Jos Mourinho Took a Chance Playing Japhet Tanganga - But the Gamble Paid Off

Had you spoken to Tottenham fans before the game, not many would have heard of 20-year-old Japhet Tanganga.

But at about 4.30pm, an hour before Spurs kicked off against Liverpool, he was soon the talk of north London. 

Because Tanganga was not only included in the matchday squad to face Jurgen Klopp's runaway Reds train, he was thrust in from the start - where he would be tasked with the near-impossible job of containing Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Liverpool's standout player of the season thus far, Sadio Mané. 


The best player in the best strike force. Nothing too strenuous, then.

Sadio Mane,Japhet Tanganga

For months, managers up and down the country have been scratching their heads over the current Premier League enigma, 'how do you stop Liverpool'? 

Amazingly, only Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Manchester United has come up with an answer to that dilemma, grinding out a draw at Old Trafford.


So in true José Mourinho-style, the Portuguese decided to play a back five against the Reds - with the three centre-backs of Tanganga, Toby Alderweireld and Davinson Sanchez matching up man-to-man with Mané, Salah and Firmino. 


The Tottenham boss was brave, to say the least, in his decision to start young Tanganga, and it wouldn't take long to see what he was made of. His first involvement was nothing short of spectacular, as the 20-year-old produced a sensational block on the line to thwart Firmino - moments after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had twanged the post.

If Mourinho was courageous to pick Tanganga, the youngster matched his boss' nerve on the pitch. The centre-back kept his calm at the back, putting in countless blocks and interceptions throughout a tense first half. He was also comfortable in possession, occasionally marauding forward to relieve the pressure on his defensive teammates. 

Sadio Mane,Japhet Tanganga

When questioned over why he chose Saturday's clash as the right moment to deploy the young defender, Mourinho explained that Tanganga is "fast, he's very fast. We need fast people against Salah and Mané."


It's safe to say, Mourinho was not exaggerating, either. 


Tanganga could mark his forward tightly and scrap to win the first tackle, safe in the knowledge that he has the pace to fly back and recover the situation if Liverpool were to break away. The starlet defended manfully, denying ​Mané space to turn and he covered the right side of the Spurs defence with an air of authority.

Inevitably, Liverpool's breakthrough came towards the end of the first half, and Tanganga may feel he was slightly caught out by ​Firmino's quick feet. The Brazilian feigned a shot before shifting the ball onto his weaker left foot, and his young marker could only watch as the talented forward rifled the visitors into the lead. 

But to be undone by a moment of genius is no shame for any defender, even those with a wealth of experience. So Tanganga should not dwell on his momentarily lapse, even if it proved to be the decisive moment of the match.

If the ​Spurs academy star was frustrated or affected by the goal, then he did not show it at all. He continued to go toe-to-toe with Liverpool's star-studded forwards, and produced plenty of moments of composed defending as the Reds pushed to kill off the contest.

Tottenham put up a brave fight against the league leaders and they remained resolute until the very end, though they would ultimately come up shy.

Some Spurs fans may struggle to find the positives from such a defensive and uninspiring display, but there's no doubt that a gem has been unearthed  - and his name is Japhet Tanganga. 


Source : 90min