Tottenham’s decision to switch managers reaped instant rewards as Jose Mourinho got off to a winning start in his highly anticipated fourth coaching stint in the English Premier League.
How long before a slew of other teams — including Tottenham’s north London neighbor, Arsenal — opt to make a coaching change, too?
Hours after Tottenham beat West Ham 3-2 in Mourinho’s first match in charge since replacing Mauricio Pochettino, Arsenal needed an injury-time goal to salvage a 2-2 draw at home to relegation candidate Southampton. It’s just one victory in its last seven matches for Arsenal in the league and boos rang around Emirates Stadium at the final whistle, directed as much at manager Unai Emery as his underperforming players.
Then there’s Everton manager Marco Silva, who is also under mounting pressure after his team lost 2-0 at home to Norwich, which started the game in last place. Languishing in 15th place despite a benign run of fixtures to start the season, Everton has a grueling schedule for the next two months — including matches against second-placed Leicester (twice), Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City.
And what about West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini, vanquished by Mourinho and overseeing a team that has collected just two points from the last seven games to plummet to 16th place? West Ham has conceded three goals for three straight games and its jittery goalkeeper, Roberto, received sarcastic cheers from his own fans every time he collected the ball without making a mistake.
Tottenham has none of these concerns now, having boldly decided to cut ties with Pochettino this week and bring in Mourinho after nearly a year out of coaching.
Portraying himself as humble and emotionally strong after his turbulent last spell at Manchester United, Mourinho hugged his new players and kept a respectful distance from the travelling Spurs fans while he celebrated a win earned by goals from Son Heung-min, Lucas Moura, and Harry Kane in a 13-minute spell around halftime.
“Today I was where I belong,” Mourinho said. “That's my natural habitat. Was I extra emotional? No. Was I nervous? No. But I just love it, especially when things go in your direction. Of course, the best thing in football is to win matches.”
That’s something Liverpool cannot stop doing. It’s 12 wins in 13 for the leader after it beat Crystal Palace 2-1, courtesy of a late goal in a campaign full of them, to maintain its eight-point lead.
There were also wins for Leicester, 2-0 at Brighton, and Manchester City, which defeated Chelsea 2-1 to climb above its beaten opponent into third.
REDS LEAVE IT LATE
Roberto Firmino was the late match-winner for Liverpool this time, the Brazil striker lashing home a close-range finish in the 85th minute to secure a victory that didn’t look like coming at times.
"Could we have played better? Yes, but we had players on the pitch who on Thursday morning were still on a plane,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said in reference to the recent international break.
Wilfried Zaha equalized in the 82nd for Palace with his first goal of the season after Sadio Mane's opener for Liverpool in the 49th.
Liverpool extended its unbeaten run in the division to 30 games.
Jamie Vardy scored for a fifth straight game to guide Leicester to a sixth straight win in all competitions — but his latest goal had a hint of controversy about it.
Leicester was already 1-0 up through Ayoze Perez when VAR came to prominence in the 80th after substitute Demarai Gray was adjudged to have been fouled in the area. After a VAR review, referee Mike Dean awarded Leicester a penalty, Vardy’s attempt was saved and James Maddison headed in the rebound.
VAR intervened again, saying there had been encroachment by Maddison and Brighton players, and the decision was made to retake the penalty. Vardy made no mistake for his league-leading 12th goal.
Man City avoided slipping 12 points behind Liverpool by coming from behind to beat Chelsea in an end-to-end encounter at Etihad Stadium.
N’Golo Kante gave Chelsea the lead in the 21st minute but that was canceled out by Kevin De Bruyne’s deflected effort in the 29th. Riyad Mahrez cut inside from the right and fired a low shot into the corner for the winning goal in the 37th.
Raheem Sterling had an injury-time goal for City ruled out by VAR for a marginal offside.
WINS FOR WOLVES, BURNLEY
Wolverhampton beat 10-man Bournemouth 2-1 to climb to fifth place and make it eight games unbeaten in the league.
Burnley won 3-0 at Watford, which returns to the bottom of the standings.
Steve Douglas is at www.twtter.com/sdouglas80