Giovani lo Celso was one of two players to keep their place in the Tottenham side from the win over Arsenal
Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho said it is impossible to keep his whole squad happy after a largely second-string Spurs side beat Royal Antwerp to progress to the Europa League last 32 as Group J winners.
Mourinho has stuck to a fairly consistent first XI in the Premier League this season, and has been rewarded by them leading the table with 11 games played.
However, he once again took the opportunity to rest players on Thursday, including in-form attacking pair Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, instead giving minutes to the likes of Gareth Bale, Carlos Vinicius and Harry Winks.
Some rose to the occasion, with Vinicius tapping in the opener after visiting goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand palmed Bale’s dipping, long-range free-kick on to the post.
Giovani lo Celso was the best player on the pitch, capping his display with a neat finish for the second, laid on by substitute Kane.
Others, though, endured a frustrating night, including Harry Winks, who departed down the tunnel straight after being substituted, and Dele Alli, who did not feature at all and also left the bench briefly after Mourinho had made his fifth and final change.
“I can’t keep the squad happy,” Mourinho told BT Sport. “I believe they are happy because we are winning but they’re not happy because they’re not playing.
“Every player that left the pitch I told them to go to the shower because it was cold. Some decided to go and some decided to stay.
“It’s an impossible job to keep every player happy and if you go to every club people who don’t play aren’t happy.”
On Alli in particular, he added: “Let’s not run away from reality. A player on the bench who realises all five subs have been used of course is not a happy player and I would not expect him to be happy.”
England midfielders Alli and Winks have started just four games each this season. The former’s last start in the Premier League was the first game of the season, while the latter’s was in September.
It was noticeable how much more energetic and dangerous Spurs were when Kane and Son were introduced, resulting in the second goal that sealed the win.
As group winners, Tottenham will be in the seeded pot for Monday’s draw, which should bring them a more favourable tie in the last 32. Antwerp join them as unseeded group runners-up.
Lo Celso stakes his claim
Antwerp beat a very lacklustre Spurs in the reverse fixture in October, in which Mourinho made four changes at half-time and voiced his displeasure about it afterwards, including in an Instagram picture of himself alone on the team bus.
Tottenham were better than that on Thursday, but only just in a dour first half that yielded few chances and little evidence that those on the periphery of the first team are deserving of a Premier League start.
Spurs’ second string were able to take the lead thanks to Vinicius’ third Tottenham goal, all of which have come in this competition, but it was telling that Mourinho turned to his attacking big guns almost immediately to ensure the win.
“The game is open, when I thought about the changes the result was 0-0 then we scored a goal but that didn’t change my mind,” said Mourinho.
“We needed a little bit more of routines which these players (Kane, Son and Tanguy Ndombele) have, and the intensity. They had the intensity because they play week in, week out.
“We managed to keep Antwerp away from our goal. Joe Hart didn’t make a single save. 0-0 at half time – I thought in the second half with bit of intensity they will collapse.
“It was a great free kick from Gareth Bale and a striker smelling the second ball to score. The decision was made. Harry is Harry and Sonny is intense.”
There was an instant lift from the substitutions, with Son drawing a good save from Beiranvand before Kane headed just wide from a corner.
Lo Celso ensured the win, capping a man-of-the-match display in which he was at the heart of much of the night’s positivity with a cool, prodded finish.
The Argentine started in the north London derby win over Arsenal at the weekend and deserves to retain his place when they visit Crystal Palace on Sunday (14:15 GMT), although playing 90 minutes here may count against him.
Many of the rest of this team are likely to have to wait for the last 32 in this competition, which takes place in February.
Kane leads assist league in Europe’s top leagues
- Tottenham’s Harry Kane has 13 assists in all competitions this season, the most of any player within Europe’s top-five leagues – three ahead of Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne with 10.
- Including qualifiers, Spurs have won seven of their nine European matches in 2020-21 (D1 L1).
- Spurs have recorded six consecutive home wins in all competitions for the first time since December 2018.
- In all competitions, Tottenham’s Harry Kane has been directly involved in more goals in 18 appearances this season (27 – 14 goals, 13 assists) than he was in 34 appearances in 2019-20 (26 – 24 goals, two assists).
- Carlos Vinicius has been directly involved in six goals in three Europa League appearances at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium (three goals, three assists).
- Jose Mourinho has won 18 of his past 19 home matches in games played on Thursday (D1), winning all five with Tottenham.
- Spurs have won 15 of their 18 home Europa League group-stage matches (D2 L1).
- 6D SánchezBooked at 86mins
Substituted forNdombeleat 59’minutes
- 18Lo Celso
Substituted forBergwijnat 45’minutes
Substituted forSon Heung-Minat 58’minutes
- 45Alves Morais
Substituted forKaneat 59’minutes
- 27Lucas Moura
Substituted forSissokoat 68’minutes
- 7Son Heung-Min
- 1Safar Beiranvand
- 30Ulineia Buta
- 4SeckBooked at 25mins
Substituted forVerstraeteat 72’minutes
- 94J Lukaku
Substituted forJuklerødat 59’minutes
Substituted forMiyoshiat 72’minutes
Substituted forBoyaat 59’minutes
Substituted forAmpomahat 45’minutesBooked at 77mins
- 2de Laet
Jesús Gil Manzano
- Match ends, Tottenham Hotspur 2, Royal Antwerp 0.
- Second Half ends, Tottenham Hotspur 2, Royal Antwerp 0.
- Attempt missed. Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur) right footed shot from the left side of the box misses to the right.
- Foul by Birger Verstraete (Royal Antwerp).
- Steven Bergwijn (Tottenham Hotspur) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
- Foul by Dylan Batubinsika (Royal Antwerp).
- Son Heung-Min (Tottenham Hotspur) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
- Davinson Sánchez (Tottenham Hotspur) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
- Cristian Benavente (Royal Antwerp) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
- Foul by Davinson Sánchez (Tottenham Hotspur).
- Attempt missed. Davinson Sánchez (Tottenham Hotspur) header from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Giovani Lo Celso with a cross following a corner.
- Corner, Tottenham Hotspur. Conceded by Birger Verstraete.
- Attempt missed. Davinson Sánchez (Tottenham Hotspur) header from the centre of the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Son Heung-Min following a set piece situation.
- Foul by Dylan Batubinsika (Royal Antwerp).
- Steven Bergwijn (Tottenham Hotspur) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
- Dylan Batubinsika (Royal Antwerp) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
- Foul by Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur).
- Nana Ampomah (Royal Antwerp) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
- Foul by Nana Ampomah (Royal Antwerp).
- Davinson Sánchez (Tottenham Hotspur) wins a free kick in the defensive half.