Ah well, Jose – you got your wish. Tottenham’s season is as good as over. Maybe, after a result like tonight’s, over outright.
For this 3-0 defeat felt like a real season buster. One that not only dumped last season’s finalists out at the first knock-out stage by a 4-0 aggregate but may also mean the five points they have to make up for a shot at next year’s Champions League is beyond them. To a man, they look to have the wind comprehensively punched out of them.
Here we saw the folly of Spurs setting up so defensively at home in the first leg. And yet more evidence that a manager who built his legacy on structure has failed to implement any coherence in his four months in charge. The problems that he was supposed to remedy are still there, only now with an undercurrent of bitterness.
Sharing the full story, not just the headlines
But as tempting as it is to throw yet more misery onto Jose Mourinho, not much that went wrong here could be stuck on The Velcro One, despite the loss marking the first six-game winless run of his career.
Spurs did not concede their first goal because he instructed his midfielders to stand idly by as Marcel Sabitzer broke late to the edge of the box to profit off Timo Werner’s pass after the forward had collected his own rebound. Nor did he instruct Serge Aurier to misjudge a basic header to free Angelino into space behind him for the cross Sabitzer glanced in at the near post. He certainly did not tell Hugo Lloris to leave his wrists at home.
The RB Leipzig captain has been one of the most consistent cogs, combining necessary s***housery this campaign with his most prolific return in front of goal. Numbers 16 and 17 this season were ribbons on a dominant performance in the centre of the park. His standing ovation three minutes from time was no less than he deserved.
The worst thing from Spurs’ point of view is that they were actually quite serviceable in the 3-4-3 they began with. There was enough in the opening 10 minutes to suggest they did not have to do anything too drastic to break through a Leipzig side who offer up enough space to work in.
Twice in the opening five minutes Dele Alli peeled off from his position as the furthest forward to receive the ball to the right of the box and create an opening in the middle that Erik Lamela took up. Once the Argentinian was completely free, but it was only on the other occasion that the pass made it through Marcus Halstenberg. Lukas Klostermann made sure to quell any danger in the middle.
The issue was always going to be just how Spurs would manufacture chances. Until the 74th minute, their only shot on target was a neat turn and a bobbling effort from Giovani Lo Celso and even the greatest threat from that was the prospect of Peter Gulasci’s save finding a lilac shirt in the box, which it did not. Alli’s scuffed effort straight to the keeper was their second and final one.
Indeed, it seemed whatever breaks of the ball there were fell to white and red. But it was no coincidence that those, along with every neat flick and no-look pass around corners that Leipzig played either found the right man or the right space.
What Julian Nagelsmann has created here is a team that shifts in and out of danger quickly and efficiently. Even their 20 fouls carried more purpose than Spurs’s 12. Yet another metric on the night showcasing how the visitors struggled to get anywhere near their opponents.
Even as the victors rested on their laurels in the final 30 minutes, and those snappy passes lost their edge, Spurs by then were too knackered and demoralised to make them pay. And, expectedly, with fresher legs introduced, a third came when a mess of bodies created an opening for Emil Forsberg to make it 3-0 a minute after he had come on as an 87th-minute substitute.
For the Germans, overcoming the awkwardness of this tie in such a comprehensive manner will put them in good stead for what may lie ahead. What headway they have made as a club has been through profiting off underdog status they had to relinquish momentarily for this second leg with a 1-0 advantage and against a side ravaged with injury.
But they will get to don that cloak again for the quarter-final stages, whenever they may be. The threat of postponement looms large over this and all other European football as Uefa and its component bodies mull over necessary action to combat the spread of coronavirus.
Yet regardless of when the next round takes place, this was another bit of history to tick off for a club hellbent on gate crashing Europe’s elite.