Tottenham Hotspur visited Belgium to play against Antwerp on Thursday, October 29, in a Europa League group J fixture. The Belgian side stunned Tottenham by beating the Premier League side with a single goal. 34-year-old Israeli attacking midfielder Lior Refaelov capitalized on the error of Tottenham’s defender Ben Davies to score the only goal of the match.
Even though Jose Mourinho handed Gareth Bale his first start since he rejoined the club on loan from Real Madrid, the team couldn’t equalize. Even Dele Alli who was given his third start of the season could not do much for Tottenham which forced Mourinho to substitute him and Bale in the second half.
During the post-match conference, Mourinho who made four substitutions in the second half wished that he had the opportunity to substitute the entire 11 players he started the game with.
“I would like to make 11 [changes]! I didn’t make five as I was afraid of a long 45 minutes”, Mourinho said.
“There is only one person to blame, that’s me. I chose the players to start. At half-time, I tried to improve the situation but it was not enough. The dynamic of the first half was there, it was difficult to change.
“Antwerp also changed. In the first half, it was very easy to play with lots of space in between the lines to punish them which we didn’t. Second half we improved but they played differently, they restricted spaces. It was very difficult. In the end, Antwerp got what they deserved. I am calm with it. The best team won and the worst team lost.”
Tottenham’s defeat in the hands of
Royal Antwerp is the reason Jose Mourinho don’t always feature players like Dele Alli
A furious Jose Mourinho could not hide his frustration with the 9 changes he made in the team that defeated Burnley 0-1 in the Premier League on October 26. When the press tried to make Mourinho single out Dele Alli for criticism, the tactician insisted that the loss was a collective poor performance of the team he selected for the match.
He said he decided to use the match to give the players who rarely have the opportunity to play an opportunity which they failed to utilize. The Portuguese tactician noted that the performance of such players should be enough to make the press to stop asking him why he has not been using them.
“I don’t want to analyze individually,” Mourinho said. “It’s fair to say that players with bad performances influence the team but also a team influence individual performances. It’s not for me to individualize and bring some names to the table. You can do that yourself. You always tell me ‘why is this player not playing, why is this player not playing’ – maybe you don’t ask me that for a few weeks as you have the answer.
“You know what our best team is. I always like to think the players deserve an opportunity. We have a big squad with lots of good players. It’s my responsibility to give them opportunities but it’s also their opportunity to catch the chance with both hands and ask for more. Tonight shows my future choices are going to be very easy.”
The defeat in Belgium has left Tottenham to sit in the second spot of the Europa League group J table with 3 points in two matches. While Royal Antwerp currently leads the table with 6 points in two matches.