Tottenham scored twice in the final 10 minutes to avoid a humiliating Europa League exit to Lokomotiv Plovdiv as Jose Mourinho’s men came from behind to beat the nine-man Bulgarians 2-1 on Thursday.
Harry Kane’s penalty and Tanguy Ndombele’s winner five minutes from time ensured the 2019 Champions League finalists did not fall at the first hurdle of their Europa League campaign to a side that have never progressed beyond the qualifying stages of European competition.
“I think it was a helluva experience for the players. Sometimes in football miracles happen and when you play a knockout, one-leg it is the perfect scenario for a miracle to happen,” said Mourinho.
“Everyone on their side had the moment where they dream and we had the moment where we believed a nightmare could arrive.”
Mourinho named a strong side featuring Kane, Hugo Lloris and Son Heung-min with just four changes from Sunday’s 1-0 defeat to Everton to start their Premier League campaign.
But there was more evidence why Spurs are desperate to secure Gareth Bale’s return on loan from Real Madrid as they struggled to break Plovdiv down and went behind to Georgi Minchev’s header 19 minutes from time.
The tie swung back in Spurs favour nine minutes later when Momchil Tsvetanov punched clear off his own line and the referee had no option but to point to the spot and send Tsvetanov off.
Birsent Karagaren was then also shown a second yellow card before Kane dispatched the spot-kick into the top corner.
Ndombele has struggled for game time under Mourinho despite being the club’s record signing.
But the Frenchman, who was introduced on the hour mark, proved the match winner by bundling home from close range.
A trip to Macedonia next week to face KF Shkendija faces Mourinho’s men in the third qualifying round, by which time they may have Bale to call on with the Welshman expected to complete his move back to the Premier League on Friday.
“For me, at this moment, until I’m told Gareth Bale is a Tottenham player, I still think and feel and respect the fact that he’s a Real Madrid player, so I’m not going to comment on a Real Madrid player,” added Mourinho.
Steven Gerrard’s Rangers enjoyed a far more comfortable progression into round three of qualifying as they thrashed Gibraltar’s Lincoln Red Imps 5-0 with Alfredo Morelos scoring twice.