Top Winners, Losers After Tuesday's Champions League Round-of-16 Leg-2 Results

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistMarch 11, 2020

Tottenham Hotspur's Portuguese head coach Jose Mourinho looks at his players during the UEFA Champions League football match between Leipzig and Tottenham, in Leipzig, eastern Germany on March 10, 2020. (Photo by Ronny Hartmann / AFP) (Photo by RONNY HARTMANN/AFP via Getty Images)

Jose Mourinho isn't a spent force at the top level in Europe, but his doubters and critics are growing in number after Tottenham Hotspur tumbled out of the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday night.

Mourinho's team were beaten 3-0 away by RB Leipzig in the second leg of their last-16 clash. It added another setback for his bid to restore his reputation after being sacked by Manchester United in December 2018.

Those attempts haven't been helped by another exit from the round of 16, albeit one prompted as much by key injuries and the struggles of Hugo Lloris. Even so, it's still the same fate Mourinho and United suffered at the hands of Sevilla two years ago.

Mourinho may not be enjoying life away from Manchester, but Leipzig left-back Angelino is. Dispatched on loan from Manchester City in January, the Spaniard has become a key attacking outlet for Julian Nagelsmann's team, crafting two goals on the night to show City what they're missing.

Angelino and Co. tore through a bewildered Spurs defence undermined by a nightmare showing from goalkeeper Lloris. The Frenchman should have done better to deny both of Marcel Sabitzer's goals in the first half.

Goals weren't a problem for Josip Ilicic and Atalanta, whose first season at this level continues to deliver thrills. The 32-year-old playmaker found the net four times away to Valencia to seal a remarkable 8-4 aggregate triumph for the Champions League debutant.

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Tuesday Results

  • RB Leipzig 3-0 Tottenham (Leipzig win 4-0 on aggregate)
  • Valencia 3-4 Atalanta (Atalanta win 8-4 on aggregate)


Loser: Jose Mourinho

One more defeat, coupled with Spurs losing their last chance to win a trophy this season, is only going to increase the questions about whether or not Mourinho has lost it.

They are valid questions, even if circumstances have been doing the 57-year-old few favours. Since winning the treble with Inter Milan in 2010, Mourinho has left Real Madrid, Chelsea and United under a cloud.

Any success he brought to those clubs was often marred by the backlash to some of his actions. The public criticism of club-record signing Tanguy Ndombele has worrying echoes of Mourinho eroding the loyalty of his players at other clubs.

History appears to be repeating itself in more ways than one at Tottenham, with Mourinho on a historically woeful run:

Of course, any manager would struggle after losing as many goal threats as Mourinho has recently. Kane and Heung-Min Son both remain sidelined, robbing Spurs of their two premier strikers.

Some help arrived in January, in the form of Steven Bergwijn, but the former PSV Eindhoven forward has now been ruled out for an "extended period" with an ankle problem, per BBC Sport.

Mourinho hasn't exactly been dealt the best hand, but his responses to the growing casualty list have appeared increasingly negative. Rather than finding new sources for goals, maybe even by trusting 18-year-old academy graduate Troy Parrott, Mourinho's solutions have been more about not losing than winning.

The decision to play five centre-backs for Saturday's 1-1 draw away to Burnley sent a clear message about attacking intent or the lack thereof.

Any manager looks good with a full contingent of star players at his disposal. The true tests come when alternatives are needed, when tactical adjustments can make the difference and help overcome superior opposition.

Mourinho's credentials in this area are being seriously questioned for the first time in his career. How he answers will go a long way toward determining his longevity at the top level.


Loser: Hugo Lloris

Speaking of answers, Mourinho deserves a few from Lloris after the veteran stopper let Spurs down in Germany. The 33-year-old reacted weakly when trying to keep out Sabitzer's low shot into the bottom corner on 10 minutes.

Lloris had got down in time to rebuff the shot, but he wasn't strong enough to claw it away. It was a similar story when Sabitzer connected with a header from close range 11 minutes later.

Lloris' struggles are symptomatic of how hard Mourinho has found it to restore some defensive solidity at Tottenham. Loading up the backline with extra numbers hasn't worked, while the Spurs' midfield lacks the aggression and positional awareness to provide a formidable screen.

Those deficiencies mean Lloris is being left to deal with more shots than he should be facing. His meagre response was contrasted sharply by Peter Gulacsi's comfortable time in the Leipzig goal during the tie:

Lloris is still a fine keeper, but he must get better help from those in front of him if he's going to return to his best.


Winner: Angelino

A cursory look at Angelino's nomadic last few months would apparently reveal a player whose career is in transition. He began the season returning to City after the Manchester club exercised a buyback clause to whisk him away from the Netherlands.

Benjamin Mendy's erratic form, combined with an injury to Oleksandr Zinchenko, seemed to make City's starting left-back berth Angelino's to lose. Yet, despite some solid performances, Pep Guardiola was obviously not convinced, and he let the 23-year-old move to Leipzig until the end of the campaign.

Not only does it look like a misstep from defensively short City, Angelino's move also resembles a transfer masterstroke by Leipzig. He bossed Spurs on the left with pace, relentless energy, flair and vision.

His most tangible contributions came when he helped tee up two goals for the hosts. The assist for Sabitzer's second capped a terrific first half for the athletic defender:

Angelino continued to terrorise Serge Aurier and Tottenham's right flank after the break. Playing in Emil Forsberg to score Leipzig's third was a fitting way to end a performance that should convince Guardiola he'll need Angelino full-time next season.


Winner: Josip Ilicic

It's hard to think of another marquee talent who has hovered under the radar of top clubs as long as Ilicic. Closer to the end of his career than its prime, the former Palermo and Fiorentina forward has matured into the leading light of an enterprising Atalanta team.

Ilicic underlined his status with a superb, four-goal salvo to see off Los Che's spirited attempt to come back from a 4-1 deficit after the first leg. Valencia had plenty of cutting edge thanks to striker Kevin Gameiro, but Ilicic's touch, acceleration and shooting power made the difference.

The quartet of goals took him to five in this tournament and 21 overall across all competitions so far this season. There's a strong chance Ilicic will pad his tally in a team loaded with match-winners and end product in the final third.

Making a cerebral schemer like Ilicic his conductor-in-chief is further proof of how Gian Piero Gasperini is doing things differently. Most Italian teams are known for their pragmatism, but Gasperini has pieced together a group of free-flowing entertainers no other side will relish being drawn against in the last eight.


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