Jose Mourinho blasted his Tottenham players after they endured a stunning exit from the Europa League by spurning a 2-0 first-leg lead at Dinamo Zagreb, extinguishing their main route to Champions League riches next season.
With Spurs currently six points shy of the fourth-placed finish required to qualify for the most prestigious competition in Europa via the English Premier League, entry by winning the Europa League was seen as the club’s key target for the remainder of a troubled second half to the season.
Reaching the Champions League is thought to be worth between $48 million and $140 million to participants, and the prospect of winning two-legged quarterfinal and semifinal ties and the final had seemed a realistic ambition, albeit with Mourinho’s former club, Manchester United, potentially lurking among those hurdles.
Tottenham had looked a class above Dinamo in beating the reigning Croatian champions 2-0 in London in the first leg, and if the return wasn’t quite a formality – few clubs go to Zagreb expecting to win – Spurs were indisputably heavy favorites to progress, not least because of Mourinho’s famously defensive tactics.
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) March 18, 2021
Even after Croatia international Mislav Orsic curled in a superb long-range strike with less than half an hour remaining to give Dinamo hope, Spurs remained on course to muddle through until eight minutes from the end of normal time, when the midfielder completed a fine team move to draw his side level.
A minute into the second half of extra time, Orsic completed his hat-trick and one of the most disastrous evenings in the visitors’ history with a memorable solo goal, condemning Spurs to their second successive setback of a miserable five days following their 2-1 league defeat at arch-rivals Arsenal on Sunday.
“If I forget the last 10 minutes of extra time, when we did something to get a different result, the 90 minutes and first half of extra time was one team leaving everything on the pitch,” a dazed-looking Mourinho told BT Sport after the calamity.
You 𝗻𝗲𝗲𝗱 to listen to his Jose Mourinho interview 😳He wears his heart on his sleeve as he looks at a horrible night for the club… pic.twitter.com/Wwi2THhPBH
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) March 18, 2021
“My team didn’t look like it was playing an important match. Another attitude is needed. To say I feel sad is not enough. What I feel is much more than sadness.
“My team didn’t bring to the game the basics of football or life – to respect our jobs and give everything. I can only apologize to the Tottenham supporters.
“I told them the risks of a bad attitude. I told them at half-time the risks of playing the way we were playing and it happened. They only realised the game was at risk when they scored the second goal and it went to extra time.”
Can’t believe Jose Mourinho has come across yet another group of players who can’t or won’t follow his instructions. The guy just has no luck.
— Tom Williams (@tomwfootball) March 18, 2021
The first time that an English team has surrendered a two-goal first leg lead in a Europa League tie led to ecstatic scenes among the Dinamo squad, who had experienced a bizarre week that would have made a less-than-heroic performance forgivable.
Head coach Zoran Mamic resigned on Monday after being sentenced to almost five years in prison for being found guilty, alongside his brother and three others, of embezzling around $18.6 million out of the club from player transfers.
New boss Damir Krznar poetically claimed that the club’s players “all breathe as one.” “This was a wonderful game,” he added. “One you like to dream about, but you don’t dare to.”
The Dinamo Zagreb manager is in prison for fraud yet Mourinho is still allowed to walk the streets, they arrested the wrong guy 😭😭 pic.twitter.com/0m5Lw2CK32
— Footy Humour (@FootyHumour) March 18, 2021
Orsic said: “It’s hard to say something after this. This is like a dream, a historical result. It is one of the biggest victories in the club’s history. We all played as one: this is the match to remember.”
Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris did not hold back in his assessment. “It’s just a disgrace,” he reflected. “I hope everyone in the changing room feels responsible for the situation because it’s a disgrace.
“The team, at the moment, is just a reflection of what’s going on in the club. We have a lack of basics, lack of fundamentals, and all of our performances are just in relation to that.
■ Dinamo Zagreb’s entire squad is valued at £93m■ Their manager was sent to prison this week■ They’ve just come from 2-0 down to dump Tottenham out of EuropeYou couldn’t make it up 🤯 pic.twitter.com/gAseNHIKnw
— ESPN UK (@ESPNUK) March 18, 2021
Mislav Orsic 🇭🇷 has become just the second player to score a hat-trick against Tottenham in major European competition after Serge Gnabry’s 🇩🇪 four goal haul for Bayern Munich in the group stages of last season’s UCL. [Opta] #DinamoZagreb#UELpic.twitter.com/8xHrlFNSCs
— RouteOneFootball (@Route1futbol) March 18, 2021
“We had great moments in the past because we could trust the togetherness that was in the team. Today, I’m not sure about that.”
Lloris seemed to suggest that players who were not in the starting 11 were not supporting their teammates and working as hard as they could have done in training sessions.
“On the bench, there is an influence to have to push the others,” he explained. “In training sessions, it’s the same.
“Everyone has to push and make sure that he is ready to help the team when the moment comes.
It doesn’t matter anymore whether you rate Mourinho or not still want him at the club (or not)That team is either paralysed with fear of making a mistake or he’s lost them altogether. There’s no other explanation for that embarrassment tonight. He cannot stay #COYS
— Emma Storey (@emmastorey81) March 18, 2021
“It’s not only about staying on the side and complaining. In the end, what we have to respect is the badge – this is the most important thing.”
Mourinho added further swipes at his players as he admitted that he had personally offered his congratulations to Dinamo.
“I went to the Dinamo dressing room to praise the guys,” he said. “I feel sorry that one team won the game on attitude and compromise.
“Football is not just about players who have more quality than others. The basics of football are about attitude and they beat us on that.”
Dinamo continued a remarkable run of form since the start of February. Apart from the defeat at Tottenham, they have won their last six matches without conceding a goal as part of a 10-game winning streak, nine of which have featured clean sheets.