Harry Kane came off the bench to score a hat-trick as Tottenham eased past Slovenian side Mura 5-1 in the Europa Conference League to reduce the pressure on Nuno Espirito Santo.
Nuno’s side were comfortable against poor opposition, but it took the introduction of the England captain to add gloss to the scoreline.
Spurs took the lead after just four minutes when Dele Alli found the bottom corner from the penalty spot after being fouled by goalkeeper Matko Obradovic.
Giovani Lo Celso made it 2-0 just minutes later then he breezed past the Mura defence and smashed into the top corner from a tight angle.
Spurs went into the break comfortable, but immediately let it slip as Ziga Kous fired a brilliant dipping volley into the bottom corner from a half-cleared corner.
Nuno had seen enough and called for Lucas Moura, Harry Kane and Son Heung-min – and it didn’t take long for the trio to change the mood.
Lucas slipped in Kane to make it 3-1 before Son tore down the left and crossed for the striker to tap in Tottenham’s fourth.
Kane then sealed a 16th career hat-trick, just 19 minutes and 25 seconds after he came on, by collecting Lo Celso’s incisive pass and finding the corner once more.
After three straight Premier League defeats which culminated in the 3-1 defeat by Arsenal, this was exactly what Nuno needed. Here are the two things he did right – and one he got wrong – in north London.
Giving Dele Alli free reign
When the team sheet was released before kick-off, many fans were surprised to see the captain’s armband handed to Alli.
But with Hugo Lloris and Kane on the bench and other senior players not included, it fell on Alli to lead the team against the Slovenian visitors.
Alli is a classic confidence player and after the rollercoaster times under Jose Mourinho he could benefit from an arm-around-the-shoulder approach from Nuno.
Mura are clearly not much of a test, but one of the major positives for Nuno was Alli’s performance.
He was on the front foot right from the off, winning and converting the early penalty before testing Obradovic with a curling shot.
The 25-year-old made it a hat-trick of first-half shots on target with a back-post header, which didn’t trouble the keeper, but showed his willingness to get into the box and support Dane Scarlett.
Alli’s night did not end happily, with the midfielder going straight down the tunnel when part of three players substituted 59 minutes in as Nuno rang the changes. But the first half showed flashes of what he can do – and later re-emerged to watch Kane lay waste to the opposition.
Calling for the cavalry
The start of the second half was exactly what Nuno did not want to see. Spurs were flat and allowed Mura to grow in confidence – their goal may have come from their first shot on target but it had been coming.
To his credit, Nuno did not let the feeling linger. Just before the hour mark, he pulled the trigger, bringing on Kane, Moura and Son for Alli, Dane Scarlett and Bryan Gil.
It did not take long for the changes to have their desired effect. After a few darting runs from Son down the left channel, the third goal came from the opposite side.
Lucas slid a perfect through-ball into Kane, who took his finish early and found the bottom corner. It was just Kane’s fourth goal in nine appearances this season, but he didn’t have to wait long for his fifth and sixth.
Lo Celso flicked the ball around the corner for Son, who cut through the Mura defence like a knife through butter before squaring for Kane to tap in another.
He completed a happy night in front of goal by linking up with Lo Celso.
Mura are hardly a side to measure yourself again, but the goals will definitely help Kane build up his confidence.
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There was a negativity around Spurs before the match had even started – and it came from the manager.
Part of Nuno’s job is to speak to the broadcaster, but he was in no mood to do so tonight.
BT Sport’s Jeff Brazier had the difficult task of trying to get information out of the grumpy Portuguese boss, who gave him more harsh stares than words.
“No Son or Kane, can you tell us why?” Brazier began, quite reasonably. There was a long pause before Nuno responded: “Because other players are playing.”
Brazier changed tack, asking if the players included against Mura could have a chance to feature against Aston Villa on the weekend. It didn’t change things, as Nuno questioned what the Villa game had to do with tonight’s assignment.
It may seem like a minor thing, but Nuno’s spiky demeanour spoke volumes about a manager feeling the pressure.
Ultimately, the tense encounter will be quickly forgotten because his side won, but Nuno would do well to keep a lid on his discontent in front of the cameras in future.