Jose Mourinho played down talk of a place in next season’s Champions League after Son Heung-min’s dramatic 94th-minute winner against Aston Villa, although the Spurs manager accepted Manchester City’s troubles may have opened a door.
Opposite number Dean Smith was left to bemoan Martin Atkinson’s decision to award Spurs a penalty on the stroke of half time after VAR’s intervention.
But Mourinho could praise his side’s resilience and ability to create chances while placing the uncertainty created by City’s two-year Uefa ban in context.
“I haven’t lost a minute analysing Uefa,” Mourinho said.
“It’s not a huge decision, it’s about the law, and they have the chance to appeal. I don’t think about fourth or fifth. We will see where we are at the end of the season because we might be sixth or seventh and then it doesn’t matter if fifth place does get into the Champions League.
However Mourinho has spend more than a few minutes thinking about the impact if City are stripped of two of their Premier League title:
“I have to ask if the team finished second in 2018 is going to be champions yes or no? That would be interesting!”
The Special One referring to the fact that he guided Manchester United to second place in 2018, behind Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City
Villa were without Tyrone Mings due to illness and his replacement, Bjorn Engels made the mistake that afforded Son the opportunity to score in the 94th minute.
The simplest of interceptions was miscontrolled by the Belgian and allowed the South Korean through on goal for his sixth goal in his last five games.
Engels had scored the equaliser for Villa in the 54th minute to make up for conceding a penalty on the stroke of half time, the Belgian rising above compatriot Toby Alderweireld who himself had a day to remember.
It was Alderweireld who opened the scoring in the ninth minute, poking a deflected cross into his own net ahead of a poised Mbwana Samatta after impressive work on the right flank from Anwar El Ghazi. Centre back Alderweireld made amends for his defensive frailties in the 28th minute, though.
Loannee Danny Drinkwater’s headed clearance from a corner hit the legs of Eric Dier and fell fortuitously at the feet of the central defender who swivelled and smashed home on the half volley. Either side could have gone ahead but it Son who scored his first of the afternoon on the stroke of half time.
Steven Bergwijn was hauled down inside the area by a desperate Engels sliding challenge and, after VAR intervened, Martin Atkinson awarded the penalty to Smith’s dismay. Smith said: “I don’t get it. There are 42,000 in this stadium and Martin Atkinson gives a goal kick and everyone agrees, even their player. We go into a sterile environment. The criteria is clear and obvious, are you telling me that’s clear and obvious?”
Pepe Reina saved Son’s penalty low down to his right but the South Korean international followed up to stab the ball into a vacant net with the four sides of Villa Park sang, “It’s not football anymore.”
Villa’s equaliser in the 54th minute was as simple as it comes though, Grealish caused trouble with his inswinging corners all game and it was Engels, rising above Alderweireld, who headed the ball home.
With Reina impressing, it looked like the home side had weathered a storm heading into the depths of injury time, but the Spaniard was helpless when Son cooly finished for his ninth league goal of the season.
Villa have conceded 50 goals in the league this season, and sit just one point ahead of safety.