Sunday night’s Premier League clash at Villa Park took on added significance following Tottenham’s abject Europa League exit to Dinamo Zagreb on Thursday night, the result marking arguably the lowest point of Mourinho’s tenure at Spurs.
Mourinho demanded a response from his players after accusing some of lacking the right mentality for the job at hand, and made seven changes to his starting lineup for the trip to Villa.
Japhet Tanganga and Joe Rodon came into the back four, Giovani Lo Celso started in a wide role, with Carlos Vinicius starting up front with Harry Kane for the first time. Dane Scarlett and Alfie Devine, both 16, were also named among the substitutes as Mourinho warned his senior players he will turn to youth if required.
Spurs took the lead just before the half-hour mark with the first real chance of the game.
Vinicius’ chasing of a long ball prompted a poor clearance from Emiliano Martinez, and Lucas Moura – who was excellent throughout – played a one-two with Kane, resulting in the former teeing up Vinicius for a tap-in for his first Premier League goal.
Mourinho’s defence stood firm in the face of a spirited but blunt Villa side lacking the ingenuity of injured Jack Grealish, and Spurs doubled their lead midway through the second half.
Kane won and clinically dispatched a penalty having been fouled off a tired challenge from Matty Cash, and Spurs held on for a vital victory to boost Spurs’ European hopes and show that the players are still fighting for Mourinho.