Jose Mourinho described Dele Alli as a « team player » after the poor playmaker’s performance put Tottenham on the verge of qualifying for the Europa League knockout stage thanks to a 4-0 win over Ludogorets.
Alli shone on a Spurs team that repeated the dominance they showed in the 3-1 win in Bulgaria three weeks ago, to come within a point that reached the last 32 of the competition.
Carlos Vinicius translated his team’s superiority into two goals before the break – his first for the club.
The Brazilian, who was on loan from Benfica for a season, received his second thank you thanks to Alli’s selfless pass over the gate when he could easily have shot himself.
It was Alli’s first appearance for Spurs since he was at halftime in the 1-0 loss to Royal Antwerp on Jan.. October was sent off.
Mourinho said: « He could try to score but it was an easy goal for Vinicius. A team player does that, no risk and 2-0. I’m not surprised he did that.
« Dele was like the team. A very good first half. In the second half in the first 20 to 25 minutes they closed and tried not to concede any more goals.
« We have become a little more passive and have never really felt the danger of a possible target. We let it down a bit. «
The Premier League leaders, who are at the top of Group J with nine points, but are second to Antwerp due to an inferior head-to-head record, can qualify next Thursday with a draw against the seal the Austrian team LASK.
Harry Winks added a third from 50 yards – although he later admitted trying to pass on Gareth Bale instead of shooting – when he caught Ludogoret’s keeper Plamen Iliev midway through the second half.
Only Tanguy Ndombele retained his starting place after beating Manchester City on Saturday. Mourinho chose to rest key players ahead of Sunday’s Premier League meeting with third-placed Chelsea.
It was a fifth straight win for Spurs, whose shock loss to Antwerp – their opponents in the final group game – is their only loss in 16 games in all competitions.
Alli and Vinicius were two of four players substituted after 45 minutes in the Antwerp defeat, but both impressed on the occasion, albeit against limited opposition.
Before Thursday’s game, Alli had been substituted twice at half-time in his three season starts, but the 24-year-old showed glimpses of his old self in an instrumental game.
It was Alli’s pass for Bale that won Spurs’ breakthrough in the 16th. Minute was diverted on the way by Vinicius.
The English playmaker then nudged the ball in Vinicius’ path for the Brazilian striker’s second goal, after pursuing Ndombele’s saved shot.
The former MK Dons player worked until he moved to 81. Minute more hard, wrestling the ball back and found the lively Vinicius who set up Moura’s fourth place.
It was a step in the right direction for Alli, who, after being linked with a Spurs move that summer, has made a marginal figure in that tenure.
But with 10 games in 32 days for Spurs before the end of the year, that feat could convince Mourinho he can rely on Alli for the challenges ahead.
Mourinho spoke of Tottenham’s continued « development » after their win over Pep Guardiola’s City – but insisted that his side shouldn’t fight to win the Premier League, despite being at the top for the first time in a top season Table stands since 1985.
Try to stifle talk of a title challenge and the fact that Tottenham are in pole position with nearly a quarter of such an unpredictable campaign cannot be ignored.
The direct win over Ludogorets was the most recent suggestion – a year after Mauricio Pochettino’s sacking – that Mourinho’s formidable side would fight to end a 12-year trophy drought.
Should domestic success fail to materialize, the squad depth revealed by Thursday’s 10 changes suggests that the Europa League, which Mourinho won with Manchester United in 2017, offers a realistic path to cutlery.
With the result decided, 16-year-old Dane Scarlett became Spurs’ youngest player in a competitive game as a substitute and nearly scored a debut goal twice as Spurs put the final 32 firmly in sight.
Tottenham will be in Chelsea on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. GMT before traveling to LASK next Thursday (5:55 p.m.) for the penultimate group game of the Europa League. .
Missed attempt. Harvey White (Tottenham Hotspur) left footed shot from outside the box misses to the left. Prepared by Dane Scarlett.
attempt saved. Dane Scarlett (Tottenham Hotspur) right footed shot from the center of the box is saved in the lower left corner. Assisted by Harry Winks with a through ball.
Missed attempt. Harry Winks (Tottenham Hotspur) right-footed shot from outside the box is too high. Prepared by Jack Clarke.
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