Soccer

Jose Mourinho guides Tottenham to victory in first match in charge

AP, AFP-JIJI

Tottenham’s decision to switch managers reaped instant rewards as Jose Mourinho got off to a winning start in his highly anticipated fourth coaching stint in the English Premier League.

How long before a slew of other teams — including Tottenham’s north London neighbor, Arsenal — opt to make a coaching change, too?

Hours after Tottenham beat West Ham 3-2 in Mourinho’s first match in charge since replacing Mauricio Pochettino, Arsenal needed an injury-time goal to salvage a 2-2 draw at home to relegation candidate Southampton. It’s just one victory in its last seven matches for Arsenal in the league and boos rang around Emirates Stadium at the final whistle, directed as much at manager Unai Emery as his underperforming players.

Then there’s Everton manager Marco Silva, who is also under mounting pressure after his team lost 2-0 at home to Norwich, which started the game in last place. Languishing in 15th place despite a benign run of fixtures to start the season, Everton has a grueling schedule for the next two months — including matches against second-place Leicester (twice), Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City.

And what about West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini, vanquished by Mourinho and overseeing a team that has collected just two points from the last seven games to plummet to 16th place? West Ham has conceded three goals for three straight games and its jittery goalkeeper, Roberto, received sarcastic cheers from his own fans every time he collected the ball without making a mistake.

Tottenham has none of these concerns now, having boldly decided to cut ties with Pochettino this week and bring in Mourinho after nearly a year out of coaching.

Portraying himself as humble and emotionally strong after his turbulent last spell at Manchester United, Mourinho hugged his new players and kept a respectful distance from the traveling Spurs fans while he celebrated a win earned by goals from Son Heung-min, Lucas Moura, and Harry Kane in a 13-minute spell around halftime.

“Today I was where I belong,” Mourinho said. “That’s my natural habitat. Was I extra emotional? No. Was I nervous? No. But I just love it, especially when things go in your direction. Of course, the best thing in football is to win matches.”

That’s something Liverpool cannot stop doing. It’s 12 wins in 13 for the leader after it beat Crystal Palace 2-1, courtesy of a late goal in a campaign full of them, to maintain its eight-point lead, with Roberto Firmino finishing from close range following a goalmouth scramble.

Liverpool had looked set to drop points for just the second time this season after Wilfried Zaha canceled out Sadio Mane’s opener in the 82nd minute.

The European champion, chasing its first league title for 30 years, is unbeaten in its last 30 league games.

“We are not out there to show we invented football. We have a job to do to get results. We did that again,” said Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp.

“I have no problem that we were not brilliant today. You just have to make sure you are ready to fight for the result and we were that from the first minute.”

There were also wins for Leicester, 2-0 at Brighton, and Manchester City, which defeated Chelsea 2-1 to climb above its beaten opponent into third.