Champions League: Jose Mourinho worried as Tottenham lose to RB Leipzig; Atalanta continue dream run with win over Valencia

  • Tottenham, a Champions League finalist last season under Mauricio Pochettino, now has to overturn a 1-0 deficit against Leipzig to reach the quarterfinals.

  • While Leipzig could rely on Timo Werner netting his 26th goal of the season from the penalty spot in the first leg of the last-16 meeting.

  • 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.

London: Dele Alli showed his frustration by hurling a water bottle and shoe after being substituted. Jose Mourinho just used his words.

Tottenham, a Champions League finalist last season under Mauricio Pochettino, now has to overturn a 1-0 deficit against Leipzig to reach the quarterfinals.

 Champions League: Jose Mourinho worried as Tottenham lose to RB Leipzig; Atalanta continue dream run with win over Valencia

Leipzig's Timo Werner celebrates scoring against Tottenham. Image: AP

While Leipzig could rely on Timo Werner netting his 26th goal of the season from the penalty spot in the first leg of the last-16 meeting, Tottenham struggled badly in attack without injured forwards Harry Kane and Son Heung-min .

“It's a situation like going to fight with a gun without bullets,” Mourinho said.

And the manager seemed to already be dreading a run of games when he'll have to rely on Lucas Moura and Dele up front.

“What worries me is that these are our players for the next however many matches," Mourinho said.

Not exactly an inspirational message to raise the spirits of a team after a loss at home.

“If I could,” Mourinho said, “I would move immediately to July 1.”

There is still more than three months of the season remaining, though.

Mourinho, recruited in November to replace the fired Pochettino, is dealing with the consequences of years of underinvestment in the team — particularly up front.

Even returning to the Champions League next season is far from certain, and could rely on fifth place in the Premier League being enough to secure a spot if Manchester City's European ban is upheld.

Leipzig is faring far better in Germany, sitting in second place in the Bundesliga.

Victory in north London — the first for the team in the knockout phase in the Champions League — is the latest step of a decade-long rise from the fifth tier for the team funded by a drinks firm.

At 32, Julian Nagelsmann is a young coach on the rise, producing stunning results in Europe, just like Mourinho was at the start of the century.

“We always try to attack the opponents very early and try to win the ball high up in their half," Nagelsmann said. “Today, in the second half, we tried to create a bit more of a counter. It's normal that we would have to defend a bit deeper later on, at only 1-0.”

A clumsy tackle by Tottenham defender Ben Davies on Konrad Laimer led to the penalty that Werner converted in the 58th minute.

Such was the dominance of Leipzig — particularly in the first half in north London — that it was the German visitors that looked the more established Champions League side rather than last season's beaten finalists.

“After the goal, we had a good chance to score a second but you know when you play in this stadium, with this crowd, it is difficult to win," Werner said. “So we are very proud. We are a very young team so we have to learn a lot about our mentality and how to get through these moments.”

Tottenham's frustration was encapsulated by Alli flinging his shoe on the ground in annoyance while walking to the bench after being substituted.

“I think he was angry with his performance,” Mourinho said. “Not with me.”

Tottenham was already trailing at that point, and it took going behind to find the goal threat that was absent in the first half.

Giovani Lo Celso curled a free kick against the post and Moura headed wide on a night when Tottenham's shortage of attacking options was exposed.

The second leg is on March 10 in Germany.

“We're not really happy with the result,” Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris said. “But we have to deal with that.”

Leipzig wasn't the only newcomer at this stage looking at ease on Wednesday night. Atalanta fared even better, routing Valencia 4-1 to close in on a spot in the quarterfinals in its first season in the competition.

Atalanta fairytale continues as Italians thrash Valencia

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.

With inputs from AP and Reuters

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Updated Date: Feb 20, 2020 10:22:50 IST