Digital Football Journalist
Jose Mourinho apologises to Eric Dier over Tottenham midfielder's first-half substitution
Mourinho explains why Spurs players needed 'love' at half-time of comeback victory over Olympiakos
Last Updated: 27/11/19 11:59am
Jose Mourinho apologised to Eric Dier after his 29th-minute substitution in Tottenham's 4-2 Champions League win over Olympiakos.
With a stunned Spurs 2-0 down in Mourinho's first home game in charge, the new boss made the call to hook Dier for the more creative midfielder Christian Eriksen, who would go on to play his part in their comeback victory.
Dele Alli's goal on the stroke of half-time would spark the turnaround, before three goals in 23 second-half minutes - two from Harry Kane and one from Serge Aurier - saw them comfortably into the last 16.
"The most difficult moment of the game was not when they scored the first two goals, it was when I made the change in the first half," Mourinho said.
"It hurt the player but also myself. It's not easy for him or me. It's important that the player understands, and I was lucky my choice was a very intelligent boy who has very good understanding of what the team is, because I did it for the team. It was not about his performance, but what the team needs.
"We are losing 2-0, in a very difficult situation in that moment, and I felt that one positional midfield player was enough. I thought I needed a second creative player who could play with Alli in what I call an open triangle, and not with a closed triangle with two deeper midfielders. I apologise to Eric, but he knows I did it for the team and not to hurt him. I think the fans understood too."
Spurs players 'needed love' at half-time
A dreadful first-half showing barely deserved the gift of an open goal for Alli in injury-time, and left Mourinho to think his players needed an arm around the shoulder rather than the hairdryer treatment at the break.
"I had to be a soft version of myself at half-time," he said. "It was a bit of a surprise for me about the players' self confidence, playing at home without the best results, and the Bayern [Munich] game in their thoughts. I felt they were in need of some love, and not a criticism. One to give them some emotional balance.
"After that, we had a little talk about some tactical details, positional adjustments, but it was more about their confidence to face a difficult situation and go for it.
"Conceding an early goal at home, the players were not in a moment of great self-esteem where they say, '1-0, no problem', there was a bit of a bad feeling among the players. The fans were fantastic, though. The reaction was not to put more pressure on them, but support them.
"And then, the way they reacted to the second half, the preparation of the second half, to come from behind to go forward and knowing a draw would give us qualification with Bayern winning, but not accept it and go for victory, go in search of happiness and confidence, they did that too.
"I expect the next home game, the boys to start without ghosts, immediately open and confidently to play, because they are very good players."
Jose's special praise for 'very good' ball boy
Spurs' equaliser came when a ball boy, sat close to the home dug-out, returned the ball quickly to Serge Aurier after it had gone out of play and from his throw-in, Spurs caught Olympiakos off guard to level through Kane.
Mourinho made a point of shaking the ball boy's hand after the goal and told his press conference: "To get the ball back in play quickly, you have to be a very good ball boy. I was between 10 and 16 years old, a very good ball boy and he is too. He understands the game, reads it, he's not just to look at the stands, he's living the game and playing it very well.
"I wanted to invite him to the dressing room to celebrate with us, but he disappeared!"
'You feel it is all your fault'
Former Tottenham and England forward Darren Bent told The Debate that Dier would have felt humiliation after being hauled off so early with Spurs losing 2-0, but added the 25-year-old, who has spent much of 2019 struggling with injury, must put it behind him.
He said: "It happened to me before half-time, and it was awful. You just feel like everyone in the stadium is looking at you, you feel it is all your fault. It kills you, basically.
"But I think Dier can understand that they needed some creativity on the pitch, and Eriksen made a difference. Tactically it was the right decision, but for yourself you feel like you haven't contributed and that everyone is looking at you. He can't take it to heart and has to move on for the next game."