Mourinho Inspires Tottenham Comeback, Real Madrid Squanders Lead in Champions League

Jose Mourinho (and the ball boy) reacted quick enough to secure a Spurs comeback against Olimpiacos, Robert Lewandowski produced a historic evening while Los Blancos gave away a two-goal lead against PSG.
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Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur secured their places in the last 16 of the Champions League in the first set of games on Matchday 5. Madrid threw away a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 with Paris Saint-Germain but its progress had been secured before kick off, thanks to Club Brugge’s 1-1 draw away to Galatasaray – a remarkable game in which the celebrations after Krepin Diatta’s last-minute leveler led to both him and Clinton Mata picking up second yellow cards – but Tottenham had a much more trying night, having to come from 2-0 down to beat Olympiacos.

Robert Lewandowski scored four as Bayern Munich, already qualified above Spurs, beat Crvena Zvezda 6-0, taking his tally to 10 in this season’s Champions League and 27 in 20 games this season. Atalanta kept its hope of progress alive with a 2-0 home win over Dinamo Zagreb. The Serie A side trails second placed Shakhtar by two points after the Ukrainians drew 1-1 at Manchester City. Bayer Leverkusen also remains in the hunt with a 2-0 win away to Lokomotiv Moscow that took it to within a point of Atletico Madrid, which lost 1-0 to Juventus, the goal a brilliant free-kick from a narrow angle from Paulo Dybala.

Here are three thoughts from Tuesday's action.

FAMILIAR PATTERNS

The Champions League group stage these days follows the same old formula. The draw is made and people point out the vast financial discrepancies between various clubs in the group. Then the games start and there are a couple of minor upsets or matches in which one of the less well-off sides pushes one of the grandees close. People begin to doubt the initial narrative. And then by this stage, everything has settled down and money is back in control.

Perhaps Atletico Madrid will slip up, but at the moment in Groups A-D, Group C is the only one in which the top two sides in the group are not the two wealthiest sides. And even that is not exactly a shot. Manchester City, the richest club, is top, while Atalanta, the second wealthiest by revenue, lies bottom. The Serie A team, though, is a debutant in Europe, is not able to play in its own stadium, and Shakhtar is not merely much more experienced but has benefited from significant external funding. Even then, Atalanta could yet go through.

MOURINHO INSPIRES SPURS FIGHTBACK

The feeling around Tottenham after Saturday’s win over West Ham was that a reset button had been pressed with the appointment of Jose Mourinho would lead almost inevitably to a return to form. Perhaps it will, but there was an early shock for Spurs as it fell 2-0 down to Olympiacos in the first 20 minutes – the first time a Mourinho side had conceded twice in the first 20 minutes of a Champions League game since 2003 when Porto let in two early goals against Real Madrid in his first game managing in the competition.

Spurs were chaotic in their pressing and sloppy in possession, just as they have been at their worst this season. Four minutes in a misplaced pass from Danny Rose presented possession to Youssef El Arabi, who whipped in a shot from just outside the box. Poor defending from a corner then allowed Ruben Semedo to poke in the second.

But Mourinho reacted quickly and took decisive action, withdrawing Eric Dier for Christian Eriksen after 28 minutes. Dele Alli, so improved in Saturday, pulled one back on the stroke of half-time scoring from close range after a bizarre error from Yacine Merrier, who missed Serge Aurier’s cross at the near post. 

A jinking run from Alli was then instrumental in the Aurier strike that gave Spurs the lead after Harry Kane had bundled an equalizer. Kane then nodded in an Eriksen free-kick to make it 4-2.

MADRID SQUANDERS 2-0 LEAD

Back in September, Paris Saint-Germain was a comfortable 3-0 winner over Real Madrid. This seemed to be going the other way – although it should be said that with both sides already qualified there was far less riding on this meeting – as a Karim Benzema double had Madrid 2-0 up with 10 minutes remaining.

But then remarkable sloppiness allowed PSG back into the game with two goals in a little over two minutes, the first from Kylian Mbappe and the second from the former Madrid player Pablo Sarabia. 

Gareth Bale then struck the post with an injury-time free-kick that almost win it for the host.

Madrid had earlier ridden its luck in yet another moment of VAR controversy. Thibaut Courtois was shown a red card for a last-man foul on Mauro Icardi but as the referee was viewing a replay to see whether the incident had in fact occurred in the box, he saw a slight push on Marcelo on halfway in the build-up, retracted the red card and gave the home side the free-kick.