Stunned Tottenham Hotspur manager Jose Mourinho accused his players of not respecting their jobs after his side crashed out of the Europa League following a 3-2 aggregate defeat by Dinamo Zagreb on Thursday.
Leading 2-0 from the first leg in north London, Tottenham were overwhelming favourites to reach the quarterfinals but produced a tepid performance as Zagreb stormed back with a sensational hat trick by Mislav Orsic.
Coming after his side were heavily criticised for a poor performance in Sunday’s north London derby loss at Arsenal, Mourinho suffered one of the most chastening defeats of his glittering managerial career.
While Orsic’s hat trick, completed early in extra time, was world class, Tottenham’s performance was feeble in the extreme and they capitulated after half-time.
“If I forget the last 10 minutes of the extra time where we did something to get a different result, in the 90 minutes and the first half of extra time I saw one team left everything on the pitch, they left sweat, they left energy, they left blood and in the end they left tears of happiness,” a grim-faced Mourinho told BT Sport.
“On the other side my team, and I am there, didn’t look like it was playing an important match and if for any of them it’s not an important match for me it is, for the respect that I have for my career and my own job.”
It was only the third time that Champions League-winning manager Mourinho had lost a match in a European competition by a three-goal margin and the second with Spurs after last season’s Champions League drubbing by RB Leipzig.
Tottenham great Glenn Hoddle, a pundit for BT Sport, described the display as “diabolical” adding: “They lost the plot but they also lost their heart.”
Mourinho said he was beyond sad at Tottenham’s exit from a competition in which he had earmarked as a route to silverware and the Champions League.
“I just left the Dinamo dressing room where I went to praise them and I feel sorry that one team, that is not my team, won the game based on attitude and compromise.
“I feel sorry that my team is the team that didn’t bring to the game not just the basics of football but the basics of life which is to respect our jobs and to give everything.”
Tottenham’s season is now in danger of unravelling.
Mourinho was hired to replace Mauricio Pochettino because of his record of claiming trophies.
But after Thursday’s surrender, the winning mentality the club’s owners hopes he would instil looks as far away as ever.
Meanwhile, Dinamo’s win set off celebrations in Zagreb where several hundred supporters defied Croatia’s COVID-19 as they flocked the streets in cars and on foot.
Footage published by the online edition of Croatia’s daily Sportske Novosti showed fans congregating around Maksimir stadium.
A seemingly endless motorcade in downtown Zagreb was accompanied by fans setting off flares and fireworks after Dinamo pulled off the biggest shock in Europe’s second-tier competition this season.
Speaking after the match, Orsic heaped praise on his teammates as goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic produced a pair of vital saves late on to deny Tottenham squeezing through on away goals.
“I think everyone is a hero tonight because we all breathed as one in an unforgettable match,” Orsic told reporters.
“We were gutted after the 2-0 defeat in London because we felt we had it in us to do better and we couldn’t put a foot wrong tonight. It was a dream come true.
“We showed that we are capable of standing our ground against a high-level team and if we stay humble and avoid getting carried away we can do more big things in the Europa League.”
The outcome was also a dream debut for coach Damir Krznar after he took over on Monday from Zoran Mamic who stepped down after learning he faced a prison sentence of four years and eight months for fraud.
Krznar, who was Mamic’s assistant, stressed the perfect timing of Dinamo’s goals and said his former boss must be given credit for selfless work which laid the foundations to Dinamo’s success.
“It panned out ideally because scoring in the opening 15-20 minutes might have amounted to taunting the lion,” said Krznar.
“This was my first game in charge but tonight’s result is a product of the staff’s work in the last two or three years and the constant progress we’ve made.
“Zoran was in charge but he kept his head down and always credited the staff, never himself. We are a compact unit with a lot of positive energy.”