The hasty exit spoke volumes. Jose Mourinho had no desire to spend a second longer than necessary on the touchline alongside his former player and now Chelsea manager Frank Lampard.
The 57-year-old — and it serves us well to be reminded of his age sometimes given the antics that are his trademark — disappeared down the tunnel in an embrace with a backroom staff member before the ball had come to rest on Mason Mount’s failed spot-kick, which handed Spurs a place in the Carabao Cup quarterfinals.
It wasn’t the first time Mourinho skipped a post-match handshake with Lampard, the Portuguese boss having headed for the tunnel following Spurs’ 2-1 defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in February. It also wasn’t a typical Mourinho smash-and-grab victory given Tottenham’s marked improvement in the second half, but there was a dogged element of this which had the mischievous Spurs coach at its core.
Tottenham spent the first 45 minutes camped on the edge of their own box in a back-five shape waiting to be beaten. Having been handed the initiative, Chelsea took control and scored through Timo Werner’s composed 19th-minute strike, firing home from the edge of the box after Cesar Azpilicueta’s cut-back.
There was more spark from Spurs in the dugout, as a break in play led to a heated touchline exchange in which Mourinho appeared the aggressor, complaining initially about Lampard’s outspokenness on the touchline.
“F—–g hell Frank, when you’re losing 3-0, you’re not standing up here,” he shouted in reference to Lampard’s sullen demeanour with his team losing heavily at West Brom last Saturday before coming back to draw.
The pair traded further barbs and hand-gestures before retreating to a gap more in keeping with social distancing guidelines. Both men played down the incident afterwards, but Lampard offered a telling assessment of why two long-time friends clashed in such an unexpected manner.
“We were having some fun on the touchline,” Lampard began. “I get on well with Jose. He said that to me, I commented on the fact that he seemed to speak to the referee more than he was speaking to his players.
“It was just a moment with us. I’ve got a huge amount of respect for Jose no matter what we say on the touchline. I think he was probably feeling the sense of the first half and how it was, but all was very well at the end of the game and that will never change.”
The sense was that Chelsea were far superior, something that would rankle Mourinho even given the mitigating circumstances of Tottenham’s frankly ludicrous fixture list that sees them back in this same stadium in less than 48 hours to face Maccabi Haifa in the final Europa League qualifying round.
Mourinho’s pre-match assertion that Spurs “had nobody” to play up front here was another pointed message to chairman Daniel Levy that his squad needs bolstering before Monday’s transfer deadline. Dele Alli’s omission in such circumstances appeared to have an equally significant subtext on the England international’s future with Spurs.
The FC crew can’t figure why Jose Mourinho had to chase after Eric Dier when Dier needed a bathroom break.
He may well look with a touch of envy at the kingdom which was once his, a Chelsea head coach enjoying the benefits of a £220 million spending spree and eyes on a Premier League title challenge.
The next few days are vital for Tottenham not to feel they are being left behind. Re-signing Gareth Bale on loan from Real Madrid helped to no end in that context, as will finding a way to beat their London rivals with the odds seemingly stacked against them.
“With Frank, the most important thing is my feelings to him,” said Mourinho, who has never beaten Lampard as a manager in four tries barring this shootout win. “It is more important than any words. My feelings to him are I will always owe him everything that he gave me. He gave me everything he had as a player and I never forget that, so my feelings towards him will be always feelings of how much I owe him for such an incredible player, friend and professional that he was.
“The only thing that I was telling him was an opinion of an old coach to a young, talented coach which was when the players need us, is when we are losing. When they are winning, we don’t need to be the protagonists of the touchline.
“Last match, when they were losing 3-0, I felt sorry for him because he was really, really sad and quiet in his chair. In terms of football, I have nothing to teach him, he knows football up and down. He is a fantastic coach. It was just an opinion: stay on the touchline when your team is losing and stay calm when your team is winning.”
Spurs improved after the restart and equalised six minutes from time, Erik Lamela profiting from some poor defending after Chelsea had been on top earlier in the game — precisely the pattern Lampard is trying to eradicate after falling in this manner last season.
Tottenham even overcame a bizarre incident when Eric Dier left the pitch for an emergency toilet break with Mourinho running down the tunnel after him shouting: “Eric!”
“With Eric you can imagine what happened, for him to leave the pitch,” Mourinho said. “I knew it, I was just pushing him to come back as soon as possible because [we had] no more changes and one player less.
“It was the consequence of something not human that he did, which was to play two matches completely dehydrated, tired, no energy in the muscles, completely dead. Of course, he is not playing Thursday because I would definitely kill him.”
Chelsea had battle scars, too. With the teams deciding on their penalty takers, Lampard walked over to Werner as he received treatment on the touchline. The forward informed Lampard he would not take a penalty and therefore was not one of the five takers. Mount missed the fifth and final spot-kick to give Mourinho the last laugh.
Whether he will enjoy that sense of preeminence over Chelsea and Lampard in the months ahead remains to be seen.
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