Perhaps Tottenham Hotspur needed a new manager after all.
Four days after firing Mauricio Pochettino — a move widely panned as premature after the Argentine led the club to its first Champions League final earlier this year — Spurs won an English Premier League game for the first time since September, beating London rival West Ham 3-2 in new boss Jose Mourinho’s debut.
In addition to breaking a five-match winless streak in the league, the victory was Tottenham’s first away from home since January. Son Heung-min opened the scoring in the 36th minute:
Lucas Moura made it 2-0 before the half was out after Dele Alli somehow kept the ball in play on the near touchline:
And who else but Harry Kane sealed the triumph shortly after the intermission with a textbook back-post header:
At that point, it looked like Spurs might continue filling the net. But while Mourninho has to be happy with the win, he’s not likely to be pleased by the way his team allowed the final two goals of the contest to Michail Antonio and Angelo Ogbonna, whose strike in the sixth minute of stoppage time came after another was ruled offside.
Still, the misery is over for Spurs fans for now. For the Hammers’ supporters? Not so much. Since beating Manchester United in September, West Ham has gone winless in their last eight games across all competitions, a record that includes a shocking 4-0 defeat to third-tier Oxford United in the English League Cup. If Aston Villa beats Newcastle on Monday, the Hammers would drop to 17th, just one spot above the relegation zone.
It was a much-needed three points for Spurs, which began the day in 14th place. They’d suffered several ugly losses towards the end of Pochettino’s reign, including a 3-0 decision to Brighton and Hove Albion, and were pummeled 7-2 at home by Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
While the decision to sack Pochettino was controversial, nobody can deny the impact Mourinho’s arrival made in this match. Despite the ugly ending, Spurs played with an urgency that hasn’t been seen in weeks. Chalk that up to the new-coach bump if you like. Manchester United went on a tear after letting Mourinho go late last year but eventually fell back to earth and finished sixth under his replacement, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Mourinho is far more experienced than Solskjaer, of course. “The Special One” knows what it takes to win in the Premier League and in Europe’s top club competition, having hoisted both the Prem and Champions League trophies multiple times. And the 56-year-old is desperate to restore his reputation as one of the game’s elite managers after the way things ended at Old Trafford.
Saturday provided a perfect start.
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