Goals from Harry Kane and Tanguy Ndolbele - and two red cards for Lokomotiv - rescued Spurs from the embarrassment of elimination, though not from the embarrassment of another execrable performance. They are through, but European knees are unlikely to be trembling.
Spurs were the better team in the first half, with Steven Bergwijn looking dangerous, but created very little, far too stodgy in midfield. And, if anything, they were even worse in the second half, rarely even looking like doing anything, and then on 71 minutes a well-worked corner routine saw them fall behind when Georgi Minchev powered home a header.
But just as elimination looked likely, Dinis Almeida handled Erik Lamela’s goal bound header, giving Spurs a penalty; he was sent off, and so was Bircent Karagaren, shown a second yellow card for arguing over who knows what in the repachage. Kane rammed home the penalty, then six minutes later, Spurs finally found an overload, Lucas Moura crossing for Tanguy Ndombele to tap home the winner. If they could only play against nine men every week, they’d be devastating.
Seriously, Jose? Picking two midfield lumps against the sixth-best team in Bulgaria is the absolute height of Mourinho, and sure enough, Spurs were pedestrian in that area, struggling to create despite an excellent forward line of Harry Kane, Heung-min Son and Steven Bergwijn. Yet despite a dreary first half, Mourinho opted to do nothing, and no one but him can have been surprised when the second was even worse.
Though his players found a way on this occasion, it is hard to see things changing very much in the grand scheme of things. He has the option of playing Dele Alli and Giovani Lo Celso as two attacking midfielders with, say, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg covering them, but there is perhaps no person in the world less pervious to change than yerman.
More likely, Mourinho tries to turn Kane into Didier Drogba, moving him deeper to pin defenders, hold the ball up and use his passing ability to set Son and Gareth Bale away, while he arrives on the edge of the box to pick up any pieces. And in some games, this will be enough, but it is far from the best use of the players available as Mourinho, once again, seeks to impose his implacable way of playing on a squad entirely unsuited to it.
Mourinho continues to refuse talking about Bale’s return to Tottenham
MAN OF THE MATCH
Erik Lamela (Spurs) The real answer to this is no one, but seeing as there has to be someone, Lamela gave Spurs a bit of impetus and it was his header that won the penalty.
Lokomotiv Plovdiv: Lukov 7, Petrovic 6, Masoero 6, Dinis Costa 4, Karagaren 7, Vitanov 6, Umarboev 5, Tsvetanov5, Iliev 6, Aralica 5. Subs: Ilic 7, Minchev 7, Mihaljevic 6.
Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris 6, Doherty 6, Sanchez 6, Dier 5, Davies 5, Hojbjerg 5, Sissoko 5, Lo Celso 6, Son 6, Kane 6, Bergwijn 7. Subs: Ndombele 7, Lamela 7, Lucas Moura 7.
Jose Mourinho has now won 100 games in European competition, in the process snaffling two Champions Leagues and two Europa Leagues.
Son Heung-Min of Tottenham Hotspur runs with the ball past Parvizdzhon Umarbaev of Lokomotiv Plovdiv during the UEFA Europa League second qualifying round match between Lokomotiv Plovdiv and Tottenham Hotspur at Stadion Lokomotiv Plovdiv
Image credit: Getty Images
42’ - Nice from Spurs, Sissoko into Bergwijn who turns around the corner for Son. His cross is low and towards the near post, but Kane can't quite get the purchase he needs to flick past Lukov.
45+2’ - Nice from Lokomotiv, Tsvetanov sliding a ball through for Karagaren, who has Sanchez all over him, but leaning away from goal, he does really well to direct a shot back the other way which flies not that far over the bar.
71’ - GOAL! Lokomotiv Plovdiv 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur (Minchev) Well! Dinis Costa swings the corner out towards the near post area where, peeling off, Iliev flicks on for Minchev, arriving onto the scene, to power a header past Lloris. What a substitution! And with only one leg to be played, they're some sensible defending away from eliminating Spurs!
77’ - Spurs win a corner and Kane jumps with the keeper, whose punch goes nowhere, so when the ball is knocked back across, Lamela powers a header goalwards ... which Dinis Costapunches away! PENALTY AND A RED CARD! PENALTY AND TWO RED CARDS! Karagen is shown a second yellow card, this time for mouth!
79’ - GOAL! Lokomotiv Plovdiv 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur (Kane pen) The keeper dives low to his left, so Kane roofs it in the opposite direction. Brilliant penalty.
85’ - GOAL! Lokomotiv Plovdiv 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur (Ndombele) Spurs move it as quickly as they shuold've been moving it all night, sending the ball wide to Moura, whose low cross is missed by Kane and tapped home by Ndombele. Check Mourinho with the magic substitution!