Jose Mourinho admits he is concerned his Tottenham players are not taking his tactical instructions on board following their shock Europa League exit at the hands of Dinamo Zagreb.
Tottenham led 2-0 heading into Thursday’s second leg at Stadion Maksimir, but Mislav Orsic’s hat-trick – the third goal coming in extra time – sent Croatian champions Zagreb through 3-2 on aggregate.
The loss means Spurs are the first English side to take a two-goal lead into the second leg of a European knockout tie and fail to progress since Manchester City versus Monaco in the Champions League last-16 five seasons ago.
Mourinho’s side were out-shot by managerless Zagreb (21 attempts to 18) and showed less attacking intent than their opponents, but the Spurs boss insists he set his side out to win the second leg.
“I believe that by surprise we were not caught, because before the game I told the players to play to win,” he said at his post-match news conference.
“I told the players to refuse a feeling of if we draw or if we lose 1-0 or 2-1 it’s ok.
“I told the players don’t trust, don’t go in that 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 don’t trust it, don’t do it.
— UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) March 18, 2021
“If they score a goal, I told them minute 75, 80, 85, the game is open and then they will believe. So by surprise the players were not caught. So it was not a surprise.”
It is only the third time Mourinho has lost a match in European competition by a three-goal margin, two of those coming with Spurs, and another with Real Madrid.
Mourinho called out his players on the back of last weekend’s derby defeat to Arsenal and, asked if he is concerned they are not applying 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 it concerns me.
“My position as a head coach is the position that stops me, or at least makes me uncomfortable to come in front of the cameras and go deep in analysis. I hope you can understand that.
“I believe all of us have to be humble enough to accept any criticism that you can make of our work. It is not for me to go on that.”
The remarkable collapse will only increase the scrutiny on Mourinho, who has seen his side lose half of their last 16 matches, and in another swipe at his squad, he praised the character shown by Zagreb.
3 – 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 UEFA Champions League. Extraordinary. #UEL
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 18, 2021
“Dinamo’s attitude I believe is humble, is desire, is motivation, is pride, to prove to themselves that they have talent, even to the world football market that they have quality,” he said.
“They played with a lot of desire. I can call it also professionalism because for me professionalism starts exactly in the attitude. To be a professional you must have attitude every day and in every minute of every game.
“Then more talent, less talent makes a difference between players but what is never negotiable is attitude and they beat us on 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 feels each goal could have been avoided had his players listened.
“The first thing I tell you, which you can believe or not believe, is that my players watch and watch and watch Orsic actions during his career,” he said.
“We prepared with analysts clips of the qualities of every player and the goals that Orsic scored I saw them all, I watched them all and my players watched them all.
“That is the only thing I can say. I prepared my players to play against Orsic, I gave them all information to play against him and that is the only thing I can say. Congratulations to him because it is a great night for him.”