Jose Mourinho certainly sprung a surprise with his team for Tottenham’s Premier League clash with runaway leaders Liverpool as he handed a top-flight debut to Japhet Tanganga.
The 20-year-old, whose only previous experience of senior football came in an EFL Cup tie, operated in a centralised right-back role behind Serge Aurier, and was handed the unenviable task of shackling Sadio Mane.
Though Spurs were unable to record their third clean sheet of the season, Tanganga had an encouraging debut, winning 71.4 per cent of his duels.
We took a closer look at Tanganga’s display in Spurs’ 1-0 loss.
2′ – It was quite an introduction to the Premier League for Tanganga, whose first touch was a goal-line block with his outstretched left leg to deny Roberto Firmino the opener. The Spurs youngster would have been well placed to thwart Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s follow-up effort had it been on target and not hit the post, though Tanganga was fortunate the ball did not go in via the back of his leg after it ricocheted off him.
2 – Liverpool go close. A crucial block from Japhet in the opening stages denies the visitors an early lead.
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) January 11, 2020
8′ – Perhaps buoyed by that fine intervention, an eager Tanganga naively surged upfield to try to dispossess Mane, only to see the Senegal international easily turn away from trouble. Tanganga eventually brought Mane down and can count himself lucky not to have been booked.
22′ – Spurs were utilising a somewhat hybrid formation, with regular right-back Aurier sometimes operating slightly further forward to account for the raiding Andy Robertson. However, as Aurier squared up to Mane with Tanganga directly behind him in support, nobody had thought about Robertson, with Spurs’ debutant eventually recovering to snuff out the attempted cutback to Firmino.
32′ – Tanganga’s next direct duel with Mane resulted in a victory for the rookie. He stepped in to win the ball, outmuscled the Reds attacker and burst forward. This time Mane brought down Tanganga, who needed some treatment on a blow to the back of the head sustained as he fell.
37′ – The Liverpool breakthrough. The Spurs defending in the build-up was shoddy but Tanganga’s attempt to cut out Mohamed Salah’s pass to Firmino was futile, the Brazilian opening his body to fire the league leaders ahead.
20 – Tottenham have conceded 20 goals in their 13 games under Jose Mourinho in all competitions, the quickest any of his sides have shipped 20 goals. Indeed, in his first stint in England with Chelsea, it took 44 games for Mourinho’s Blues to concede that many. Leaky. #TOTLIV
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 11, 2020
62′ – After a quiet start to the second half, Tanganga made his mark by winning a 50-50 against Jordan Henderson, nullifying a potential Liverpool counter-attack.
64′ – Tanganga may have been fortunate early on when the ball hit the back of his leg and did not go in, but Lady Luck was not smiling on him just after the hour mark as he slipped, fell and saw Mane glide beyond him. Toby Alderweireld had to deal with Robertson’s eventual cross.
65′– The youngster was in the wars again moments later after a loose touch from Robertson saw him chase the ball and mistime a tackle on Tanganga, who was caught on the shin by the full-back’s studs. VAR did not look at the incident again and both men were still on the ground in pain when Paulo Gazzaniga pushed away Mane’s header.
69′ – A double change for Spurs saw a new role for Tanganga, who shifted across to left-back after a chat with Mourinho when Danny Rose was withdrawn.
88′ – Spurs pressed for a late leveller – one that never came – and the newcomer offered very little to their attacking cause, opting to pass backwards or across and rarely venturing beyond the halfway line. Tanganga was, unsurprisingly, tiring late on as he let Henderson easily go past him via a one-two.
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