Paris: Eric Dier became the first Tottenham Hotspur player to discover Jose Mourinho’s ruthless streak as the Portuguese manager’s decision to haul off the midfielder after half an hour ultimately proved a masterstroke on Tuesday.
Mourinho’s first home game in charge after replacing Mauricio Pochettino was turning ugly as Greek side Olympiakos Piraeus led 2-0 inside 20 minutes of the Champions League Group B game.
But twice Champions League winner Mourinho acted decisively, sacrificing Dier’s defensive shield, and sent on Danish playmaker Christian Eriksen who, just as on Saturday in Mourinho’s debut win over West Ham United, had been left on the bench.
It took a while for the tactical switch to work but Dele Alli levelled on the stroke of halftime and the second half saw Tottenham run riot with Harry Kane scoring twice either side of a thumping effort by Serge Aurier for a 4-2 win.
Tottenham, runners-up in June under Pochettino, have qualified for the last 16 and in Mourinho’s first two games in charge they have scored seven and conceded four, perhaps confounding those who said he would bring boring football to north London. Spurs were one of three teams to secure their place in the knockout phase with one game to spare as Manchester City and Real Madrid also made it to the last 16.
“The most difficult moment for me was not the goals but the change I had to make,” the 56-year-old, whose tactical acumen has earned him silverware at every club he has managed, told reporters. “It hurt the player but also hurt me. It was not easy for the player or me.
“But it’s important the player understood and I was fortunate that it was a very intelligent boy who understood it was about the team not the performance. I apologised to Eric and made it clear I didn’t do it to hurt him.
Tottenham will finish second in Group B behind their final-day opponents Bayern Munich, who made it five wins from five in Europe this season as Lewandowski’s quadruple helped them to a 6-0 win at Red Star Belgrade.
Lewandowski scored four goals in the space of 16 second-half minutes, the first of them a penalty, in between goals by Leon Goretzka and Corentin Tolisso.
Lewandowski has scored four times in a Champions League game once before, for Borussia Dortmund against Real Madrid in 2013. He now has 27 goals for Bayern this season.
“I am just as happy when I don’t score and we win,” the Polish striker told German Sky.
Pep Guardiola’s City got the point they needed to progress from Group C, drawing 1-1 with Shakhtar Donetsk. On a subdued occasion, Ilkay Gundogan got a 56th-minute opener, but Manor Solomon levelled for the Ukrainians.
“The group stage is always tricky but the target was to qualify and we have done it,” Guardiola said.
City will finish top of the group while Shakhtar will join them by winning their final game against Atalanta.
The Italians are still in contention to qualify after beating Dinamo Zagreb 2-0 thanks to Luis Muriel’s penalty and a cracking Alejandro ‘Papu’ Gomez goal.
Atalanta remain bottom of the group but can still go through if they win their final game, provided Dinamo do not beat City.
A 1-1 draw in the early game between Galatasaray and Club Brugge meant Real Madrid had joined Paris Saint-Germain in securing qualification from Group A before kicking off against the French side.
Karim Benzema scored twice for the hosts in an impressive performance, while there was controversy in between as the Portuguese referee showed Real goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois a red card and gave PSG a penalty for a foul on Mauro Icardi, only to overturn his decision following a VAR review.
Galatasaray 1 Club Brugge 1
Real Madrid 2 Paris Saint-Germain 2
Red Star Belgrade 0 Bayern Munich 6
Tottenham 4 Olympiakos 2
Atalanta 2 Dinamo Zagreb 0
Manchester City 1 Shakhtar Donetsk 1
Juventus 1 Atletico Madrid 0
Lokomotiv Moscow 0 Bayer Leverkusen 2
List of last 16 qualifiers
Bayern Munich (GER)
Manchester City (ENG)
Paris Saint-Germain (FRA)
Real Madrid (ESP)
Tottenham Hotspur (ENG)