Football Features

“A spent force in elite football” – Winners and Losers as Leipzig leave Spurs in the dust to make first-ever Champions League quarters

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 22:19, 10 March 2020 | Updated: 13:55, 6 May 2020

In a depressing night of football, RB Leipzig smacked Spurs around, winning 2-0 on the night and 3-0 on aggregate.

The win sends Leipzig through to the quarter-finals and sends last year’s finalists crashing out of the competition.

Winner: Marcel Sabitzer

With Willi Orban down and out for the season thanks to injury, someone had to step up and be Leipzig’s commander on the field. Marcel Sabitzer was that man and against Spurs not only did he carry on his ferocious driving leadership from the first-leg but this time he turned into a goalscoring hero.

The Austrian hammered Leipzig into a massive 10th minute lead when he followed up an attack, picking the ball up at the edge of the box and driving it low and hard at goal. With one foot already on Spurs‘ neck, Sabitzer struck the killing blow himself by arriving late in the box with a stooping header to bury Spurs and send Leipzig into their first-ever Champions League quarter-final.

Loser: Hugo Lloris

As much as Sabitzer will rightfully take the glory for his match-winning brace, Spurs fans will have watched the game confident in the belief that the Austrian shouldn’t have scored either of his goals. Both goals showed good intent and ambition, but the goalkeeping… oh my.

Hugo Lloris is one of the least reliable “elite” goalkeepers in the world. One minute he looks a colossus, the next a crippling liability. A perfect example was how he was superb for France in the quarter-final and semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup but then in the final he “did a Karius” and was lucky that Les Bleus were already 4-1 up so the goal meant nothing.

Tonight, Lloris was as weak-wristed as he’s ever been. Sabitzer’s first goal was a nice hit to be sure, but Lloris had a clean look at the Austrian and it wasn’t like the thing flew into the back of the net. Lloris dove too late and too weakly and it was 1-0. Then later Sabitzer’s header caught Lloris out at the near-post, where the Spurs captain was caught well out of position and allowed Sabitzer to score from an utterly ridiculous angle with a header that was sent more in hope than expectation.

The third goal was one where you couldn’t blame Lloris, his defenders did nothing to clear the ball before Emil Forsberg scored with his first-touch. But by then the damage had been done. Spurs needed a magic act to turn this tie around, and Hugo Lloris’ delivered a horror show instead.

Winner: Konraid Laimer

Any number of Leipzig players were worthy of praise against Spurs. So many of them played well, Dayot Upamecano for instance put on a real show at the heart of defence and Angelino showed why perhaps Manchester City should have given him more minutes.

But Konraid Laimer was the man in the heart of midfield. Playing next to his compatriot Sabitzer, the 22-year-old was a moving brick wall ahead of the Leipzig defence. Laimer was everywhere against Spurs, performing a game-high 8 tackles as well as racking up the most touches (83) and playing the most passes (61), successful passes (50) and the most in the opponent’s half (32).

Laimer was sensational, and you wouldn’t be surprised if several big clubs were to start tracking him for the summer window now.

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Loser: Tanguy Ndombele

Obviously there are loads of Spurs losers but the biggest one is someone who didn’t even play: Tanguy Ndombele is a sensational footballer but injuries, fitness issues and an awful display against Burnley have led to José Mourinho publically calling him out.

Now Mourinho would always argue that his comments are only designed to motivate the player concerned, to draw the best out of them. Of course it’s hard to believe that, despite Spurs needing a miracle in Leipzig, Ndombele didn’t come off the bench at all in the second-half.

There’s something more to this rivalry than a player underperforming, and Ndombele may want to think about trying to get out of North London this summer because it doesn’t look like things will be getting better.

Winner: Julian Nagelsmann

“Mini-Mourinho” has made actual Mourinho look like a buffoon. Julian Nagelsmann is just 32-years-old but has masterminded his bright young Leipzig side all the way to the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time in their (and his) history.

Nagelsmann’s side devastated Spurs in the first leg but scored just once. In the home leg they started somewhat nervously, but managed to get to grips with their opponents and after they opened the scoring they looked several orders of magnitude better than Spurs.

For Nagelsmann to join Leipzig in the summer and already have them singing so superbly to his hymn sheet and playing so wonderfully in-tune (two of his back-three are full-backs by trade) is ridiculous. Today he didn’t even need to call on January signing Dani Olmo nor did they require star man Timo Werner to drag them to victory. It was just so perfectly ordinary, they looked like they’ve been playing at this level for years – and that is a colossal credit to Julian Nagelsmann.

Loser: José Mourinho

In 2009/10, José Mourinho won a Treble with Inter Milan. Also in 2009/10, RB Leipzig participated in their first-ever season as a club (they were founded in May 2009). Now a decade later, things have changed considerably.

Leipzig have risen from the fifth tier of German football to the Champions League and José Mourinho has fallen from the only man capable of stifling the greatest club side of all-time to looking like he runs a mobile phone repair stand that’s inset into a fabric shop.

Mourinho’s men played the most generic and boring style of football imaginable and got slapped around by some Champions League rookies. To say nothing of how he must have sapped the morale of his own players by saying, of his injury-wracked squad, that he was “heading into a gun-fight without any bullets.” What kind of motivational talk is that???

Obviously Spurs have serious injuries in attack but there are still options that the Portuguese coach could have turned to in order to try and pick up a win. Some wrinkles he could have thrown in to confuse or offset Leipzig. But did he? Did he try anything as interesting as the basic move of putting Samuel Eto’o at right-wing? Or Pepe in midfield to be a hatchet man? Did he try anything? No, no he didn’t.

José Mourinho is a spent force in elite football. If his disastrous spell at Manchester United hinted at that, his current run at Spurs culminating in this dismal defeat in Leipzig has proven it beyond a shadow of a doubt.

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