Tottenham might hope Gareth Bale had better things to do than watch this. They managed to extricate themselves from trouble against a limited Lokomotiv Plovdiv but only after the Bulgarian side had imploded when the finishing line was in sight.
When Martin Minchev scored with 18 minutes to play Spurs were facing humiliation and a season away from the European stage. Two sendings off, a Harry Kane penalty and a Tanguy Ndombele winner later, the situation had been salvaged and Bale’s imminent return could keep its leading role in the headlines.
In the end Spurs were fortunate not to join Iskra Danilovgrad, Spartak Trnava and OFK Belgrade among Lokomotiv’s scalps from the past two decades. They controlled most of the game but only carved open their opponents on two or three occasions before going for broke in the latter stages.Lokomotiv were down to nine men by the time Ndombele awkwardly prodded in a lay-off from his fellow substitute Lucas Moura and they had no resources to mount a response. The identity of the scorer did, at least, allow José Mourinho to eke a genuine note of optimism from the evening.
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