Jose Mourinho has rejected the suggestion that missing Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Son Heung-min was the reason Tottenham were eliminated from the Europa League by Dinamo Zagreb.
Spurs suffered one of their most embarrassing European defeats in the club’s history last night as Zagreb managed to overcome a 2-0 deficit from the first-leg.
The performance from Jose Mourinho’s side was arguably the worst of the season so far as they were unable to fashion any chances until they were chasing the game in extra-time.
Glenn Hoddle, who was working on the game as a pundit for BT Sport, suggested that the result may have been different if Hojbjerg had played since the Dane would have demanded his teammates to put in more effort.
Hojbjerg was suspended for the second leg while Son was out with a hamstring problem but Mourinho insisted that the absence of those two was not the reason his side lost.
When asked if Spurs missed Son and Hojbjerg, the Tottenham boss told Football.London: “We didn’t lose because of Son and Pierre. I think that’s quite a nice way that would allow me to go in that direction and use that as one of the reasons for.
“I appreciate the chance that you gave me but I’m not going to accept that chance. I’m too honest and too hurt with this to accept that chance.
“It was not because of Sonny or Pierre. Of course two very good players, guys important in the team but I totally refuse to say that.
“To speak about leaders on the pitch is something that makes me a little bit uncomfortable. It’s something that belongs to us, to the dressing room, to the life of us as a working group.
“Of course from the outside, you can have your perspective, you can analyse it and probably with your experience and knowledge you can draw some conclusions but I’m not going in that direction.
“The reason why we lost the game was because for 100 minutes or so, one team put absolutely everything on that pitch and another team only felt the pride and let’s say a motivation to fight when the result was already 3-0.
“Yes, in these 10 minutes we could and should, we had the chances to go through, but they beat us on heart and another thing that I refuse to say in front of the cameras, but when you lose on that, as a professional you have to feel very, very hurt and this is the way I feel.
“I’m not just sad and I’m happy to be a guy with lots of experience and emotional control because I can control what I feel in this moment, at least in front of the cameras.”
After last night’s elimination, the Carabao Cup final now represents the only remaining chance Spurs have of winning silverware this season but Mourinho admitted that the final against Manchester City will be impossible to win if his players show a similar attitude.
He added: “There are some groups where it’s easy to win, that’s obvious, and tonight we lost a chance of winning a trophy.
“I’m not saying that by winning tonight we would win the Europa League. Far from it, I’m not saying that, I never said that, but tonight we were knocked out of a competition where if we go to the quarter-finals, we have a 12.5 per cent of winning the competition.
“So tonight we can say we lost a competition. Of course, the only chance that we have to win a trophy this season is the final that we have to play against a very good team, against the next champions and a team that match after match show an incredible desire of winning.
“So it’ll be a very difficult final and if we want to have a chance to win it, the attitude has to be completely different.”
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While there is still more than a month left for the Carabao Cup final, it is difficult to see a lot changing before then. However, the reality is that we likely have to win the final for Mourinho to have a future at the club. I cannot see Levy decided to keep faith in Jose if they end the season trophyless and outside the top four.
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