In a focused night of football, Spurs overcame Brentford 2-0 to make the EFL Cup final.
Spurs are on their way to Wembley and they will face-off against one of the two Manchester sides. The performance that got them there was atypical for José Mourinho but was the match itself quite so straightforward?
To look at the scoreline, you’d assume a routine Spurs win that saw them back to their first EFL cup final since 2015. And in a way you’d be right, but what was so interesting about this win was that it was an almost perfectly executed José Mourinho gameplan.
We’re talking old school Mourinho, back when he was still a stunningly handsome man in a suit and owner of one of the most fearsome reputations in Europe. He hasn’t been that man for a long, long while, but you’d have easily forgotten that tonight.
Brentford are a thrilling side to watch under Thomas Frank. They came into this game on the back of four straight wins and a 16-game unbeaten streak that stretches back to October 2020.
They had confidence after beating three straight Premier League sides to get here (Southampton, Fulham and Newcastle) and would have fancied perhaps catching Spurs off guard, given the London side’s focus on the Premier League.
However José Mourinho lives to win semi-finals. And he lives to win the League Cup. So this match was never going to go the way that Thomas Frank would have wanted, even if VAR’s cruel decision to rule out Ivan Toney’s goal in the second-half because his knee was offside in the build-up proved the turning point around which the match result pivoted.
Before that goal, Spurs were fighting through. They looked rock solid and largely untroubled. That goal seemed to rock the game, shake everything up, but after VAR intervened to rule it out they went right back to crushing Brentford under their boots.
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José Mourinho lives to win the EFL Cup, having tasted victory in this competition four times already. If they can win at Wembley this year he will become the most decorated manager in the competitions history. And given how often Mourinho likes to kick-off greater success by winning this game, should Spurs find a way to win then, given the quality in the team, you’d have to take them seriously.
But it’s been 13 years since Spurs won a trophy, amusingly enough they won the EFL Cup against José Mourinho’s Chelsea (albeit the Portuguese had been sacked earlier in the season and Avram Grant was managing the side) in 2008.
But now Mourinho is on their side. Before tonight’s game he said it was his biggest night as Spurs boss and you can understand why. Winning a trophy is something Mourinho must deliver at Spurs in order to justify Daniel Levy’s decision to sack Mauricio Pochettino and appoint someone as diametrically opposed to the Argentine’s approach.
And this win puts them into the final and gives them a great chance to do that. They’ve beaten both Manchester sides this season and with Kane & Son leading the line on the counter-attack they match up incredibly well with City who push up and take risks, while the sheer quality of their strikers will likely overwhelm The Red Devils in defence much as they did at Old Trafford when they won 1-6.
The big bananaskin was always going to be Brentford, a side full of pluck and courage and great ideas, but Mourinho’s men approached this game like it was the biggest of knockout ties in the Champions League. The strongest side was selected, the approach was as though Brentford were Barcelona or Bayern Munich.
Spurs pressed all over the pitch, they closed down spaces and drowned the Brentford forwards whenever they could. They bagged an early goal and sat on it, knowing that they only had to find that one pass to put Heung-min Son 1v1 to kill the game.
And amusingly that pass came soon after Brentford had their goal disallowed. Tanguy Ndombele guiding a gorgeous ball in behind and the lethal Korean finished with almost insulting ease. 2-0 felt like game-over, a late Brentford red card basically confirmed it.
“We’re prepared to suffer in the right moments, if we have to” said Eric Dier post-match, and it was a game that felt like that. And the way in which Spurs happily adopted this mentality while never letting go of their counter-attack stands them in good stead for the eventual grudge match final, where José Mourinho either takes on the last club to sack him in Manchester United or his arch-nemesis Pep Guardiola. Either one would provide the Portuguese coach the extra motivation to have his club put in another fearsome and formidable defensive display, and with Kane & Son on the counter anything is possible.
The Spurs go marching on!