Shkendija 1 Tottenham 3: Harry Kane and Son Heung-min score again to spare Mourinho's blushes in Europa League qualifier
SON HEUNG-MIN spared Tottenham’s blushes with a second-half super show.
But you feel it is going to take much more than that to save Dele Alli’s Spurs career.
Boss Jose Mourinho recalled the out-of-sorts star for this Europa League third-round qualifier having axed him from his previous two squads.
And things did not go as Dele would have hoped as he was subbed after just 59 minutes as the Macedonian minnows threatened to pull off a shock win.
The kid once tipped to be the future of English football cut a dejected figure as he trudged off the pitch at the empty Tose Proeski Arena in Skopje.
After an 18-month slump he had been challenged by Mourinho to prove he was good enough to play for Tottenham.
It is safe to say that on this evidence, the jury is still out.
In fairness, he was no worse nor better than the rest of the Spurs players who failed to put this game to bed in the first hour – as Erik Lamela’s fifth-minute opener was cancelled out by Valmir Nafiu’s brilliant strike after the break.
But the fact Dele failed to make an impact against such inferior opponents – and was then one of the first to be subbed by Mourinho – tells you where the former MK Dons superkid is at right now.
No shortage of effort or determination, but confidence and quality were visibly in short supply.
The only crumb of comfort for Dele is that his replacement Harry Kane sealed victory by heading home Tottenham’s third from a cross by Son, who had enabled them to breathe a huge sigh of relief by firing them 2-1 up in the 70th minute.
The hosts might currently be leaders of the Macedonian top flight, but they are virtually unknowns outside of their own country.
So much so that Mourinho had to get a scouting report from his former Inter Milan striker Goran Pandev, whose own soccer school Akademija Pandev has a senior side in the same league.
Mourinho made six changes from Sunday’s 5-2 romp at Southampton.
Kane started on the bench, with Alli getting forward as often as possible to support Lamela and Son.
The South Korean followed up his four goals against the Saints by laying on Lamela’s quickfire opener.
The unmarked Argentinian controlled Son’s pass with his left foot before slotting home with his right to give the Londoners a perfect start.
They continued to dominate possession and Toby Alderweireld should have added another when he headed Son’s corner wide in the 26th minute.
Dele then missed an even better chance moments later when Serge Aurier’s volleyed cross fell at his feet just outside the six-yard box.
But the star failed to make a clean connection and his scuffed shot was blocked by keeper Kostadin Kahov.
Dele was far unluckier just before the break when his lung-bursting run from the halfway line to the edge of the box ended with his shot being deflected wide for a corner by defender Jan Krivak’s brilliant block.
Lamela had a shot saved after a brilliant solo run at the start of the second half – and would have later had a simple tap-in had he not lost the flight of Harry Winks ball to him unmarked in the box.
Tottenham were in complete control and Shkendija had even registered a shot on target before Nafiu levelled the scores in the 54th minute with a 20-yard thunderbolt into the roof of the net that gave debutant Joe Hart in the visitors’ goal no chance whatsoever.
Five minutes later Dele was making the dreaded walk to the touchline as he and Winks were replaced by Kane and Giovani Lo Celso.
When Kane and Lamela followed Son by missing gilt-edged close-range headers you feared it was not going to be Tottenham’s night.
But the North Londoners – following their last-gasp comeback at Lokomotiv Plovdiv last week – pulled off another late win as Son fired home the rebound after sub Lucas Moura’s powerful shot had been blocked.
Son then crossed for Kane to wrap up the win with a 79th-minute header to book a play-off clash at home to Maccabi Haifa on Thursday.
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