Home Sports Football Tottenham 2 – 0 Royal Antwerp

Tottenham 2 – 0 Royal Antwerp

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Tottenham will be seeded in the draw for the last 32 of the Europa League after beating Royal Antwerp to leapfrog the Belgian side and win Group J.

Jose Mourinho took the opportunity to rest most of his first-choice XI, including in-form attacking pair Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, but the Premier League leaders still had too much for their opponents.

Gareth Bale and Carlos Vinicius combined for the opening goal with visiting goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand palming the former’s dipping, long-range free-kick on to the post before the latter followed up to finish into an empty net.

Prior to that, it had been a drab and largely shot-shy affair, barring a Giovani lo Celso shot from the edge of the box and an effort just inside it from Vinicius, both of which were saved.

Kane and Son were introduced to positive effect on the hour and it helped Spurs cement their grip on the game, with the England striker setting up Lo Celso to score a neat second.

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.

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.

There was an instant lift, 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.

-BBC

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