London: Tottenham slumped to a shock Europa League exit as Gent’s 2-2 draw at Wembley gave the unfancied Belgians a stunning 3-2 aggregate success in the last 32 second leg on Thursday.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side trailed 1-0 from the first leg and they were unable to overturn the deficit despite twice leading on the night.
Christen Eriksen put Tottenham ahead before Gent levelled through Harry Kane’s own goal on the stroke of half-time.
Tottenham midfielder Dele Alli was sent off for a horror challenge after the interval and although Victor Wanyama restored the hosts’ advantage, Jeremy Perbet’s late strike was enough to seal Gent’s upset in front of a new Europa League record attendance of 80,465.
“I’m very disappointed. We started well and scored. The tie was open but we conceded a goal in one action in the first half. After that it was complicated,” Pochettino said.
“In the second half we played with energy. We were brave and created chances and scored the second, but we couldn’t get another.”
With White Hart Lane being redeveloped, it was more Wembley misery for Tottenham, who had already endured defeats against Monaco and Bayer Leverkusen at their temporary European home which played a major role in their lacklustre elimination from the Champions League group stage this season.
After claiming this week that he can tell whether his team will do well after just 50 seconds of watching a match, Pochettino might have been reassured by Tottenham’s vibrant start.
It took just 10 minutes for Tottenham to take the lead as Gent’s defenders made a hash of dealing with a routine long ball down the right flank and Eriksen took full advantage, racing clear unhindered before slotting home with a clinical low finish.
Yet Eriksen’s first goal in his last 12 games in all competitions wasn’t the prelude for a nerve-free night for Tottenham.
Kane scored a hat-trick in Sunday’s FA Cup fifth round win at Fulham, but he found the net at the wrong end to gift Gent a 21st minute equaliser.
A Gent corner, wrongly given to the Belgians in the first place, was headed towards goal by Stefan Mitrovic and Kane tried to nod clear but only succeeded in glancing the ball past Tottenham goalkeeper Hugh Lloris and into the back of the net.
Kyle Walker tried to restore Tottenham’s lead with a stinging long-range strike that was well saved by Lovre Kalinic.
But Tottenham suffered another blow four minutes before half-time when Alli, frustrated seconds earlier when a challenge on him wasn’t given as a foul, launched into a horrific two-footed lunge on Brecht Dejaegere, drawing an instant red card.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, Tottenham regained the lead in the 61st minute.
Walker looked to exchange passes with Eriksen on the edge of the box, but Kenya midfielder Wanyama latched onto it and scored with a powerful strike.
It was a false dawn however as a woeful blunder from Eric Dier ended Tottenham’s European campaign in the 82nd minute.
When Kalifa Coulibaly lofted over a cross, Dier should have dealt with it, but instead he chested carelessly down for French striker Perbet to prod the decisive finish past Lloris.