christian Eriksen.

Such a quick switch is usually an admission of failure, that the coach has got it wrong from the start, but Mourinho is too pragmatic to worry about that. He just wants results, and he got an important one last night.

He was vindicated, too, as Eriksen’s creativity became increasingly influential in helping Tottenham turn around this scrappy game, for long stretches of which they had looked as ragged as they were in the 7-2 mauling by Bayern Munich and subsequent 3-0 defeat at Brighton, the week at the start of October when it really started to unravel for Mauricio Pochettino.

Back then the problem was considered a team lacking motivation and in need of are boot. Those excuses could not be applied last night, with every player knowing that they are under Mourinho’s microscope, playing for their futures, hoping to impress the new manager.

For half an hour or more, they looked jittery, off the pace and uncharacteristically careless with the ball. Olympiacos took full advantage, in front of their small but noisy band of fans, who were ecstatic as their team galloped into a 2-0 lead in 19 minutes. Mourinho was not impressed, and the subscription to Amazon Prime may be worth it just to witness what he said to his players at half-time.

The documentary makers can hardly believe their luck and this was another melodramatic tale, not a patch on last season’s run to the final of this competition, with last-gasp goals seeing them through at Barcelona,Manchester City, and most memorably Ajax. Then it was Pochettino taking centre stage, now it is Mourinho.

The Portuguese went through his full repertoire on the touchline, although he may be a little too old for a sprint down the sidelines to celebrate goals. Now it is a fist-pump and a hug with his coaching staff, and there were enough of them at the end to see his side through.

He’d started early on his home ‘debut’, taking a walk into the centre-circle at 2pm, a full six hours before kick-off. When his players were warming up before kick-off, he stayed in the tunnel, but soaked up the sounds coming in from this magnificent stadium.

As will probably be the case for a few more games to come, there were dozens of photographers clustering around him when he took his seat in the home dugout for the first time, but he spent most of the game prowling the technical area, hands in pockets, head down as often as not.

He even missed the goal that sparked the comeback, seconds before half-time, as he was berating the assistant referee, presumably for the lack of stoppage time added by the officials.

It mattered little in the end. The second half saw Spurs fired up and Olympiacos tired out. Kane got two, to keep his remarkable scoring run going, and Aurier finished off a move created by an exquisite piece of impudent skill from Dele Alli.

Solid Spurs? No.Unpredictable, yes. Exciting? At times. Whatever happens from here on in it is going to be a bumpy ride, and you cannot help but think Jose Mourinho and Dele Alli will be centre-stage.

They are both, in their different ways, box-office magic, after all.

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