Last week, José Mourinho: “It’s not easy for him to last 90 minutes.” The imposing France international looked determined from the first minute, when he burst out of his own half and set up Lucas Moura with an inch-perfect pass, to make an impact in a game his coach described as the largest since his arrival at Tottenham in November 2019. After Son sealed victory, Tottenham beat Brentford to reach the Carabao Cup finalRead moreNdombele has become the pet project of Mourinho in recent months – and while England’s Dele Alli was on the sidelines – but his tough approach is obviously paying off as Tottenham can now prepare for their first domestic final since losing to Chelsea in this competition in 2015. In addition to the obvious talents of Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, the Spurs squad relies on the skills of a player who started his career in the third division of French soccer before transferring to Lyon just before he turned 19.
The task of Ndombele is normally to smash the lines in front of Moussa Sissoko and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg and feed the deadly pair of strikers.
In the opening stages of the game against Brentford, however, he was everywhere to be seen, winning the ball back on the edge of his own penalty area and turning up seconds later when a Tottenham attack came to nothing. Ndombele was the first to congratulate Sissoko, another Frenchman thriving under Mourinho, after he put Spurs ahead after a quarter of an hour. Formerly derided as a poor link in Tottenham’s midfield and the source of a second-minute penalty for Liverpool in the 2019 Champions League final, the 31-year-old Sissoko has an enthusiasm that his countryman can only dream of. Ndombele had been replaced in all but two of the games he had played for Spurs this season before last Tuesday night – 12 in the Premier League (the second most appearances behind Jarrod Bowen of West Ham with 15) and twice in the Europa League. The exceptions were the game against Shkendija in the qualifying round of the Europa League in September and the penalty shootout victory over Chelsea in that competition a week later. Mourinho was forced to apologize back in April after he was pictured working one-on-one with Ndombele at Hadley Common in Barnet, who came from Lyon for a record £ 55 million under Mauricio Pochettino.
For a while, it seemed likely that the Frenchman, after being publicly criticized by his boss, could leave the club after only one season. But after some impressive results, the pair have reconciled and his impact has grown.Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Brentford: semi-final Carabao Cup – how it happenedRead moreBut his manager has acknowledged that his strength needs to be strengthened by Ndombele. It was never going to be an easy night for Spurs against a midfield led by Josh Dasilva – a former Arsenal youth star – until his late red card for a careless foul on Højbjerg that left the Dane with a nasty graze on his shin.
In their ranks, Brentford had just one player with Premier League experience, Sergio Canós, who came on as a Liverpool substitute on the final day of the 2015/16 season.
But, unbeaten in their last 16 games in all competitions, the visitors fantasized their chances of pulling off an upset and making a major final for the first time after falling behind early. As Mourinho’s side set up the block, Ndombele sunk a little deeper, and the best chances for Brentford came from set-piece situations. After a corner kick created chaos in the Tottenham penalty area, only Ivan Toney’s knee prevented a deserved equalizer in the second half. A few minutes later, Ndombele had his big moment when Kane set him up behind the Brentford midfield and his straddling pass was perfect for Son, who scored the decisive goal. To everyone’s surprise, when Mourinho substituted Harry Winks and Ben Davies for Lucas Moura and Sergio Reguilón immediately after the second goal, the Frenchman remained on the pitch. The withdrawal of Højbjerg, as he felt the impact of Dasilva’s horror game, meant Ndombele was there until the end for once.