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Jose Mourinho hails Tottenham's goalscoring duo in FA Cup replay victory over Middlesbrough... and can't resist comparison with two past greats

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 14/01/2020 Sam Wallace
Tottenham's manager Jose Mourinho gestures during the English FA Cup third round replay soccer match between Tottenham Hotspur and Middlesbrough FC at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020.(AP Photo/Matt Dunham) © ASSOCIATED PRESS Tottenham's manager Jose Mourinho gestures during the English FA Cup third round replay soccer match between Tottenham Hotspur and Middlesbrough FC at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020.(AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

There has not been much cause for celebration at Tottenham Hotspur in recent weeks so Jose Mourinho did not need any encouragement to compare his two Argentinian goalscorers in this FA Cup third-round replay to their most famous compatriots at the club.

The Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa FA Cup legend of 1981 lives long at a big club conspicuously short on trophies, and now that Spurs’ famous Argentine manager has left the building the tradition falls to two more of his countrymen. Erik Lamela, who arrived before the Mauricio Pochettino era, and Giovani Lo Celso, who arrived towards its end, both scored for Mourinho in a tie that was more difficult than it needed to be against a spirited Middlesbrough team.  

“You want me to call them Ardiles and Villa?” Mourinho asked with a smile when he was reminded of Spurs’ Argentine FA Cup heritage. Villa’s winner in the 1981 FA Cup final replay is unforgettable, although neither player featured in the 1982 final or the ensuing replay a year later when the Falklands War intervened. “They [Lamela and Lo Celso] played very well,” Mourinho said. “I think Ardiles and Villa would not be ashamed of them. The team played very well, especially in the first half.”

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It was something to cling to after another nervy evening when Spurs failed to convince in the second half and an 83rd-minute goal from Middlesbrough substitute George Saville meant that the game finished with the home team trading attacks against the club 16th in the Championship. Mourinho had played it safe with a strong side including the likes of Lucas Moura and Christian Eriksen. He would later summon Heung-min Son and Dele Alli from the bench as Jonathan Woodgate’s side refused to give in.

The former Spurs man, back in N17 alongside his erstwhile team-mate and now assistant Robbie Keane, a favourite in these parts, never gave up the ghost after two goals for the home team in the first 16 minutes. The first had come from an error from 30-year-old Spanish goalkeeper Tomas Mejias, who once played six minutes as a substitute for Mourinho at Real Madrid in May 2011 and was playing only his second game this season.

That let in Lo Celso within two minutes, and the second followed soon after from Lamela, but following that Woodgate’s players stayed in the game and their manager was effusive in his praise of their spirit. “Our players showed fight, desire, hunger, because when you go 2-0 down you think the worst,” Woodgate said. “The players didn’t give up, they kept going until the end, pressing high up the pitch and I am proud of them. I hate getting beaten but when you get beaten going down with a fight... no problem at all.”

Soccer Football - FA Cup Third Round Replay - Tottenham Hotspur v Middlesbrough - Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London, Britain - January 14, 2020  Middlesbrough's Rudy Gestede heads at goal           REUTERS/Eddie Keogh © Thomson Reuters Soccer Football - FA Cup Third Round Replay - Tottenham Hotspur v Middlesbrough - Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London, Britain - January 14, 2020 Middlesbrough's Rudy Gestede heads at goal REUTERS/Eddie Keogh This was Spurs’ first win in five games in all competitions and the trip to resurgent Watford on Saturday will ask many more questions of them than were posed in the first half. Beyond that they now have a fourth round FA Cup tie away to Southampton who beat them in the league on New Year’s Day. Mourinho refused to offer any updates on the loan deal for Benfica midfielder Gedson Fernandes, who, it is understood, joined the Spurs players in the dressing room after the match.

Asked about the suggestion that Eriksen was again booed by the home crowd, Mourinho said that the “fans have to respect” the Danish playmaker. “He played very well, very professional, which is what I expect from him. If he has decided to leave he has to leave with his head up – if he gives everything which is what he tries to do for me.”

By the end, Mourinho’s side were dealing with the direct approach of Middlesbrough trying to pick out Ashley Fletcher and the substitute Rudi Gestede, the latter of whom had played his part in Saville’s late goal which changed the mood inside the ground. “Jonathan was not sleeping, he read the game,” Mourinho said later, “long balls, second balls.”

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His two Argentines had given him the lead, first after goalkeeper Mejias lost his nerve under pressure and attempted a pass to Marvin Johnson out on the left side which was a catastrophe in all sorts of ways. Lo Celso slipped past Dael Fry and slotted past Mejias with his left foot with the clock on 1min 58secs.

Lamela ran past three on his way to scoring the second for Spurs on 16 minutes, taking the ball off Jonny Howson and then gliding past Paddy McNair and Fry before chopping a shot back past Mejias. Middlesbrough did create chances. Their new loan signing, the Anglo-German Lukas Nmecha, 21, one of two brought in on the short-term from Manchester City, made his first start having arrived from a spell at Wolfsburg. “He looked a little bit rusty,” said Woodgate, “but he will get games.”

There was no place in the XI, or on the bench, for Spurs’ 17-year-old Irish striker Troy Parrott, who had played under Pochettino in the same League Cup tie in September in which Japhet Tanganga made his debut. Tanganga stayed in the team from Saturday and he created a chance for Ryan Sessegnon in the second half that the latter skied from a yard out. To Sessegnon’s eternal gratitude the linesman had flagged for offside.

Saville came on before the hour for Middlesbrough debutant Ben Liddle. When Davinson Sanchez failed to clear with a header, the Chelsea academy graduate struck very cleanly past Paulo Gazzaniga to make it a touch uncomfortable for Spurs in the closing stages.

Harry Winks et al. watching a football ball in front of a crowd: Boro players duck as Wing tries to bend a freekick in © REUTERS Boro players duck as Wing tries to bend a freekick in

Match details

Tottenham (4-2-3-1): Gazzaniga 6; Vertonghen 6, Sanchez 4, Dier 6, Tanganga 6; Winks 6, Eriksen 5; Lamela 6, Lo Celso 6, Sessegnon 6; Moura 6. Son/Moura 61 Dele/Dier 85.

Middlesbrough (3-1-4-2): Mejias 4; Howson 6, McNair 5, Fry 5; Clayton 6; Spence 6, Wing 6, Liddle 6, Johnson 6; Fletcher 5, Nmecha 6. Saville/Liddle 57 Tavernier/Spence 74 Gestede/Nmecha 78.

Referee: Craig Pawson.

Attendance: 49,202.

Two of tonight's goals

a crowd of people watching a football ball: A new dance move for Jose? © REUTERS A new dance move for Jose?

South American influence

a group of people playing a game of football: Lo Celso gratefully takes advantage © AP Lo Celso gratefully takes advantage

Spurs reaction

Lamela:I really enjoyed being back with my teammates. It's nice to be back playing, it's very important for me. I was really struggling the last few months so I'm happy.

Tanganga: We had chances before they scored. We made it hard for ourselves with a sloppy goal. Four games without a win but we finally got a win. I'm just grateful for the gaffer for trusting me, my teammates, god. I'm taking each game as it comes. Whenever he picks me, I'm ready. 

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