Relieved Jose Mourinho paid tribute to the “family spirit” of Tottenham Hotspur, a key factor that saw his side eventually edge out struggling Norwich City last night.
An 79th minute winner by Heung-Min Son finally clipped the spirited Canaries’ wings, with the Premier League’s bottom outfit offering some outside hope for survival, despite a 2-1 defeat at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
In what was, in reality, a patchy performance, the hosts lacked their usual fluency in addition to the ongoing headache of missing injured striker Harry Kane.
South Korea star Son stepped up as the focal point for Kane, and headed home on the goal line to claim all three points on a night when Spurs lucked out at times. Indeed, Norwich could have come away with at least a point if they had not been so profligate in front of goal.
Mourinho was ultimately pragmatic in the aftermath of what was the north Londoners’ first league win of 2020. The Portuguese admitted his jaded outfit battled hard to atone for long periods of disjointed play, even after Dele Alli netted in 37 minutes before Teemu Pukki levelled for the visitors early in the second half from the penalty spot.
“When we are playing very well we should score more goals and kill matches, but the team is a little bit fatigued,” admitted the Tottenham boss, whose side now move up to sixth in the table. “How can we change the game? With the family spirit, the family character, the family desire.
“I predicted this would be a difficult game. It was a good victory and deserved. The team showed fight and they showed the situation is not easy. Every victory closes the gaps and every player that was here today on the pitch and on the bench and those who were not selected are a really, really good group.
“It is a pleasure to work with them. It is a good feeling. At 1-1 it was a scary feeling for us but the reaction was good. I saw players really tired who went over the limits for us.”
Giovani Lo Celso – the Lilywhites’ most impressive operator - was singled out by Mourinho for special praise. The Argentine midfielder, 23, on loan from Real Betis, was pivotal in earning the points while still finding his way in terms of the demands of top tier English football.
“Giovani is improving – game after game and today he was fantastic in every way,” Mourinho enthused. “He is adapting to this league and can play in various positions. He gave us quality with vision and passing, he is improving his defensive game, his intensity.
"The only thing that worries me is this new English life of playing and playing and playing. In this case he is playing all the time now because we don’t have any other solutions. It’s hard but it is good experience for us and the family.”
Mourinho also had to absorb the frustration of losing Harry Winks to injury, in front of a 58,182 crowd, but welcomed back goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
He said: “It was a good feeling to see Hugo, one of the best goalkeepers in the world, back for us. But to leave Paolo (Gazzaniga) out hurt. The good thing is he is such a good member of the family and such a special friend of Hugo. I had to try to be cold to make a decision without emotions and to leave him out was not a simple decision.”
The Spurs chief, meanwhile, told counterpart Daniel Farke that he hopes Norwich City have a “happy ending” at the end of the season - an endorsement which pleased the Canaries chief, whose side remain six points adrift.
“I would prefer to get congratulations for the win but Jose is an unbelievably successful coach, he is a gentleman and he was quite complimentary,” noted Farke. “He is very honest and always has a good feeling on who deserves praise.
“It was a fantastic away performance for us but of course we don’t have the money to bring in lots of quality, experienced players. We can be proud of the spirit of the lads and what they brought to the pitch. I can’t ask for more.
“There were periods when Tottenham put some pressure on us, but in general we were pretty solid and created a lot in the game with four or five good chances.”