Jose Mourinho praised the quick-thinking ballboy who helped send Tottenham through to the knockout stages of the Champions League.
Spurs booked their place in the last 16 with a 4-2 win over Olympiakos as they recovered from 2-0 down in Mourinho’s first home game in charge.
After a woeful opening half-hour left them trailing to Youssef El Arabi and Ruben Semedo goals, Dele Alli got Spurs back in it before the young ballboy took centre stage.
His speedy retrieval of a ball early in the second half allowed Serge Aurier to set Lucas Moura clear with a quick throw-in, and the Brazilian set up Harry Kane to make it 2-2.
🗣️ @dele_official: "We showed great character, the fans were terrific again and to qualify we're very happy." #UCL ⚪️ #COYSpic.twitter.com/i4Ba1olVjV— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) November 26, 2019
Aurier and Kane then made it a comfortable night in the end for Spurs and left Mourinho not only boasting about his own past as a ballboy, but also the quality of the current one.
“To do that, you have to be a very good ball boy,” said Mourinho.
“I was between my 10 and 16 years old, a very good ball boy and the kid is a very good ballboy.
“He understands the game, reads the game, he’s not there just to look to the stands, or to the lights, or to the scarves. He’s there living the game and playing the game very, very well.
“In the end, I wanted to invite him to the dressing room to celebrate with us, but he disappeared. I don’t know where he is but very good ballboy.”
Despite their win that sends them into the knockout stages for a third successive year, the opening 30 minutes will have had alarm bells ringing for Mourinho.
Spurs were cut wide open at the back, leading their new manager to make a tactical change on the half-hour as Eric Dier was hauled off for Christian Eriksen.
“The first thing is that the most difficult moment of the game for me was not when Olympiakos scored the first or the second goal. The most difficult moment of the game for me was when I made the change in the first half,” said Mourinho.
“It hurt the player but hurt myself. It’s not easy for the player, but also not easy for myself.
“It’s important that the player understands, and I was lucky that my choice was a with a very intelligent boy and a boy that has very good understanding of what a team is, because I did it for the team.
“I needed at that time a second creative player.
“I had to do it for the team. I apologise for Eric. He knows I did it for the team and not with an intention to hurt him.”
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