Football Features

Mourinho’s poor Champions League streak continues: Winners & losers as RB Leipzig take upper hand v Tottenham

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 22:15, 19 February 2020

Tottenham have it all to do in their Champions League last-16 tie with RB Leipzig after falling to a 1-0 defeat at home.

Timo Werner scored the only goal in a match Julian Nagelsmann’s men had over 55% of the possession.

The young German club, playing in their first European Cup knockout game, will rue several missed opportunities but should fancy their chances of eliminating last season’s finalist in a few weeks time.

Naturally, there were individual winners and losers. Here are tonight’s.

Winner: Timo Werner

No one can say Timo Werner wasn’t up for the challenge in the British capital. And for a while it was turning into one of those games. He attempted four shots on goal before half-time, more than Spurs’ entire output, but given his reputation – plus where he’s being fielded and the enormity of the occasion – we can only judge him on whether the German international was effective.

Well, after the interval he did game his name on the scoreboard, but as touched upon it came from a lucky break. Nonetheless, as Alan Shearer once pointed out, ‘they all count’. Given the inspired form Hugo Lloris was in you couldn’t blame the German marksman-cum-winger if he was feeling a tad apprehensive from the penalty spot. He should not have, cooly slotting past Spurs number one, his effort is the difference heading into a much anticipated second leg.

Loser: Spurs’ front two

The loss of Son Heung-min earlier this week could only be described as a setback for Spurs who have greatly relied on him in recent games. No doubt a fit Son was going to lead Mourinho’s forward line as a ‘false nine’, which he’s well-versed in, his absence plus no Harry Kane forced the Portuguse coach into a tactical rejig, this meant a 4-4-2 with Dele Alli and Lucas Moura up front, the latter though struggled.

Lucas’ heroics in Spurs’ unexpected run to last season’s Champions League — including that hat-trick in Amsterdam — earned him cult status among their fanbase. It was arguably his most prolific period since moving to north London, but he couldn’t channel that version of him this evening and looked out of sorts, even missing a close range header late on, whereas Alli you felt was on the cusp of producing something out of nothing but wasn’t able to see out the game much to his frustration.

Winner: Hugo Lloris

You never know what you are going to get with Hugo Lloris these days. His form seemingly goes from one extreme to another on a weekly basis. However, in Spurs’ latest big game, the French shot-stopper was turning back the clock. This felt like prime Lloris especially in the opening two minutes when his goal was under siege by Leipzig’s bloodthirsty attack. He would be forced to make two saves, which he did immaculately, but the fun didn’t stop there.

On they came, posting no fewer 16 shots on goal, with Lloris saving five of them. It didn’t help that his defence was being forced to drop back and soak this pressure. This performance might not have ended a run of seven Champions League games without registering a clean sheet — during which time he’d ship in an eye-watering 18 goals — it does, however, work in Lloris’ favor in the long run, by finding a semblance of his former self the Lilywhites captain is fully charged for the business end of this campaign.

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Loser: Ben Davies

If there’s one thing Mourinho dislikes, and the list is quite long, it’s a defensive player losing concentration. He wouldn’t have been amused when Ben Davies — a spectator in recent weeks — gave away a needless penalty less than 15 minutes after half-time. Timo Werner stationed in his wide left position would float a ball into penalty area towards Konrad Laimer and before he could take it in his stride Davies felled him to the ground.

An easy decision for Turkish referee Cüneyt Çakır, the aforementioned Werner stepped up and subsequently broke the deadlock, in what should be a closely fought tie — not much separating the sides albeit RB Leipzig were inspired this evening — it could end up being a pivotal moment and one supporters, let alone the boss, will forget in a hurry.

Winner: Ethan Ampadu

Before tonight’s game Ethan Ampadu had featured in four of RB Leipzig’s last 15 matches in all competitions totalling 163 minutes with him not completing the full 90 once. The 19-year-old Welsh centre-back, on loan from Chelsea, had to be patient with a recent injury crisis at the back and Dayot Upamecano suspended earning him an opportunity to prove his worth.

And that he did. Playing at the heart of Nagelsmann’s back-three Ampadu was afforded the freedom to play like a sweeper which he took full advantage of. No one distributed the ball more times, 93 successful passes from 98 attempted giving him a 95% accuracy, this frequent circulation would be the foundation behind Leipzig’s relentless attack. Late on, clearly suffering from cramp, he’d produce a spectacular intervention to deny Steve Bergwijn going through one-on-one surely impressing Blues boss Frank Lampard watching on ahead of meeting Spurs this weekend

Loser: Jose Mourinho

Given that his reputation precedes him it’s becoming relatively easy to second guess Jose Mourinho, one of the best coaches to grace European club football, no Son and Kane meant his goalscoring options were limited which RB Leipzig expected from that would come a case of bus parking.

The loss also had some historical ramifications, he’s now gone seven Champions League knockout matches since his last win, you have to go back to April 2014 when his Chelsea side defeated nouveau riche Paris Saint-Germain.