José Mourinho leads the way in positive stories this week as his Tottenham Hotspur emerge as the in-form team in the Premier League. Mourinho’s side beat Leicester City on Sunday afternoon, after which the Portuguese boss suggested his plans for the team are taking shape ahead of next season.
Elsewhere across Europe, there was FA Cup disappointment for Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva, Paulo Fonseca was left to rue a late penalty in Italy and Nélson Semedo scored for Barcelona, while Granada made history by qualifying for Europe with two Portuguese stalwarts.
Mourinho’s Spurs flying
José Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur continued their recent good form in the Premier League this weekend with another impressive victory over Leicester City on Sunday afternoon. Mourinho’s side were 3-0 up at half time against the Champions League chasing Foxes and the result gives Spurs a third straight win in their bid to qualify for the Europa League.
The home side scored three times through vintage counter-attacks in the first period, with Heung-Min Son firing in off Leicester defender James Justin for the opener after just five minutes. Spurs had just 33% possession in the first half, but a superb pair of finishes by Harry Kane capped an expert team demonstration of clinical attacking.
Speaking after the match, Mourinho was gracious in identifying the opposition’s bad luck with injuries, while admitting he was happy with what he saw from his team. “It was a difficult game with lots of pressure because we knew without three points our hopes for the last game would be gone,” he said. “But we analysed the opponent well, we knew how to hurt them and we knew how they could hurt us.
“I want to be honest about Brendan (Rodgers) and they play without Ricardo Pereira, Söyüncü and Chilwell is a destroyed backline. So we decided to take away from them where they can hurt us, which is basically behind us. We controlled the game by positioning the defensive block lower than normal, and we gave them the ball because we wanted the player who had not played many matches to be taken away from their comfort zone so we can explore counter attacks.
“I’m very happy because it’s a game with a lot of pressure on us. I think the team is understanding better the principles of play, understanding better what we want to do. And I think it’s a good step. To come in mid-season is always complicated, especially after so many injuries, but it helps you organise the next season. It helped me in Porto. We have done important steps and next season for pre-season we’re one step ahead.”
Bruno penalty not enough as Manchester clubs out of FA Cup
Portuguese involvement in the FA Cup ended at the semi-final stage as hopes of a Manchester derby final ended with both United and City beaten at Wembley by Chelsea and Arsenal respectively. On Saturday, Bernardo Silva and João Cancelo were left on the sidelines for City’s 2-0 defeat to Arsenal, before United went down 3-1 to Chelsea the following day despite a late Bruno Fernandes penalty.
City’s defeat surprised many in England, and perhaps the non-involvement of Bernardo Silva was also somewhat unexpected. Bernardo has seen his playing time slightly reduced of late, having struggled to quite replicate his form of last season, but coach Pep Guardiola has been firm in maintaining his belief that he will get the Portuguese back to his best. Cancelo, who has started just two of City’s games since the return, was also not called.
Sunday’s match saw Bruno Fernandes continue to build his impressive goal contribution at Manchester United, but it was a dreadful day for the Red Devils as they suffered defeat for the first time since his arrival. United, who were wary of Chelsea’s extra 48 hours to prepare for the game, rested key men Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial and switched systems to incorporate a third centre-back.
Fernandes was arguably United’s brightest player on the day but it was a weary performance from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, who rarely threatened ahead of the late penalty. Martial drew a foul from Hudson-Odoi and Fernandes converted with typical confidence, but United are left needing a quick return to form as they look to secure top four and a Champions League place.
“Lost opportunity” as late penalty frustrates Fonseca’s Roma
Roma were left to count the cost of giving away a late penalty as Paulo Fonseca’s men were held to a 2-2 draw by Internazionale at the Stadio Olimpico. Roma came from behind to lead Inter heading into the last five minutes, but a wild late swing by defender Spinazzola gave Inter the chance to salvage a point and Romelu Lukaku scored the equaliser.
Had Roma managed to hold on to their lead it would have led to a fourth straight Serie A victory, but Fonseca was still keen to emphasis the positive aspects of his team’s recent upturn in fortunes. “It’s a lost opportunity, clearly, as we dropped two points here,” Fonseca told Sky Sport Italia.
“It was a great performance, Inter weren’t creating any dangerous situations, they only scored from a set play and another unlucky moment, but that is football.
“I am satisfied with the performance of my team, but not with the result. I’ve seen a step up in quality, the team is learning the new system and we are doing well. We’ll see for the rest of the season if we’ll stick with this system, but I am feeling confident with it.”
With four matches left to play, Roma are in 5th place in the standings, two points ahead of Napoli, which would see them gain direct entry into the Europa League. Fonseca’s men are still to contest the latter stages of this season’s Europa League, where they meet Spaniards Sevilla in early August.
Elsewhere in Italy, Rafael Leão played the last half hour as in-form Milan hammered Bologna 5-1 to also remain two points behind Roma in the chase for 5th place. Leão assisted the final goal for Davide Calabria in the closing stages, making it yet another productive cameo from the former Sporting youngster.
Spain: Granada reach historic European dream; Semedo scores in Barca win
Granada have qualified for the Europa League for the first time in their history, marking an incredible return to the top flight in Spain for the promoted team. A 4-0 win over Athletic Bilbao on Sunday made it five wins and three draws from their eight matches since football resumed, and confirmed 7th place ahead of rivals Getafe and Valencia.
While Granada’s success has been partly built on a base of local players, Portuguese duo Rui Silva and Domingos Duarte have also been key parts of Diego Martinez’s side. Goalkeeper Silva has played whenever available between the posts with 35 La Liga appearances, while defender Duarte has started 34 of the 38 games since joining from Sporting last summer.
Valencia missed out on European football to cap a miserable season for Los Ches, as they lost 1-0 at Sevilla to finish in 9th place. Gonçalo Guedes, hampered by injury so often in Spain, was forced off in the first half with another setback for Valencia, who have recently been linked with a move for Leonardo Jardim to fill the vacant managerial position at the club.
A nice moment in Barcelona’s 5-0 final day win at Alaves, as Nélson Semedo came off the bench to score his first goal of the season with a nice finish after being set up inside the penalty area by Ricardo Puig. Joao Felix came on for the latter stages of Atletico Madrid’s 1-1 draw with Real Sociedad after missing Atleti’s last three matches through injury.
Pereira’s Trabzonspor miss out in Turkey; Lokomotiv seal CL spot
Disappointment for veteran Portuguese João Pereira as Trabzonspor finally lost out on a first Turkish Super Lig title in 36 years, with Istanbul Basaksehir crowned champions. Trabzon had led the table for much of the second half of the season, but just one point from their last three matches sees Pereira’s side four points off the leaders with just one match remaining.
Pereira, now 36, signed a new contract with the club earlier in the summer and has played in 27 of the 33 rounds so far. There is still much to play for ahead of the final day in Turkey, as Trabzonspor look to keep hold of 2nd place and a Champions League place with a draw needed away at relegation battling Kayserispor next week.
In Russia, Portuguese duo João Mário and Eder were on the pitch to help Lokomotiv Moscow secure runners-up spot with a game to spare and qualify for the Champions League. A 1-0 win over Orenburg saw Lokomotiv move five points clear of Krasnodar, who surprisingly lost 2-0 at home to Dinamo Moscow with Manuel Fernandes in the team.
Although this weekend saw fewer high-profile Portuguese goals as usual, there were inevitably still various Luso representatives finding the net in some of the continent’s less visible matches. Pedro Tiba scored the opener for runners-up Lech Poznan in their 4-0 win over Jagiellonia Białystok in Poland; Ricardo Vaz was on-target for OFI in defeat at Panathinaikos in and Frederico Duarte scored the winner for Panetolikos in Greece; finally former Braga forward Yazalde scored for the second match running for Romanian side Hermannstadt.
Frederico Duarte: Made in Saca™ https://t.co/IPW3MtNNgk— Sacavenense Oficial 🆕 (@Sacavenense_SGS) July 19, 2020
By Sean Gillen