Jose Mourinho was pleased with the performances of out-of-favour duo Gareth Bale and Dele Alli as Tottenham all but put themselves into the next round of the Europa League on Thursday night. Spurs were 4-1 winners against Wolfsberger in the first leg of their last 32 clash.
On-loan attacker Bale made just his third start across all competitions in 2021 and produced a goal an and an assist from the right-hand side.
Alli played in his favoured No 10 role, making just his fourth appearance in the New Year, and while he did not directly contribute to a goal, served up an encouraging display.
The duo have struggled to assert themselves this season despite the fanfare around Bale’s return from Real Madrid on loan and Alli having been standout performer under Mauricio Pochettino.
But the England international has begun to feature again under Mourinho of late, having previously been frozen out, while Bale indicated here that he can still decide matches, scoring a sublime effort.
And Mourinho said of the attacking pair: “The objective here is to win, and i am looking to the team performance and not to individuals. This is not an exam for anyone. The Tottenham players are good enough to not be in exams.
“So we had the result, we had the team performance, and for the team to win and to perform is only possible when the team and the players they do their jobs. So, I believe so, I believe they were positive like the team was positive.
“I took Gareth off because I know that in this process it’s not so easy for him to play the 90 minutes, because the team at that time needs a little bit more freshness, which Lamela gave us.
And in Dele’s case, he worked hard, he got a yellow card, when you have a yellow card, and with the referee showing so easily yellow cards to us, it was always a risk.
“But he managed to stay on the pitch, and was also a little bit of Tanguy [Ndombele] because I thought that Tanguy would come fresh and unbalance things to our side again.
“So overall I’m happy with everyone, including the two players that you asked me.”
The Portuguese coach, who has come under pressure over his future of late with Spurs struggling in the Premier League and being dumped out of the FA Cup, even hinted Bale could start at West Ham this weekend.
“One of the reasons why he left the pitch by minute 65 was to try to have him available for the next match because one of the things that is not easy related to his condition is the accumulation of minutes,” Mourinho said of the Welshman.
“So by taking him off at that minute we managed to save him a few miles in his legs and probably, I know the match is Sunday at 12pm, but I believe he has a chance to play the match.
“Let’s wait, he is the kind of player that his experience, his feelings is a very important thing, like Harry Kane, we have to trust these players and their knowledge of their body and their feelings.
“I believe for him it was important for him to play but not play the 90 minutes.”
Tottenham put one foot into the last 16 of the Europa League thanks to their four-goal haul in Hungary’s Puskas Arena, where Liverpool were in Champions League action earlier in the week.
Son Heung-min, Bale and Lucas Moura had Spurs 3-0 up after just 34 minutes before Michael Liendl scored a penalty for the Austrian side.
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But Carlos Vinicius made it 4-1 off the bench late on as Spurs wrapped up a comprehensive win that makes them massive favourites to progress to the next stage.
They had to win without star striker Harry Kane due to injury but Mourinho is hopeful he will have his captain to call upon against the Hammers this weekend.
“I believe so,” he said when asked if Kane will be fit. “But he’s an experienced guy that had injuries in the past, he knows his body better than anyone.
“He knows I want him to play every minute of every game, it’s never a question of choice.
“I wanted to come here with the best team and the players that could give us more opportunities to win the game and get a good result, but he made the decision based on his feelings.
“His feelings were that to play this game could be a risk with the accumulation of minutes and the accumulation of minutes after the injury that he had.
“Of course myself and the medical department, we agreed with him in giving him this opportunity to take care of his condition, but I believe on Sunday he will be OK and ready.”
Spurs and Wolfsberger go head-to-head again next Wednesday (5pm) with the draw for the last 16 then taking place on Friday February 26.
Before the second leg, Spurs travel to West Ham this Sunday for a London derby clash that could be key to their top-four hopes (12pm).
Mourinho’s charges are ninth and six points off of fourth-placed Chelsea albeit having played one match less than Thomas Tuchel’s Blues.