Tottenham Hotspur are no strangers to Champions League miracles after the exploits in Amsterdam that took them to last season’s final – now they need another one to overcome RB Leipzig in this last 16 tie.
Jose Mourinho colourfully claimed Son Heung-min’s broken arm had left them weakened and like a man clinging perilously to a fourth-floor balcony by his fingertips.
It was an elaborate analogy to explain their current plight but this was a sobering night that may have fatally loosened Spurs’ grip on their Champions League campaign.
Hope will always spring eternal in Spurs’ hearts after the drama of their comeback against Ajax in the semi-final last May but cold reality dictates miracles rarely come along more than once.
And on this stodgy, negative evidence Mourinho will have to come up with something to justify his tag as “The Special One” to navigate a way into the quarter-final.
RB Leipzig, impressively organised and progressive under 32-year-old coach Julian Nagelsmann – the youngest to take charge of a Champions League knockout tie – deserved this victory and more given their domination.
First, Mourinho’s mitigating circumstances.
The loss of Son, added to the long-term absence of main striker Harry Kane, left Mourinho painfully short of strikers on the night Spurs paid tribute to arguably their greatest, Jimmy Greaves, on the eve of his 80th birthday.
Mourinho tried to find solutions, using Steven Bergwijn and Lucas Moura as his spearhead as Spurs improved slightly in the second half, but it was to no avail. This was a colourless, uninspired performance.
Yes, Spurs were lacking two world-class players in Son and Kane but this was an approach that lacked the ambition and passion usually associated with a game of this magnitude and by the time they raised a gallop Leipzig had grabbed control.
Indeed, if there is one silver lining among the clouds it is that the final scoreline could have been far more damaging and Spurs are actually still in with a chance despite their inferiority.
The good news for Spurs was that they only lost 1-0.
If you were being cruel you could call it a moral victory given how Leipzig carved Spurs open, only the heroic keeper Hugo Lloris keeping the scoreline within manageable proportions.
It was almost unbroken frustration from start to finish, with Leipzig actually creating four chances inside the first 90 seconds during which Lloris turned Angelino’s shot onto the post and blocked Timo Werner.
And if one image summed up the emotions, it was the sight of Dele Alli hurling his boot to the floor in fury after he was substituted for Erik Lamela in the 64th minute before sitting with an expression set in stone.
Mourinho can, and will, point to the key absentees Son and Kane but he still had creativity in this team in the shape of Lucas Moura, Bergwijn, Giovani lo Celso and new boy Gedson Fernandes.
Lo Celso was excellent, a stand-out performer, but Spurs failed dismally to get their most dangerous players into the game until it was too late.
It looked suspiciously like Mourinho was trying to snatch something as opposed to forcing the issue – now he has little choice when Spurs try to turn this tie around in Germany.
Leipzig dominated in all areas and were worth far more than this single goal victory. There may even be a measure of disappointment among their celebrations at the final whistle that this tie is not already put to bed.
Mourinho can tell a hard luck story about injuries, and he has been dealt a tough hand in a key area of his Spurs team, but this was a cautious, conservative gameplan that was in sharp contrast to this emerging RB Leipzig side.
It came as no surprise, given they are currently second behind Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga, but the manner in which they came out of the blocks and instantly dominated Spurs was startling.
Mourinho has manoeuvred Spurs into position to challenge for the top four with a crucial match at Chelsea on Saturday but this result and this tie may prove a task too far in the Champions League context.
He will not give anything up – why should he? – but Mourinho and his players must somehow summon up the spirit that saw them make an unlikely escape from their group last season before that glory night when a 2-0 goal deficit was turned around into a 3-2 victory against Ajax amid scenes of wild emotion and tears from then manager Mauricio Pochettino.
Has Mourinho got the wherewithal to fashion such a result? Have Spurs currently got the players to shape such a turnaround?
On this evidence it is very doubtful.
Mourinho does not have to throw caution to the winds – but he needs to at least open the window a little to give Spurs a chance.