A wonderful hat-trick from Mislav Orsic is what the scoreboard will tell you made the difference between Dinamo Zagreb and Tottenham Hotspur on Thursday night, but Spurs’ reluctance to take the game to their opponents in a bid for the away goal that would have put the tie to bed is what ultimately saw them crash ignominiously out of the Europa League.
Holding a 2-0 lead from the first leg, Spurs needed only to find the net once to leave Dinamo searching for four goals, but for too long Jose Mourinho’s side seemed happy to hang on and they got their just desserts as a result. Orsic’s treble gave the Croatians a 3-0 win that dumps Spurs out of the tournament and leaves them staring at a League Cup success or complete failure in 2020-21.
Orsic struck with a fantastic finish just after the hour to halve the deficit and put a real frightener up the visitors, but Spurs did nothing to really take the initiative back away from Dinamo. With eight minutes to go, the tie was in the balance. Moussa Sissoko took his eye off Orsic as a ball came in from the right, and the much-travelled attacker slammed home the equaliser in the tie.
The near-impossible was completed 16 minutes into extra-time, with Gareth Bale failing to track Orsic at short distance, Serge Aurier turning his back on an attempted tackle and Sissoko and Tanguy Ndombele both dropping off too easily as Dinamo’s hero of the night ghosted through the Spurs backline to fire home a third.
"We worked very hard, we tried to provide the best conditions for the players to perform," Mourinho told the press afterwards. "Of course it concerns me. My position as a head coach is a position that makes me uncomfortable to come in front of the cameras and go deep on analysis, but I believe that all of us have to be humble enough to accept any criticism that you can make of our work."
It was a lifeless example of defending to top off an embarrassing performance. While Mourinho still has a League Cup final against Manchester City in April on which to pin his hopes of a trophy in his first full season at Spurs, nights like this will only add to the weight of opposition to his being the manager at White Hart Lane.
How long Spurs fans will put up with negative tactics, apathetic performances and underwhelming football is anyone’s guess. How long Harry Kane will be kept happy with Premier League nothingness and Europa League let-downs doesn’t even bear thinking about.
This was a horrendous low in a campaign too often punctuated with desperately disappointing evenings.