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Champions League: Mourinho defiant after Spurs' loss; Atalanta fairytale continues

February 20, 2020 08:45 IST

Werner penalty gives slick Leipzig win at Spurs

Tottenham Hotspur

IMAGE: RB Leipzig's Timo Werner scores their first goal from the penalty spot. Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Reuters

RB Leipzig marked their first appearance in the Champions League knockout round with a deserved 1-0 victory at last season's runners-up Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday as their impressive campaign continued.


Timo Werner's 58th-minute penalty after a foul by Ben Davies on Konrad Laimer was enough for Julian Nagelsmann's Bundesliga high-flyers to take a narrow lead into the second leg on March 10, although they might rue not putting the last-16 tie to bed.

Tottenham, without injured strikers Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, were largely outplayed and will need the sort of heroics they produced at Manchester City and Ajax Amsterdam last season to keep their European quest alive.

But for inspired keeper Hugo Lloris and wayward finishing from Leipzig, they would be facing an even tougher task in the return leg.

"Leipzig are a very, very good team with a lot of energy. We had some situations that we could have managed better," Lloris said. "We're not really happy with the result, but we did it last season -- let's hope we try to create another story."

Tottenham did rally late on as Leipzig appeared to settle for a narrow win and the hosts came close to equalising with the impressive Giovani Lo Celso curling a free kick against the post and Lucas Moura heading over.

But Leipzig were worthy winners and their meteoric rise since being formed 10 years ago should see them gatecrash their way into the quarter-finals of Europe's elite tournament.

"The first 10 minutes were very noisy, very loud. In the end, it was a pleasure to be part of this game," Nagelsmann, in his first season in charge, told reporters.

"We proved we could win in their stadium and we believe we can win in ours."

The first German club to play at Tottenham's magnificent new stadium were Bayern Munich in October and they marked their visit with a 7-2 humiliation of their hosts.

Leipzig, one point behind leaders Bayern in the Bundesliga, attacked the Tottenham defence with similar relish and could have scored three times in the opening three minutes.

Patrik Schick fired wide before Angelino's shot was deflected against the post by Lloris who seconds later blocked Werner's shot from a tight angle.

It was pretty much the pattern of a first half in which Tottenham's defence was stretched by the pace and incisive passing of Leipzig. Schick headed another chance wide and Lloris again denied the dangerous Werner.

Steven Bergwijn forced a fine save by Peter Gulacsi in a rare Tottenham attack while Dele Alli, later substituted, failed to connect with a header but the hosts' attacks were rare.

Leipzig finally got their noses in front when Davies clumsily took out Laimer, giving Werner the chance to net his seventh goal in the competition this season, all away from home.

"We had a good game. We had Spurs in our hands, just the goals were lacking," Werner said.

Lloris was making his first Champions League appearance since the drubbing by Bayern, shortly after which he suffered a serious elbow injury.

Thankfully he looks back to his best as he showed with a superb save to deny Schick after Werner's clever dummy.

Jose Mourinho said Tottenham Hotspur are still alive in the Champions League despite his side being outplayed by RB Leipzig
The illustrious Portuguese was eclipsed by Leipzig’s fresh-faced young coach Julian Nagelsmann and the one surprise was that the visitors’ only reward for a dominant display was Timo Werner’s 58th-minute penalty.

“1-0 is 1-0, it’s not 10-0. The result is open. It’s as simple as that,” Mourinho told reporters. “We won’t be the first team to lose 1-0 at home and win the tie away.”

Leipzig will need no reminding that Tottenham produced some stunning away displays last season to reach the final, most notably when they lost to Ajax Amsterdam 1-0 at home in the semi-final and trailed 2-0 away before winning 3-2.

But Tottenham have regressed since and Mourinho’s task has not been helped by injuries which deprived him of both leading strikers Harry Kane and Son Heung-min and midfield powerhouse Moussa Sissoko against Leipzig.

They looked weary as they struggled to cope with the high-energy pressing game that is the trademark of young coach Nagelsmann, once described during his impressive tenure at Hoffenheim as the “mini Mourinho”, and but for keeper Hugh Lloris Spurs would have suffered a more damaging scoreline.

“We are in a very difficult situation. I’m so proud of the players and what worries me is this is the situation for the rest of the season,” Mourinho said.

He said his youthful and dynamic side will offer up more of the same high intensity football.

“In the second leg, we will do it, I promise you, in the same way,” he said.

“We always try to attack the opponents very early and try to win the ball high up in their half. Today, in the second half, we tried to create a bit more on the counter."

“The first half was very good. We created three or four chances after two minutes. After the goal it wasn’t that easy to find spaces and create chances. It was a good game. We had good control, good ball possession.”

Atalanta fairytale continues as Italians thrash Valencia

Atlanta United

IMAGE: Atalanta's Remo Freuler scores their third goal past Valencia's Jaume Domenech. Photograph: Daniele Mascolo/Reuters

Atalanta continued their dream debut Champions League campaign on Wednesday with a 4-1 win over Valencia in an entertaining last-16 first leg meeting at San Siro.

Gian Piero Gasperini's Serie A side raced into a two-goal lead by halftime with goals from Hans Hateboer and Josip Ilicic, while Valencia were denied by the post.

Remo Freuler's curling strike and a second goal for Hateboer looked to have ended the tie as a contest, but substitute Denis Cheryshev gave the Spanish visitors a faint glimmer of hope with an away goal.

Two-time runners-up Valencia will host the Serie A side at the Mestalla Stadium in the return leg on March 10.

Atalanta qualified for Europe's top club competition for the first time with a surprise third-place finish in Serie A last season, which was achieved despite having the 14th-highest wage budget in the division.

Playing their home games at Milan's San Siro after their own Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia failed to meet UEFA standards, they got off to a nightmare start by losing their opening three group games, conceding 11 goals in the process.

But a home draw with Manchester City followed by wins over Dinamo Zagreb and Shakhtar Donetsk was enough to send them to the knockout stages.

More than 45,000 fans travelled to Milan for Wednesday's game, 51 kilometres away from Atalanta's hometown of Bergamo, which has a population of just 120,000 people.

The Italians began in confident fashion, coming close to the opener after just eight minutes when Mario Pasalic burst into the box and saw his curling shot superbly saved by Jaume Domenech.

The hosts found the breakthrough when Hateboer met an Alejandro Gomez cross at the back post and slid in a finish from close range.

The goal drew a response from Valencia, who were inches away from an equaliser when Ferran Torres smashed a shot against the post from a tight angle, before Goncalo Guedes' effort flew wide, just beyond the outstretched foot of Eliaquim Mangala.

But the Italians doubled their lead three minutes before the interval when Ilicic gathered the ball on the edge of the area and smashed a right-footed drive beyond Domenech.

The chances continued to flow in the second half and a third goal arrived when Freuler whipped a sublime finish into the top corner from the edge of the area.

Valencia striker Maxi Gomez squandered a glorious chance, firing a shot into the scrambling Pierluigi Gollini's grasp with the goal gaping.

Yet the Dutch international Hateboer struck again after 63 minutes, beating the offside trap on the right wing before driving forward and firing home a finish.

Valencia eventually took one of their chances to notch an away goal when a lazy pass from Jose Luis Palomino was pounced on by substitute Cheryshev, who drilled a shot into the bottom corner with his first act of the game.

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