Jose Mourinho described Dele Alli as a “team player” after the out-of-favour playmaker’s performance helped Tottenham to the brink of qualification for the Europa League knockout stage thanks to a 4-0 win against Ludogorets.
Alli shone in a Spurs team that repeated the dominance they displayed in the 3-1 win in Bulgaria three weeks ago to move within a point of reaching the competition’s last 32.
Carlos Vinicius translated his side’s superiority into two goals before half-time – his first for the club.
The Brazilian, on a season-long loan from Benfica, got his second thanks to Alli’s selfless pass across goal when he could easily have shot himself.
It was Alli’s first appearance for Spurs since he was taken off at half-time in the 1-0 defeat by Royal Antwerp on 26 October.
Mourinho said: “He could try to score but for Vinicius it was an easy goal. A team player does that, no risk and 2-0. It does not surprise me that 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 more goals.
“We became a little bit more passive and we never really felt the threat of a possible goal. We let it go down a little bit.”
The Premier League leaders, tied on nine points at the top of Group J but second to Antwerp due to an inferior head-to-head record, can seal qualification with a draw away to Austrian side LASK next Thursday.
Harry Winks added a third from 50 yards – although afterwards admitted he was trying to pass to Gareth Bale rather than shoot – as he caught out Ludogorets keeper Plamen Iliev midway through the second half.
Vinicius then turned provider for compatriot Lucas Moura to wrap up a handsome victory.
- Reaction to Tottenham v Ludogorets plus the rest of Thursday’s Europa League action
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Only Tanguy Ndombele retained his starting place from Saturday’s victory over Manchester City, with Mourinho opting to rest key players before Sunday’s Premier League meeting with third-placed Chelsea.
It was a fifth straight win for Spurs, whose shock defeat by Antwerp – their opponents in the final group game – is their only defeat in 16 matches in all competitions.
Alli determined to prove point
Alli and Vinicius were two of four players substituted after 45 minutes in the defeat by Antwerp, but both impressed on this occasion – albeit against limited opposition.
Prior to Thursday’s match, Alli had twice been replaced at half-time in his three starts this season but the 24-year-old showed glimpses of his old self in an instrumental display.
It was Alli’s through-ball, intended for Bale, which was deflected into the path of Vinicius for Spurs’ 16th-minute breakthrough.
The England playmaker then nudged the ball into Vinicius’ path for the Brazilian striker’s second after he followed up Ndombele’s saved shot.
The former MK Dons player continued to work hard until his 81st-minute substitution, wrestling back possession and finding the lively Vinicius to set up Moura’s fourth.
It was a step in the right direction for Alli who, having been linked with a move from Spurs over the summer, has cut a peripheral figure this term.
But with 10 games in 32 days to come for Spurs before the end of the year, this performance may persuade Mourinho he can rely on Alli for the challenges ahead.
Spurs maintain momentum
Mourinho spoke of Tottenham’s ongoing “evolution” following their statement win against Pep Guardiola’s City – but insisted his side are not fighting to win the Premier League despite being top of the table this far into a top-flight season for the first time since 1985.
Try as he might to quell talk of a title challenge, the fact Tottenham are in pole position with close to a quarter of such an unpredictable campaign gone cannot be disregarded.
The straightforward win against Ludogorets was the latest suggestion – a year on from the sacking of Mauricio Pochettino – that Mourinho’s in-form side are in contention to end a 12-year trophy drought.
Should success not arrive domestically, the squad depth demonstrated by Thursday’s 10 changes suggests the Europa League – which Mourinho won with Manchester United in 2017 – offers a realistic route to silverware.
With the result decided, 16-year-old Dane Scarlett came on as a substitute to become Spurs’ youngest player in a competitive game and twice went close to scoring a debut goal as Spurs brought the last 32 firmly in sight.
Spurs’ best run for two years – the stats
- Tottenham have won five consecutive matches in all competitions for the first time since a run of six under Mauricio Pochettino in November 2018.
- Mourinho’s side have kept three consecutive clean sheets for the first time since April 2019.
- Spurs have scored in 25 of their 26 home matches in the Europa League since the competition’s rebranding in 2009-10.
- Carlos Vinicius’ first goals for Spurs arrived in his fifth appearance for the club in all competitions. He has been involved in five goals in four European games for Tottenham.
- Harry Winks’ goal came from a distance of 53.7 yards – only two goals have been scored from further out in the Europa League since 2009-10 (Jordi Gomez for Omonia Nicosia against PSV (61.2 yards) and Kemar Roofe for Rangers against Standard Liege (55.4 yards) – both in October of this year).
Tottenham are away to Chelsea on Sunday at 16:30 GMT, before travelling to LASK in their penultimate Europa League group game next Thursday (17:55).
- 12HartSubstituted forWhitemanat 82′minutes
- 6D Sánchez
- 28NdombeleBooked at 52minsSubstituted forHøjbjergat 61′minutesBooked at 90mins
- 9BaleSubstituted forClarkeat 68′minutes
- 20AlliSubstituted forWhiteat 82′minutes
- 27Lucas MouraSubstituted forScarlettat 82′minutes
- 45Alves Morais
- 7Son Heung-Min
- 11DespodovBooked at 43minsSubstituted forTekpeteyat 64′minutes
- 12AndrianantenainaSubstituted forOliveira Souzaat 68′minutes
- 25BadjiSubstituted forYordanovat 89′minutes
- 64YankovSubstituted forMitkovat 90′minutes
- 28KeseruBooked at 6minsSubstituted forTchibotaat 68′minutes
- 32Gonçalves Leal Sá
- 95Oliveira Souza
- Giorgi Kruashvili
Match ends, Tottenham Hotspur 4, Ludogorets Razgrad 0.
Second Half ends, Tottenham Hotspur 4, Ludogorets Razgrad 0.
Ben Davies (Tottenham Hotspur) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Dimitar Mitkov (Ludogorets Razgrad).
Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (Tottenham Hotspur) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (Tottenham Hotspur).
Ivan Yordanov (Ludogorets Razgrad) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Substitution, Ludogorets Razgrad. Dimitar Mitkov replaces Dominik Yankov.
Substitution, Ludogorets Razgrad. Ivan Yordanov replaces Stéphane Badji.
Attempt missed. Harvey White (Tottenham Hotspur) left footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Dane Scarlett.
Attempt saved. Dane Scarlett (Tottenham Hotspur) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Harry Winks with a through ball.
Corner, Ludogorets Razgrad. Conceded by Davinson Sánchez.
Substitution, Tottenham Hotspur. Dane Scarlett replaces Lucas Moura.
Substitution, Tottenham Hotspur. Harvey White replaces Dele Alli.
Substitution, Tottenham Hotspur. Alfie Whiteman replaces Joe Hart.
Foul by Jack Clarke (Tottenham Hotspur).
Anton Nedyalkov (Ludogorets Razgrad) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt missed. Harry Winks (Tottenham Hotspur) right footed shot from outside the box is too high. Assisted by Jack Clarke.
Foul by Carlos Vinicius (Tottenham Hotspur).
Cauly (Ludogorets Razgrad) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
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