Heading into the knockout stage of the UEFA Europa League, Tottenham Hotspur were in desperate need of a turnaround. Last week was brutal for Jose Mourinho’s men: they were knocked out of the FA Cup in a scoring frenzy vs. Everton, and were embarrassed by Manchester City over the weekend.
The most recent stretch of games had clearly exhausted Spurs, so a five-day break was much needed. Fans wondered if they’d get back on track against Wolfsberger AC in the first leg of their round of 32 contest. The answer? A definitive yes.
The Austrian club was no match for Spurs, who cruised to a 4-1 victory behind strong performances from several maligned players. In particular, Dele Alli and Gareth Bale made an immense impact in the first half. Both played with confidence and class, traits one would expect out of players of their caliber.
In the 13th minute, Heung-Min Son headed home a bullet cross from Bale to put Spurs on top. 15 minutes later, Bale fired home from close-range after a Ronaldo-esque chop sent a Wolfsberg defender sliding past.
It was a brilliant individual effort from the Welshman. Not to be outdone, Lucas Moura scored in the 34th minute after a blistering run past four Wolfsberg defenders. This stretch in the first half was as good as Spurs have looked in 2021.
Credit to Wolfsberg, they played with tremendous heart in the second half and refused to go quietly into the night. In the 55th minute, captain Michael Liendl scored a penalty after a clumsy challenge by Moussa Sissoko; the Frenchman had a tough night overall. 13 minutes later, Wolfsberg hit the crossbar after a stretch of sloppy play by Spurs.
In the end, super-sub Carlos Vinícius scored in the 88th minute to put the game comfortably out of reach. Despite the heart-in-your-mouth moments in the second half, it was overall a fantastic performance for Spurs. The two clubs will finish up their round of 32 contest next Wednesday; if Spurs take care of business like they did today, they should be comfortably through to the next round of the Europa League.
Next up: This Sunday, a Premier League London Derby against West Ham United. The Irons currently sit fifth in the table, but Spurs will want revenge for earlier this season: they famously allowed three goals in the final 10 minutes for a shocking draw.
A win could see Spurs climb as high as seventh in the Premier League, so it’s imperative they get off to a strong start.