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Mourinho: we controlled Arsenal threat

Tottenham 2-1 Arsenal

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DERBY THRILLS: Tottenham Hotspur’s Toby Alderweireld celebrates scoring his side’s second goal with Harry Winks

DERBY THRILLS: Tottenham Hotspur’s Toby Alderweireld celebrates scoring his side’s second goal with Harry Winks

REUTERS

DERBY THRILLS: Tottenham Hotspur’s Toby Alderweireld celebrates scoring his side’s second goal with Harry Winks

Jose Mourinho hailed Tottenham for successfully adapting to their tactical switch as they edged to a hard-fought 2-1 victory against arch rivals Arsenal.

In his first north London derby since arriving at the club last November, the Portuguese manager saw his side come from behind to claim the three points which saw them leapfrog the Gunners in the Premier League table and into eighth.

Eighth position could seal a place in Europe's second-tier competition if Manchester City's ban is not overturned today - and back in the race to finish seventh.

Some have speculated as to whether it would benefit Spurs not to be involved in European competition at all next season, but Mourinho wants the chance to win it for a third time.

"I would love to play Europa League," he said. "It is not a competition I am in love with, it is not a competition that I like very, very much to play, but when you cannot play the Champions League, you play the Europa League.

"In my career I have only played the Europa League twice and I have won it twice. It would not be bad to play a third time and win it a third time. We have to fight until the end to finish in a Europa League place. If you ask (six-time Formula One world champion) Lewis Hamilton if he wants to win Formula Two, I don't think it will be a great deal for him, but it is a competition and I prefer to play Europa League than to not play.

"I think we should do everything possible to play Europa League next season and we have to fight for that."

Alexandre Lacazette fired Arsenal into a 16th-minute lead but their advantage lasted less than three minutes as Son Heung-min capitalised on a slack Sead Kolasinac pass to equalise.

The visitors dictated possession in the second half, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang rattling the crossbar, before Toby Alderweireld won it for Spurs when he headed home Son's inviting corner with nine minutes remaining.

Mourinho, who adopted a 4-4-2 formation, hailed how his side "controlled" Arsenal.

The Tottenham manager said: "I think the game was more tactical than anything.

"To be honest I think Mikel (Arteta) found a way for them to play, to be stable and to improve - they are improving and we felt that we should adapt slightly to them and I think we did it very well.

"Because how many times (Arsenal full-backs Kieran) Tierney and (Hector) Bellerin normally reach the last third and how well they were controlled today. I think they were very controlled at that level."

Mourinho added: "Even in the first period of the second half when they had more of the ball and they were more in our half, we were quite comfortable in that situation.

"I think also the two midfielders, they did a great job and then we found our chances and great spirit, (that) really helped. I think during the game nobody thought about it, even myself I didn't, but Arsenal had 48 hours more than us to rest, so it was hard but come from their hearts this effort, this battle.

"Even in the last minutes of the game after 2-1, zero problems, everything under control so we are happy."

Match-winner Alderweireld believes Spurs had a little bit of luck to secure victory in a very different maiden north London derby at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

The defender spoke about the importance of the three points: "I think it's massive for us. I think we really wanted to win this game. You know it's difficult without the fans - a totally different atmosphere - but I think we did everything that we could. I think we did have a little bit of luck to get three points."

When asked what was luck, he added: "I think with the goal, because against Bournemouth, you missed a little bit of luck to get the last pass, so I think today we had the little bit of luck to get the 2-1."

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta was proud of his players despite the defeat. The Gunners boss said: "We are really, really sad. We wanted to do it for our fans, for glory and happiness. We tried our best.

"I am really proud of our players, to play the way we played. I have never seen them before dominating the opponent and nullify them as much as I've seen today. But we gave them a goal again and we conceded a set-piece and, at this level, you cannot do it."