Jose Mourinho could not help but wonder why Tottenham’s response against Aston Villa did not come earlier in the week to rescue their Europa League campaign.
Spurs head coach Mourinho was scathing of his side after they lost 3-0 to Dinamo Zagreb on Thursday in a match where he had expected a reaction.
The trip to Croatia followed a north London derby defeat to Arsenal, but a two-goal first-leg Tottenham lead was overturned by Dinamo in another drab display.
So when an improved Spurs showing earned a 2-0 win at Villa, Mourinho’s delight was tempered by memories of their midweek mishap.
“I’m very happy with the result, I’m very happy with the performance, I’m very happy with the attitude,” he told a news conference.
“I’m not happy with the feeling that if you did it tonight, why didn’t you do it 48 hours ago? That match on Thursday will be a scar for a long time.
“It’s not going to heal just because we won, but total credit to the players. They were a team. They fought together.”
Mourinho described the victory as “the reaction of men”, yet only four of his starting XI from Thursday remained in the team.
It was a selection that paid off. Harry Kane and Lucas Moura were the only two attackers to keep their places, the former scoring from one of four shots while the latter assisted from one of four key passes.
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) March 21, 2021
Meanwhile, Carlos Vinicius was among those to come in and scored his first Premier League goal.
The two Mourinho picked out for special praise were defenders, though.
Japhet Tanganga, playing at right-back, made five clearances, two blocks, a tackle and an interception, as Joe Rodon contributed three clearances, two interceptions, a block and a tackle.
Mourinho explained: “My thinking was we need angry people, we need fresh and positive feelings.
“We need kids on the bench that live a dream, kids that if you play them 10 seconds, they play them like the last seconds of their career.
“I need people on the pitch that I know the match is really important for them. Tanganga and Rodon are these kind of players.”
A comfortable win meant Mourinho for now staved off a 10th league defeat of the season – an unwanted mark he has never previously reached – but the coach told Sky Sports he would have no issue losing if the attitude was as it was in this match.
“I want to be proud of my players [no matter] the result,” he said. “During my career, I was proud of my players many times, many times after defeats, many times.
“I was not proud last Thursday, and I was not proud at the Emirates. I want to be always proud of them, even in defeat.
“For me, more than thinking in this moment about which position we are going to end, more than thinking about the cup final, it’s to try to develop the spirit that we need.”
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