Mourinho's men march on as Vinicius, Lo Celso secure first-place finish

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Tottenham sealed top spot in UEFA Europa League Group J as second-half goals from Carlos Vinicius and Giovani Lo Celso helped Jose Mourinho's side to a 2-0 win over Royal Antwerp on Friday (AEDT).

Premier League leaders Spurs lost the reverse fixture 1-0 in October - their only group defeat - and needed a win in front of their 2,000 fans to usurp Antwerp, who had also already booked a last-32 spot.

The visitors more than held their own in a first half devoid of any real action but Vinicius tapped in with 56 minutes played after Gareth Bale's sublime free-kick hit the post and landed at the Brazilian forward's feet.

Son Heung-min and Harry Kane were introduced at that point and the latter played in Lo Celso for the second to ensure Tottenham will be among the seeded sides for Monday's draw.

Alireza Beiranvand kept out long-range efforts from Vinicius and Lo Celso, either side of Cristian Benavente's angled shot being blocked by Davinson Sanchez.

Visiting keeper Beiranvand was called into action again late in a balanced first half as he closed the angle to deny Vinicius after the forward was played in by Lucas Moura.

But the half-time introduction of Steven Bergwijn for Sergio Reguilon and a switch to a four-man defence gave Tottenham more control and they were soon in front.

Bale's dipping free-kick from more than 30 yards out was pushed onto the post by Beiranvand and Vinicius reacted quickest to the loose ball.

Substitutes Son and Kane went close to doubling Tottenham's tally but there was to be no denying Lo Celso, who took Kane's pass in his stride and calmly picked out the bottom-left corner with an outside-of-the-boot finish.

That was the 27th goal Kane has been directly involved in for Tottenham this season - more than he recorded in 34 games in 2019-20 - and he would have added another goal to his collection had he not slipped when shooting late on.


What does it mean? Spurs avenge Belgian beating

Mourinho made four half-time changes in the reverse meeting as his side produced their sloppiest display of the campaign.

It was somewhat ironic, then, that the introduction of Bergwijn midway through - one of those hooked six weeks ago - helped turn the game in Tottenham's favour today.

The performance may not have been pretty, with Spurs seeing just 44 per cent of the ball, but they picked up the win they needed to overtake Antwerp into top spot.

Vini-three-us

The back-up striker has had to largely settle for appearances in the Europa League since arriving in the close season but he is slowly making his mark.

His strike today, from one of three shots on target, makes it three goals and three assists in his first three appearances in the competition at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

No room for Alli

Like Vinicius, Dele Alli has also had to do his talking in the cup competitions but he was left out of Tottenham's starting XI here despite Mourinho making nine changes.

Mourinho made all five of his subs with 22 minutes still to play and a frustrated Alli headed for the tunnel at that point.

Spurs certainly did not lack in terms of creativity in Alli's absence during a far improved second-half showing, getting six shots on target and scoring from two of them.

Key Opta facts:

- Spurs have recorded six consecutive home wins in all competitions for the first time since December 2018.

- 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.

- Jose Mourinho has won 18 of his last 19 home matches in games played on a Thursday (D1), winning all five with Tottenham.

- Spurs have won 15 of their 18 home UEFA Europa League group stage matches (D2 L1).
 

What's next?

Tottenham return to Premier League action with a trip to London rivals Crystal Palace on Sunday, the same day that Antwerp host Club Brugge in the Belgian First Division A.

Source Omnisport