English clubs were able to enjoy a lot of success last season in Europe as has been well documented, and it seems as if they’re heading in the right direction this time around, too.
Last night we saw Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur qualify for the Round of 16 in the UEFA Champions League, as Spurs attempt to replicate their accomplishment of reaching the final and City try to reach the final for the very first time.
Hobbling over the line
Manchester City took the lead early in the second half through Ilkay Gundogan, but a Solomon equaliser ensured that Shakhtar came away from the Etihad with a share of the spoils.
City manager Pep Guardiola was straight to the point in regards to his team’s draw and progress into the next round.
“The target was to qualify and we have done it,” he said. “This competition in February will be completely different, tougher. We’ll see in which conditions we arrive there. This competition is about the details.
“The group stage is always tricky but now we have one competition already done – we play the last game qualified as first in the group – so we can focus on the Premier League until we arrive in the cups.”
Spurs, on the other hand, were forced to walk through fire in order to confirm their place in the Round of 16. Goals from El-Arabi and Borges Semedo gave Olympiakos the advantage, but an Alli strike just before half time gave the hosts hope.
Then, a Kane double in addition to a nice Aurier goal handed Tottenham the keys to the castle and ensured they would walk away with a big three points – maintaining Jose’s 100% start to life as Tottenham manager.
Pushing the tempo
Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho was more than happy to make it known that he was happy on all fronts – with the ball boy, and with the performance as a whole.
“I love intelligent ball boys like I was. I was a brilliant ball boy as a kid,” Mourinho said. “And this kid today was brilliant. He reads the game, understands the game and made an important assist.
“He’s not there just to look to the stands, lights or scarves. He’s living the game and playing it very well.”
Of course, taking off Eric Dier in favour of Christian Eriksen in the first also ruffled a few feathers, which Mourinho was happy to discuss.
“The most difficult moment of the game for me was not when Olympiakos scored their first or second goal. It was when I made the change in the first half,” he said.
“I hurt the player but hurt myself. He’s a very intelligent boy who has a good understanding of what a team is. It wasn’t about his performance, it was about what the team needed.
“I felt one midfield player was enough. We needed a second creative player who could play with Alli in an open triangle and not a closed triangle with Dier and Harry Winks. I apologised to him, although he knows I did it for the team. Christian gave us what we needed.”