José Mourinho criticised his Tottenham players for a lack of mental toughness after they drew 3-3 in a wild derby with West Ham, having led 3-0 in the 82nd minute.
The Spurs manager brought on Gareth Bale in the 72nd minute for his second debut for the club after his return on loan from Real Madrid and the forward would miss a clear chance to kill the game at 3-2. It was left instead to the West Ham substitute Manuel Lanzini to score a screaming 94th-minute equaliser that sent his manager, David Moyes, cavorting on to the pitch in celebration.
Mourinho said: “It was exactly when we were in control that we conceded the first goal and their belief went up. My guys were not strong enough to cope with it psychologically and in the last few seconds we lost two points. I have to analyse the second half and I have to do it internally but for you I prefer to say that football happened and praise West Ham’s belief.
“It is not easy to be losing 3-0 and be dominated, to keep the belief. I knew they are a different team to last season, but to lose an advantage of three goals is a big punishment and eventually [it was] deserved. We should be stronger. In the second half West Ham risked quite a lot, pressing up and they gave us more space. We should get an occasion to win the game.”
Mourinho denied the Bale sideshow had somehow distracted his players and he also steered away from saying that complacency had undermined them, particularly after a fast start that took them 3-0 up after 16 minutes. Son Heung-min scored one and Harry Kane two. A Fabián Balbuena header and an own goal from Davinson Sánchez sparked the extraordinary West Ham fightback.
“The decision not to start Bale was a good one,” Mourinho said. “A decision to show that he doesn’t have a beautiful chair waiting for him in the team and he sits there the first time he can.
“It was a message to the team that everybody has to fight for positions. The focus was not on him. The focus was on the game. It’s a pity that he couldn’t score that fourth goal which would have been a beauty.”
Moyes felt that despite the poor start, West Ham had shown flickers of their intent in the first half and the “hardest decision at half-time was not to make any decisions”. He did not make his substitutions until later, with Lanzini’s introduction on 77 minutes paying the richest of dividends.
“We were causing some trouble but not enough trouble,” Moyes said. “I just said to the players at half-time that we had played well and to keep going.
“I’ve seen my celebrations back and all the players are laughing at me. A David Pleat moment came to mind. I know someone else who has run and slid down the touchline so I wasn’t going to copy that. It’s a big result and one of those moments that you don’t often get in football.”