Football

Giovani Lo Celso and Erik Lamela compared to Tottenham Hotspur greats

Jose Mourinho likened Giovani Lo Celso and Erik Lamela to Tottenham Hotspur's former FA Cup heroes as the Argentines combined to send his side past Middlesbrough at the second time of asking yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Paired together for the first time since Mourinho took charge in November, they were both on target within the opening 15 minutes as Spurs won the third-round replay 2-1.

The lively Lo Celso, 23, produced a cool finish after two minutes to open the scoring and Lamela, 27, did the same 13 minutes later for his fourth goal of the season.

Both impressed as second-half substitutes in Tottenham's 1-0 home defeat by English Premier League leaders Liverpool last Saturday and they provided the out-of-form hosts with some much-needed spark to get past Boro and set up a fourth-round tie away to Southampton.

Older Spurs fans could be forgiven for going all misty-eyed about Osvaldo Ardiles and Ricardo Villa, the Argentinian duo who shook up English football when they arrived to a ticker-tape welcome at White Hart Lane in 1978.

Ardiles was one of Tottenham's greatest foreign signings while Villa famously scored a solo winner in the 1981 FA Cup final replay against Manchester City, which Spurs won 3-2.

Lamela and Lo Celso have a long way to go to win the kind of adulation Ardiles and Villa enjoyed, but inspiring Spurs to a first FA Cup title since 1991 would do the trick.

"They played very well. I don't think (Osvaldo) Ardiles and Villa would have been ashamed at all," said Mourinho, who started the game with five South Americans on the pitch.

"They played well. The team played well. There were some sloppy passes in the second half."

While attacking midfielder Lamela has made more than 200 appearances for Tottenham since signing from AS Roma in 2013, Lo Celso's loan spell from Real Betis has been frustrating, after he picked up an injury early in the season.

He is beginning to show the kind of form, however, that could convince Spurs to make his move permanent.

"Lamela was out for so long, he has been coming back step by step. Playing half an hour against Liverpool and 90 here. You could see his fitness is coming," Mourinho said.

"And Gio again has been step by step. He was so, so good against Liverpool and so, so good here again.

"I am happy with the boys. They played with intensity."

The form of Lamela and Lo Celso is timely for Tottenham with Danish playmaker Christian Eriksen, out of contract in June, reportedly close to signing for Inter Milan, although Paris Saint-Germain are said to have registered a late interest in the 27-year-old.

Eriksen played the full 90 minutes against Boro and Mourinho said he can "hold his head up high".

"He played very well. Very professional, which is what I expect from him," he said.

"If his decision is to leave, I think he has to leave with his head up.

"I think he did it for us today."

Next up for Spurs is Watford in the EPL on Saturday. - REUTERS

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