WHEN you have been on a bad run of results, confidence is low and your manager is coming under fire, this is the sort of team you want to be playing against.
Unfortunately for NS Mura, they found Tottenham harder to overcome than a trio of London Premier League clubs have done recently – although only just.
Two goals in the opening eight minutes – from Dele Alli and Giovani Lo Celso – should have enabled Spurs to coast to this Europa Conference League win and save under-fire boss Nuno Espirito Santo from any further criticism.
But Ziga Kous’ stunning reply for the Slovenian after the break made it harder work for the Londoners than it should have been.
In the end Nuno had to send on big guns Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and Lucas Moura to save himself and Spurs from any further embarrassment.
Luckily for the Portuguese it paid off as Kane hit a 19-minute hat-trick to give the scoreline a more respectable look.
The striker’s situation might look a bit rosier this morning, but his gaffer’s position is still not safe yet, despite this victory.
While Nuno could not afford to lose this match, it was one he was widely expected to win.
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This win in no way eases the pressure, which will be ramped up even further if his team fail to beat Aston Villa at home on Sunday.
Nuno, reeling after Prem losses to Crystal Palace, Chelsea and Arsenal, was always on a hiding to nothing with what many believed to be this nothing match in a stadium that was less than half full.
You could not blame their fans for not wanting to waste their petrol on travelling to see this clash against a club not even founded when Tottenham last lifted silverware in 2008.
Mura, like Spurs, have also been on the slide in recent weeks.
Last season’s PrvaLiga champs have slumped to fifth in the table, seven points off leaders Kopa after 11 matches, having drawn their last two.
Following their early exits from the Champions and Europa Leagues they now find themselves playing in the group stage of a European competition for the first time in their short history after being plunged into the UEFA’s new, and already much-maligned third tournament.
After being drawn alongside Spurs, Rennes and Vitesse, Mura were tipped to be the Group G whipping boys.
And after losing 2-0 at home to the Dutch side in their opening match, they eventually lived up to their pre-match billing here.
This magnificent arena had been quickly reverted to a football stadium after staging Saturday night’s world title fight between Anthony Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk, which of course the Ukrainian won on points.
Spurs suffered their own KO when they were beaten 3-1 at Arsenal the following day.
Dele was subbed at half time as Nuno pointed the finger at the fallen England midfielder and his other stars for not following orders.
But that did not stop the teetering gaffer from handing him the captain’s armband, such is the absurdity of the situation at Spurs at the moment. Binned one match, skipper the next.
Left-back Sergio Reguilon was the only other retainee from the Gunners defeat as Nuno made nine changes from the Emirates.
He will claim his decision to appoint Dele as captain was an inspired one as the man, now looking increasingly like a former Three Lion, won and scored the penalty which put the hosts 1-0 up in the fourth minute.
Lo Celso then added a second with an emphatic finish into the roof of the net four minutes later to give Nuno and some much-needed breathing space.
With the game appearing as good as over, Dele and Oliver Skipp both went close to extending the lead before the break with long-range shots.
While the closest Mura came to giving their 50 travelling fans something to cheer about in the first half was a diving header from their main striker Nardin Mulahusejnovic, which went well wide of the target.
Nuno and his players must have thought they were home and hosed when they went in for their half-time cuppa – but the plucky Slovenians had other ideas.
After the home defence only half-cleared a corner, Mura right-winger Kous netted with a fantastic first-time volley from the edge of the area in the 53rd minute to reduce the arrears and tighten Tottenham bottoms everywhere.
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This upped the ante for Tottenham and after Nuno reacted with his triple substitution, with Dele again one of those to make way, Kane made it 3-1 by stabbing home Moura’s pass in the 68th minute.
The England captain, who is yet to score in the top flight this season, but he then added another with his fourth in this competition, when he tapped home Son’s 76th minute cross.
And Kane completed his quickfire treble with another close-range finish three minutes from time.
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