José Mourinho pledged that Tottenham Hotspur would be at “full power” in north-east Bulgaria on Thursday night and, sure enough, a high wattage performance dazzled Ludogorets into submission.
With Harry Kane scoring his 200th goal in a Spurs shirt on his 300th appearance for the club, the Bulgarian champions, and current league leaders, rarely looked like collecting their first point of this Europa League campaign as Mourinho’s side atoned for last week’s reverse in Antwerp.
Tottenham – featuring Kane and Gareth Bale alongside each other for the first time – were two up at half-time. After Kane had limbered up by, variously, failing to accept the scoring invitation issued by Harry Winks’s audacious second minute chip, hitting a post and forcing Plamen Iliev into a decent save, he finally connected with Lucas Moura’s corner in the 13th-minute and powered a header beyond the home goalkeeper.
Twenty minutes later Spurs had doubled their advantage. Perhaps anxious not to be upstaged by his fellow forward, Bale helped create the second goal, sliding a fine pass for Kane to roll a low cross towards Lucas, whose close range finish did the rest.
Mourinho evidently decided Kane’s work was done and replaced him with Carlos Vinícius at the interval. Maybe the manager’s players interpreted it as a cue to relax because they began the new half by sitting back and momentarily losing concentration. Bernard Tekpetey, newly liberated from the bench by Ludogorets’ interim coach Stanislav Genchev, was afforded space to unleash a deflected shot which fell for Claudia Keseru to volley beyond that latterly lesser spotted goalkeeper, Joe Hart.
The time had come for Mourinho to introduce Son Heung-min and the South Korean had only been on the pitch for 17 seconds after replacing Lucas when his first, unselfish, touch involved the newcomer squaring for Giovani Lo Celso to tap in visiting goal number three.
While Son had, not for the first time, reaffirmed his immense worth to Spurs, the sense that Dele Alli’s star continues to wane in Mourinho’s firmament was reinforced as Alli remained benched throughout.
Having been offered a rare moment in the sun, Hart looked desperate to impress – and for Ludogorets to attack. As the clock ticked on and the former England goalkeeper’s teammates turned a little complacent, Cauly Souza offered the Bulgarians a glimmer of hope courtesy of a couple of eye-catching stepovers but when Souza cleverly manoeuvred himself into some decent space he ended up shooting straight at Hart.