Jose Mourinho fumes as Spurs fringe players fail to fire in lacklustre defeat against Antwerp

“I tried to improve the situation, but it was not enough,” he explained afterwards. “The

“I tried to improve the situation, but it was not enough,” he explained afterwards. “The dynamic of the first half was still there. In the end, Antwerp got what they deserved and we got what we deserved.”

Indeed, the purpose of wholesale change was almost immediately undermined after a poor back pass by Winks sent Refaelov charging in on goal once more. A brilliant sliding tackle from Davinson Sanchez saved the blushes. Moments later Miyoshi got in behind yet again and somehow Mbokani spooned his invitation of a cross over the crossbar from no more than a yard out. The other wing back Juklerod then obliged Lloris to save sharply.

At which point, Mourinho had seen enough and sent on Harry Kane to replace the wholly peripheral Bale. But even the appearance of the team’s talisman could not alter the game’s trajectory. Sure, propelled by Hojbjerg’s forward passes, chances began to appear. Lamela found Son with a cross, but Abdoulaye Seck superbly closed him down even as he shot goalwards. Serge Aurier’s searching cross was then missed by a diving Lamela.

And, as Antwerp pressed and squeezed, insistently closing down the space in which Spurs could operate, the break was always on. Indeed, Juklerod should have scored after barrelling through from the halfway line. Instead, he hammered the ball into an empty stand. And the substitute Birger Verstraete required a combination of Davies and Sanchez to keep him out as he eased towards goal.

Even as a burst of fireworks exploded in premature celebration behind a stand, the refashioned Spurs tried to restore the natural order. As time ran out, Winks danced through, but fired over, the outstanding De Laet somehow got in the way of a goal-bound Son shot, while Seck threw several parts of his body in front of Kane’s effort. So it was that Antwerp stayed resolute, their red wall defence refusing to yield, to secure a famous victory.

For Spurs it was not a defeat terminal to their chances of progress; they have sufficient remaining fixtures in this competition easily to get back on track. But it may signal the end of some of Mourinho’s fringe players featuring getting another start.

“You know what our best team is,” the manager said, when asked who might be playing in the game against Brighton on Sunday. “I like to think that the players deserve an opportunity, we have a big squad, it is my responsibility to give them opportunity. But it is also their responsibility to catch the chance with both hands. You always ask me why this player or that player is not playing. Now maybe you know the answer. After tonight my future choices are going to be very easy.”

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