Is it all going to plan?
By Don Scully
Under Mourinho, we’ve been on a rollercoaster ride. But that isn’t really surprising seeing what he inherited. But I do feel that we are getting there, slowly, but there, nevertheless.
After our feckless draw against Middlesbrough (away) both teams got another bite at the cherry. This time we made sure that we were in the driving seat (slipping near the end to the passenger's side). We won 2-1 (you gathered! OK).
Let us look at a few stats:
We are unbeaten in each of our past 41 FA Cup home matches against teams from a lower division (won 34, drew seven) since a 1-0 loss to Nottingham Forest in January 1975. I remember that match well, I was young in those days!
Middlesbrough have failed to keep a clean sheet in each of their past 13 meetings with us in all competitions since a 1-0 win at the Riverside Stadium in May 2005.
For just the second time during his 923-game managerial career, Jose Mourinho has seen one of his clubs concede at least once in nine consecutive matches in all competitions, also suffering the same fate with Chelsea between May and September 2015.
Timed at one minute 55 seconds, Lo Celso's strike was Spurs' earliest goal at the new stadium - and their earliest home goal since Eriksen scored against Manchester United at Wembley in the Premier League in January 2018. But those days of Eriksen are fading fast. So fast that, along with his fading, he is being booed along the way. A sad decline of a once treasured player. But he only has his self to blame. And of course, it isn’t just him who is suffering. Us, the fans/ supporters, as well.
But now we’ve got a new player arriving at the club; hopefully, Eriksen will fade even quicker. Yes, that player is Gedson Fernandes, who arrived recently but will be on loan for 18 months with an option to buy. He came from Benfica FC. The youngster made his introduction for Benfica last season. The young lad helped Benfica win the Portuguese title, and has played 53 times for the club, scoring two goals.
He is Mourinho’s first signing. He has two caps for Portugal. He also said that he will settle in London alongside his family; they’ve already made a move.
Fernandes last started a league game on 30 October having fallen out of favour at Benfica. He has come at the right time; as we know, Moussa Sissoko and Tanguy Ndombele are injured, while Christian Eriksen is linked with a move away from the club.
Fernandes said, "All young players want to work with Jose Mourinho because he's one of the best - all of us as players want to stay near the best, so it's fantastic to work with him.” Hopefully, more signings will be on the way before the January window closes. I believe there are a few possibilities that the club are investigating.
To the Middlesbrough match.
The FA Cup signifies our best chance of a trophy this season. We are eighth in the Premier League, out of the EFL Cup, thanks to Pochettino fielding a weak side. After a shock third-round exit on penalties at League Two Colchester’s ground – and we also have a tricky tie against Bundesliga leaders RB Leipzig in the Champions League last 16.
I fancy us picking something up this season (and not the flu). If we did, then it would be our first trophy since 2008, which was the League Cup. The Middlesbrough boss Jonathan Woodgate scored the winner for us on that Wembley final occasion, against Chelsea 12 years ago, as part of a team that also included his assistant Robbie Keane.
Middlesbrough bought 3,700 supporters with them. I bet some wished they had stayed home after a terrible error by Mejias. Then again, their consolation was seeing our magnificent stadium (always worth a defeat for visiting fans). The overall capacity was 49,202. Not bad for a game that was on TV and regarded by some as not that important. Anybody that doesn’t turn up to our magnificent stadium, for whatever reason, are the losers.
Their Spanish goalkeeper, who played under Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid in 2011, tried to play a ball to Marvin Johnson, but Lo Celso intercepted the pass inside the penalty area, cut inside a challenge and shot a low effort into the net.
Boro had a chance to equalise in the 13th minute but Lukas Nmecha, on loan from Manchester City, had his effort well saved by Paulo Gazzaniga and that proved costly as Lamela's goal three minutes later doubled the hosts' lead.
Woodgate would be again unhappy with his side's defending as Jonny Howson was dispossessed 35 yards from goal before Lamela was able to go on a jinking run and flick the ball with the outside of his foot past Mejias from 12 yards.
For our part, we wasted many chances to kill the match off as Lamela shot over on the turn, Ryan Sessegnon had an effort pushed wide, Japhet Tanganga shot just off target, and Lucas Moura wasted a chance from a counter-attack.
But the visitors, 16th in the Championship, had opportunities to get themselves back into the tie, but Paddy McNair shot well over when unmarked eight yards out and Lewis Wing's direct free-kick was pushed around the post by Gazzaniga. Saville's 83rd-minute goal for the visitors gave them hope, but they could not find an equaliser.
With Harry Kane out until at least April after surgery on a hamstring injury, we are light on attacking options and Mourinho took the chance to ease the workload on his other senior forwards, with Son Heung-min playing only the last 30 minutes, and Dele Alli making a brief appearance as a substitute, coming on after Saville's goal. This was probably why Eriksen appeared in the starting 11, despite being out of contract at the end of the season.
Eriksen has been linked with a January move to Inter Milan. He been with Spurs since 2013, had a chance to score after flicking the ball over the head of an opponent and being fouled - driving the resulting free-kick saved by Mejias. He should have also been put through on goal, but Moura instead opted to shoot instead and could only drag an effort wide.
Eriksen nearly scored late in the second half when his low delivery in the penalty area was missed by everyone and Mejias had to get down well to push the ball away one-handed.
This was our 31st match of the season and our 14th in a 53-day period since Mourinho's first game in charge on 23 November.
Mourinho will be pleased with the win and that extra-time was not needed but will be frustrated with the late goal conceded, meaning we have only kept one clean sheet in his 14 games in charge.
That is my report, next up will be Watford (away), followed by Norwich (at home) and then to the next round of the FA Cup, this time against Southampton (away). They who stuffed us full of turkey over Christmas. Revenge can and should be sweet. So let us hope we stuff them back!!!!