Jose Mourinho admits he fears his Tottenham players will not take his tactical instructions on board after their shocked exit from the Europa League at the hands of Dinamo Zagreb.
Tottenham were leading 2-0 before Thursday’s second leg at Stadion Maksimir, but Mislav Orsic’s hat-trick – the third in extra time – put Croatian champions Zagreb up 3-2 on aggregate.
The defeat means Spurs are the first English team to take a two-goal lead in the second leg of a European knockout game and not progress from Manchester City to Monaco in the Champions League five seasons ago.
Mourinho’s side were beaten by managerless Zagreb (21 attempts against 18) and showed less attacking intent than their opponents, but the Spurs boss insists he has decided to win the second leg.
“I think we were not taken by surprise, because before the game I told the players to play to win,” he said in his post-match press conference.
“I told the players to deny the feeling of a draw or losing 1-0 or 2-1, that’s okay.
“I told the players not to trust, not to go in this direction. Play the game to be dominant, play the game to win. At half-time, even with the result 0-0, I told the players not to trust it, not to do it.
– UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) March 18, 2021
“If they score a goal, I told them in minutes 75, 80, 85, the game is on and they will believe. So, by surprise, the players were not taken. So it was not a surprise.
This is only the third time that Mourinho has lost a game in European competition by a margin of three goals, including two with Spurs and another with Real Madrid.
Mourinho called on his players following last weekend’s derby loss to Arsenal and, asked if he was concerned they would not follow his instructions, he said: “Of course it concerns me. .
“We worked very hard, we tried to provide the best conditions for the players to perform. So of course that concerns me.
“My position as the head coach is the position that stops me, or at least makes me uncomfortable walking past the cameras and digging deeper into the analysis. Hope you can understand this.
“I think we should all be humble enough to accept any criticism you can make of our work. It is not for me to continue on this.
The remarkable collapse will only increase control over Mourinho, who has seen his side lose half of their last 16 games, and in another blow to his side he praised the character shown by Zagreb.
3 – Mislav Orsic only became the second player to score a hat-trick against Tottenham in a major European competition after Serge Gnabry’s four goals for Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League group stage last season. Extraordinary. #UEL
– OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 18, 2021
“I believe that Dinamo’s attitude is humble, it is the desire, the motivation, the pride, to prove to themselves that they have talent, even in the world football market, that they have quality”, did he declare.
“They played with a lot of desire. I can also call it professionalism because for me professionalism begins exactly in attitude. To be a professional you need to have an attitude every day and every minute of every game.
“Then more talent, less talent makes the difference between the players but what is never negotiable is the attitude and they beat us on the attitude.”
Match winner Orsic became the first player to score a hat-trick for Dinamo against an English side in a major European competition, but Mourinho believes every goal could have been avoided had his players listened.
“The first thing I’m telling you, which you may or may not believe, is that my players watch, watch and watch Orsic’s actions throughout his career,” he said.
“We have prepared clips with analysts on the qualities of each player and the goals scored by Orsic. I saw them all, I watched them all and my players watched them all.
“That’s the only thing I can say. I prepared my players to play against Orsic, I gave them all the information to play against him and that’s the only thing I can say. Congratulations to him because it’s a great night for him.