Joe Mourinho hails Tottenham's goalscoring duo in FA Cup replay victory over Middlesbrough... and can't resist comparison with two past greats

Sam Wallace
Giovani Lo Celso celebrates giving Spurs an early lead after a big mistake by goalkeeper Tomas Mejia - Tottenham Hotspur FC

There has not been much cause for celebration at Tottenham Hotspur in recent weeks so Jose Mourinho did not need any encouragement to compare his two Argentinian goalscorers in this FA Cup third-round replay to their most famous compatriots at the club.

The Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa FA Cup legend of 1981 lives long at a big club conspicuously short on trophies, and now that Spurs’ famous Argentine manager has left the building the tradition falls to two more of his countrymen. Erik Lamela, who arrived before the Mauricio Pochettino era, and Giovani Lo Celso, who arrived towards its end, both scored for Mourinho in a tie that was more difficult than it needed to be against a spirited Middlesbrough team.  

“You want me to call them Ardiles and Villa?” Mourinho asked with a smile when he was reminded of Spurs’ Argentine FA Cup heritage. Villa’s winner in the 1981 FA Cup final replay is unforgettable, although neither player featured in the 1982 final or the ensuing replay a year later when the Falklands War intervened. “They [Lamela and Lo Celso] played very well,” Mourinho said. “I think Ardiles and Villa would not be ashamed of them. The team played very well, especially in the first half.”

It was something to cling to after another nervy evening when Spurs failed to convince in the second half and an 83rd-minute goal from Middlesbrough substitute George Saville meant that the game finished with the home team trading attacks against the club 16th in the Championship. Mourinho had played it safe with a strong side including the likes of Lucas Moura and Christian Eriksen. He would later summon Heung-min Son and Dele Alli from the bench as Jonathan Woodgate’s side refused to give in.

The former Spurs man, back in N17 alongside his erstwhile team-mate and now assistant Robbie Keane, a favourite in these parts, never gave up the ghost after two goals for the home team in the first 16 minutes. The first had come from an error from 30-year-old Spanish goalkeeper Tomas Mejias, who once played six minutes as a substitute for Mourinho at Real Madrid in May 2011 and was playing only his second game this season.

That let in Lo Celso within two minutes, and the second followed soon after from Lamela, but following that Woodgate’s players stayed in the game and their manager was effusive in his praise of their spirit. “Our players showed fight, desire, hunger, because when you go 2-0 down you think the worst,” Woodgate said. “The players didn’t give up, they kept going until the end, pressing high up the pitch and I am proud of them. I hate getting beaten but when you get beaten going down with a fight... no problem at all.”

Erik Lamela wheels away after doubling Tottenham's advantage on 15 minutes  Credit: GETTY IMAGES

This was Spurs’ first win in five games in all competitions and the trip to resurgent Watford on Saturday will ask many more questions of them than were posed in the first half. Beyond that they now have a fourth round FA Cup tie away to Southampton who beat them in the league on New Year’s Day. Mourinho refused to offer any updates on the loan deal for Benfica midfielder Gedson Fernandes, who did his medical during the day.

Asked about the suggestion that Eriksen was again booed by the home crowd, Mourinho said that the “fans have to respect” the Danish playmaker. “He played very well, very professional, which is what I expect from him. If he has decided to leave he has to leave with his head up – if he gives everything which is what he tries to do for me.”

By the end, Mourinho’s side were dealing with the direct approach of Middlesbrough trying to pick out Ashley Fletcher and the substitute Rudi Gestede, the latter of whom had played his part in Saville’s late goal which changed the mood inside the ground. “Jonathan was not sleeping, he read the game,” Mourinho said later, “long balls, second balls.”

Substitute George Saville's low finish made for a tenser finish to the game Credit: ACTION IMAGES

His two Argentines had given him the lead, first after goalkeeper Mejias lost his nerve under pressure and attempted a pass to Marvin Johnson out on the left side which was a catastrophe in all sorts of ways. Lo Celso slipped past Dael Fry and slotted past Mejias with his left foot with the clock on 1min 58secs.

Lamela ran past three on his way to scoring the second for Spurs on 16 minutes, taking the ball off Jonny Howson and then gliding past Paddy McNair and Fry before chopping a shot back past Mejias. Middlesbrough did create chances. Their new loan signing, the Anglo-German Lukas Nmecha, 21, one of two brought in on the short-term from Manchester City, made his first start having arrived from a spell at Wolfsburg. “He looked a little bit rusty,” said Woodgate, “but he will get games.”

There was no place in the XI, or on the bench, for Spurs’ 17-year-old Irish striker Troy Parrott, who had played under Pochettino in the same League Cup tie in September in which Japhet Tanganga made his debut. Tanganga stayed in the team from Saturday and he created a chance for Ryan Sessegnon in the second half that the latter skied from a yard out. To Sessegnon’s eternal gratitude the linesman had flagged for offside.

Saville came on before the hour for Middlesbrough debutant Ben Liddle. When Davinson Sanchez failed to clear with a header, the Chelsea academy graduate struck very cleanly past Paulo Gazzaniga to make it a touch uncomfortable for Spurs in the closing stages.

Match details

Tottenham (4-2-3-1): Gazzaniga 6; Vertonghen 6, Sanchez 4, Dier 6, Tanganga 6; Winks 6, Eriksen 5; Lamela 6, Lo Celso 6, Sessegnon 6; Moura 6. Son/Moura 61 Dele/Dier 85.

Middlesbrough (3-1-4-2): Mejias 4; Howson 6, McNair 5, Fry 5; Clayton 6; Spence 6, Wing 6, Liddle 6, Johnson 6; Fletcher 5, Nmecha 6. Saville/Liddle 57 Tavernier/Spence 74 Gestede/Nmecha 78.

Referee: Craig Pawson.

Attendance: 49,202.


Two of tonight's goals


South American influence


Spurs reaction


I really enjoyed being back with my teammates. It's nice to be back playing, it's very important for me. I was really struggling the last few months so I'm happy.


We had chances before they scored. We made it hard for ourselves with a sloppy goal. Four games without a win but we finally got a win.

I'm just grateful for the gaffer for trusting me, my teammates, god. I'm taking each game as it comes. Whenever he picks me, I'm ready. 


Tottenham progress to the fourth round

A trip to Southampton awaits Spurs after early goals from Lo Celso and Lamela put them in the driving seat. Middlesbrough refused to bow their heads and a goal from substitute Saville seven minutes from time made for an interesting finish. But ultimately job done (albeit minus a clean sheet)


FT Tottenham 2 Middlesbrough 1

Alli could have grabbed a goal himself at the death after running into the box but he can't sort his feet out and the chance is gone.

No matter, there is the final whistle. 


90+2 mins Tottenham 2 Middlesbrough 1

The ball comes in from Johnson but it's an impossible angle for Fletcher and he heads it very much wide.

George Saville reduces the arrears Credit: GETTY IMAGES


90+1 mins Tottenham 2 Middlesbrough 1

CHANCE Spurs! Tanganga full of running again down the right, he lifts it in, the keeper misses but Son is unable to stretch to meet it. 

Tottenham nearly there.


90 mins Tottenham 2 Middlesbrough 1

That Gestede header aside, Boro haven't managed to string enough of a passage of play together to threaten. Three minutes of added on time to go.


89 mins Tottenham 2 Middlesbrough 1

End to end now as Boro go in search of that equaliser. But Spurs are dangerous in attack and the ball is right where they want it, up in their opponents' end of the pitch.


87 mins Tottenham 2 Middlesbrough 1

A relatively fresh Son is exactly what you need in these situations as he wins Spurs a free-kick 30 yards out.

Clayton is down with what appears to be cramp for Boro. And with all three subs used, he will need to soldier on.

Eriksen rifles the aforementioned free-kick into the stands.


85 mins Tottenham 2 Middlesbrough 1

Boro have their tails up now. They win a corner. Gestede the latest to head over.

Dier is pulled off, much to his seeming disgust with Alli coming on in his place.


GOAL!!!  Tottenham 2 Middlesbrough 1 (Saville 83 mins)

Hope for Boro. And no clean sheet for Spurs, again.

It's a long ball down the middle (a tactic that has worked quite well all night for the visitors) and Saville controls on the edge of the box, turns and shoots. It almost dribbles into the bottom corner but those Boro fans do not care. They've deserved that for not giving in this match.

Alli is suddenly warming up on the touchline.


79 mins Tottenham 2 Middlesbrough 0

It goes into a crowded penalty area before once again Gazzaniga claims and sends Tottenham on their way. The counter-attack is initially held up before Son wins a corner. 

Mejias does well to get down low and palm away as Eriksen's cross evades everyone.


77 mins Tottenham 2 Middlesbrough 0

Nearly the two Boro subs combining to goal-scoring effect. First Tavernier works himself some room on the right before cutting the ball across the top of the box where Saville is waiting. His right-footed shot takes a deflection onto the roof of the net. Another set-piece opportunity. 

The visitors want to make a change. Gestede comes on for Nmecha.


74 mins Tottenham 2 Middlesbrough 0

Woodgate rolls the dice. Spence, who should hold his head high after an encouraging performance, is replaced by Tavernier, who apparently likes to have a run with the ball.


72 mins Tottenham 2 Middlesbrough 0

Another Boro corner but Nmecha heads over. If they had managed to put away one of these corners, it would be a completely different game with less than 20 minutes left.


70 mins Tottenham 2 Middlesbrough 0

It's been a tough night for Woodgate's team tonight but his players are still giving it a go and putting the effort in. McNair does his best to stick to the lively Son who is wriggling towards the touchline before eventually loosing his footing and the ball dribbles out for a goal-kick.

Boro players duck as Wing tries to bend a freekick in Credit: REUTERS


66 mins Tottenham 2 Middlesbrough 0

Middlesbrough win a corner off the head of Dier. This time it is the head of Vertonghen who heads clear.

Tottenham break with Son leading the way down the right. Son buzzing away up front and eventually wins a corner for his team. It also comes to nothing. Corners have been poor all round tonight it must be said.


64 mins Tottenham 2 Middlesbrough 0

Gazzaniga has to venture out to the far reaches of his penalty area to halt the advances of Nmecha. He makes himself big and blocks the way. Makes it look easy too.

Middlesbrough are going to need to create more openings like that if they are to find a way back into this one. But at the moment, it's Spurs who firmly have one foot and all bar the little toe on their second into the fourth round.


60 mins Tottenham 2 Middlesbrough 0

Moura departs and Son comes on to great cheers from the crowd. Moura will be happy with his efforts tonight. 

Ever the enthusiastic player, Son straight into the action but concedes a freekick.


59 mins Tottenham 2 Middlesbrough 0

It has to be said Sanchez has not looked exactly comfortable tonight. And he's just sliced what should be a straight forward clearance straight out for a corner.

Gazzaniga, salmon-esque like, leaps to gather in the Spurs goal.


57 mins Tottenham 2 Middlesbrough 0

First switch of the night and it is for Boro. Liddle's full debut comes to a close as George Saville trots on. Saville a youth cup winner at Chelsea when Mourinho was in his second spell at the club. 


54 mins Tottenham 2 Middlesbrough 0

This, however, is what good goalkeeping should look like. 

Middlesbrough win a freekick on the edge of the box, Wing steps up and bends it around the wall where Gazzaniga gets down low to push wide for a corner. Tottenham clear their lines.


52 mins Tottenham 2 Middlesbrough 0

Sessegnon very very grateful for the linesman's flag there. Tanganga shows his full back skills to move into the box and cross from the right. The ball comes all the way across to an unmarked Sessegnon a mere two yards out and he contrives to put it over. He was offside but that doesn't stop a look of disgust on the sidelines from Mourinho.

Meanwhile, at least Boro keeper Mejias isn't the only one to put forward an entry for the keeper bloopers reel tonight...


50 mins Tottenham 2 Middlesbrough 0

Spence has been lively for Boro in attack tonight and the 19-year-old's won a freekick on the right after been shoved off the ball by Sessegnon. Johnson curls it in but it is headed clear. 


49 mins Tottenham 2 Middlesbrough 0

As I wrote, no changes at half-time but will Jose leave it long before opting to give some of his players a rest? After all, one could argue (as does my colleague Ali Tweedale here) that burnout may have contributed to the England man's hamstring injury.

Pause in proceedings after a clash of heads with Vertonghen and Fletcher. They're both fine to continue.


45 mins Tottenham 2 Middlesbrough 0

Back underway here. No changes from either side.


Scores on the doors elsewhere

Blackpool 0-1 Reading

Coventry City 2-0 Bristol Rovers

Newcastle United 3-0 Rochdale

Shrewsbury 0-0 Bristol City

Tranmere P-P Watford

*all games into the second half with Spurs-Boro kicking off late


HT Tottenham 2 Middlesbrough 0

Just the one minute of added on time. Tottenham end it on the attack. 

And there is the half-time whistle. Cruise control for the Premier League side after that early gift of a goal for Lo Celso on two minutes and then Lamela on 15 minutes.


43 mins Tottenham 2 Middlesbrough 0

Half-time beckoning and Boro win a freekick in the left corner after Tanganga is clumsy in his tackle. This would be a timely boost if they were to score here.

Johnson flights it in, Fletcher gets his head to it but, under pressure from Dier, sends it wide of the left stick.


40 mins Tottenham 2 Middlesbrough 0

The problem with Middlesborough pushing forward is that Tottenham are so quick on the break with Lamela, Moura and co.

This time it is Moura who ends up getting a sight of goal after good work by Lamela. He strides towards the box but pulls it wide of the left post.


35 mins Tottenham 2 Middlesbrough 0

McNair holds his head in his hands.

Boro win a corner, which McNair initially takes. It breaks to the edge of the box but Howson, who shall now be known as twinkle toes after those moves, dances around two Spurs players before playing a ball through to McNair. He shoots first time, aiming to curl into the far top corner, but it is rash and off target.

Actually that wouldn't have counted anyway, he was miles offside. But encouragement for Middlesbrough.


34 mins Tottenham 2 Middlesbrough 0

Better from Boro with a rare foray down the left where Johnson tries to conjure up something with a cross. It's blocked through and then when Fry is sloppy in midfield, Spurs break  down the right. 

Moura tries to whip it in but it is just ahead of Eriksen who had darted towards the penalty box.

Here's that second goal in technicolour


33 mins Tottenham 2 Middlesbrough 0

It is Eriksen but it is driven low and Mejias comfortably gets down low to his left to gather. 


30 mins Tottenham 2 Middlesbrough 0

VAR check....

Lo Celso appealing for a penalty after a collision with centre back Fry. He goes down theatrically holding his face but contact actually came to his chest. It looked minimal though and VAR confirms no penalty. 

They do now have a freekick on the edge of the box after Wing pulls down Eriksen. A real committee meeting for who will take this one...


27 mins Tottenham 2 Middlesbrough 0

CHANCE! Almost a mirror opposite of Sessegnon's chance. Tanganga, in just his second senior start, is afforded far too much space to speed into the box on the right hand side. It suddenly opens up for him but he also drags it just wide of the far post.


26 mins Tottenham 2 Middlesbrough 0

CHANCE! Sessegnon turns on the after burners to speed past McNair down the left channel. He pulls the trigger but the ball nips wide of the far post. Turns out there was a slightest deflection so it is a corner. But Dier, at the second time of delivering into the box, is too strong and overcooks it.

Just a little reminder of the weight of history stacked against Boro 


24 mins Tottenham 2 Middlesbrough 0

Screams of shooooooot from the Spurs faithful as Dier receives the ball on the edge of the box. He obliges but unfortunately cannot deliver the finish with the ball soaring high over the bar.


21 mins Tottenham 2 Middlesbrough 0

It's like Lamela and Lo Celso have picked up exactly where they left off after coming off the bench against Liverpool and sparking a bit of life into Spurs. They're certainly giving Mourinho plenty of food for thought.

Lo Celso pulls off a lovely dummy to try and play in Eriksen down the right. The ball eventually comes over to the left edge of the box, via a deflection, and Lamela shoots on the spin. It's rising and high but another warning shot. 

A new dance move for Jose? Credit: REUTERS


GOAL!!! Tottenham 2 (Lamela 15 mins) Middlesbrough 0

It's the hope that kills you...Just moments after that chance and Tottenham go up the other end and double their lead.

It's all down to the hard work and skill of Lamela who steals the ball off Howson in midfield, skips past McNair and steers low into the net. Game over?


13 mins Tottenham 1 Middlesbrough 0

CHANCE! Another defensive blunder nearly leads to a goal, this time to the visitors.

Sanchez plays a loose ball across the back, Vertonghen unable to gather and Nmecha latches on. He runs in, dummies his defender and tries to curl into the net. Fortunately for Sanchez (and most of the stadium) Gazzaniga is able to pull off the save at close range and then Spurs defence clear.


12 mins Tottenham 1 Middlesbrough 0

80 per cent possession for Tottenham inside the first 10 minutes tells you all you need to know really.

Moura turns away from McNair but Howson again intervenes. But the white wave begins again and Tanganga, impressive against Liverpool last time out, bombs forward down the right but his cross is cut out. In fact there was a foul in the box so a chance of a breather for Boro.

Lo Celso gratefully takes advantage Credit: AP



8 mins Tottenham 1 Middlesbrough 0

Fifth meeting of these two teams in the FA Cup and Boro have yet to win any of them. Mountain to climb tonight now.

Spence puts the pressure on Winks in the Tottenham defence but he manages to squeeze out of trouble and the hosts regroup.


5 mins Tottenham 1 Middlesbrough 0 

Now then, what can Middlesbrougn muster in return? Unsurprisingly the Spurs fans in fine voice after the start to the game.

Welcome time on the ball for the visitors but the move breaks down. Woodgate trying to encourage his players on the touchline. 


GOAL!!!  Tottenham 1 (Lo Celso 2) Middlesbrough 0 

That is a moment that Mejias will instantly want to forget. The keeper, having played under Mourinho at Real Madrid, looks to pass out from the back but only suceeds in picking out Lo Celso.

The Spurs attacker gleefully picks it up on the edge of the box, takes a few touches to compose himself and curls into the bottom left corner. 

That's the game plan out of the window for Boro.


2 mins Tottenham 0 Middlesbrough 0 

Spurs get us underway. Premier League vs Championship for a place in the fourth round.

Dier nicks the ball in midfield with a strong challenge and sprays it out to the left-hand side. Sessegnon tries to drive it in low but Howson clears.


Players out on the pitch

Almost time as the players go through their final pre-match superstitions and some jump up and down on the spot to keep those muscles nice and loose.


Boro boss Woodgate

It's a totally different game, today they will be more on the front foot and will come at us. We will have to soak up the pressure and hopefully get a goal.

There is lots of confidence in our squad, they're a young side and have plenty of energy. They need to just go and enjoy the game. 


Jose speaks

Tonight is going to be difficult. We have no players to make more rotations than what we do, we change five players.

We have to try with what we have. We have to try for the players to survive this difficult moment. I believe one or another player will be back next week.

On Eriksen 

I expect what I always expect from him which is him trying to do his best. 

On Boro

From what I heard, no one worked today in Middlesbrough...because I hear them around here. I hope they enjoy being in the best stadium in the world. I hope they enjoy it. But we are going to try and win the match. 


One of these two won't be smiling later

It's not just a Spurs return for Woodgate as Robbie Keane will also be a familiar face to home supporters. Both her and Woodgate were in the starting line-up when the north London club won their last piece of silverware (the 2008 League Cup for those not able to remember).

A little pre-match joviality Credit:  Getty Images


Five changes apiece

So it's five changes in all for Tottenham as Ryan Sessegnon, Jan Vertonghen, Eric Dier, Giovani Lo Celso and Erik Lamela all start, while Son Heung-min and Dele Alli are among those dropping to the bench.

A certain Christian Eriksen, linked with a January move to Inter Milan, is among the starters. Dennis Cirkin, 17, makes the senior squad for the first time.

For Boro, it is also a big night for Ben Liddle as the 21-year-old midfielder makes his first start for the senior team. Woodgate also shuffles five players around against his former team. Tomas Mejias plays in goal, while there are also starts for Marvin Johnson, Adam Clayton, Lukas Nmecha and Liddle.

Tottenham Hotspur: Gazzaniga, Tanganga, Sanchez, Vertonghen, Sessegnon, Dier, Winks, Lo Celso, Eriksen, Lamela, Lucas Moura.
Subs: Son, Vorm, Alli, Foyth, Aurier, Skipp, Cirkin.

Middlesbrough: Mejias, Spence, Howson, McNair, Fry, Johnson, Wing, Clayton, Liddle, Nmecha, Fletcher.
Subs: Tavernier, Gestede, Roberts, Saville, Wood-Gordon, Malley, Brynn.

Referee: Craig Pawson (South Yorkshire)


Boro team


Spurs team


We go again

Nine days after these two sides met at the Riverside Stadium, it's time to reconvene in North London to thrash out who will travel to face Southampton in the fourth round later this month. With Tranmere's match with Watford postponed due to a waterlogged pitch, it is one of five third round replays taking place this evening.

Nothing could split the teams last time around after Lucas Moura cancelled out Ashley Fletcher's goal for the hosts five minutes into the restart. Between them they only managed four shots on target each although Spurs were, as you might expect against Championship opposition, the stronger in the possession, pass accuracy and overall shots on target.

The omens would appear good for tonight's hosts too with Tottenham unbeaten in each of their last 40 FA Cup home matches against teams from a lower division since a 1-0 loss to Nottingham Forest in January 1975. They have also won their last six FA Cup home matches by an aggregate score of 23-4 and are unbeaten in their last nine home games against Boro in all competitions. Bet they wished they'd been drawn at home originally!

Middlesbrough meanwhile have failed to keep a clean sheet in each of their last 12 meetings with Tottenham in all competitions since a 1-0 win at the Riverside in May 2005. But this is a team on an upward curve of late as manager Jonathan Woodgate's young side have steadily got to grips with life under him. They've been moving away from the wrong end of the Championship table with Woodgate named manager of the month for December and are unbeaten in the last six games. And they don't have to cope with the threat of a certain Harry Kane this evening.

Details of who they will be facing coming shortly.