Tottenham manager Nuno Espírito Santo has said his side can still advance to the knockout stages of the Europa Conference League despite losing to Vitesse.
Nuno changed his entire starting XI in order to prepare for Sunday’s Premier League clash with West Ham and his second-string side were defeated by Maximilian Wittek’s strike in the 78th minute.
Spurs still had nine international players but were never really in the game and Bryan Gil’s shot that hit the bar was their only highlight.
The result leaves them third in group G, two points behind and three behind the Rennes leader, halfway through.
With the second leg against the Dutch in a fortnight, and then a trip to Mura, the weakest team in the competition, ahead, Nuno decided that leaving his most important players at home was a risk to take.
“You have to discuss the options, the decision has been made,” he said. “We took a little while to make up our minds and we decided to bring in the players who started, with the under 23s to give us their support.
“It was a tough game, tough as we had expected. Always away from home in Europe in the Conference League, it’s hard. We compete well, in terms of attack we should finish the actions better. Some combinations were missing.
“There was a period in the second half where we lost a bit of control but in terms of a lack of focus at the goal, details that we should improve as we always do.
“In terms of the group, we have two home games against Vitesse and Rennes, then we have to face Mura. We can resolve the group situation.
Vitesse started well and in the third minute Nikolai Baden Frederiksen forced Pierluigi Gollini to stop with his feet after being played, before Jacob Rasmussen nodded just off a corner.
Unsurprisingly given the number of changes, Spurs weren’t up to the level offensively in the first half, with teenage striker Dane Scarlett against him in a lone role.
However, they immediately showed more after the break and were inches away from taking the lead in the 47th minute.
Giovani Lo Celso showed why he is becoming a key player for Argentina as he dribbles enterprisingly before sacking him for Gil, whose first shot rocked the crossbar.
It was that good for Spurs, who were pinned further and further back as the second half wore on. Eli Dasa came close twice with distance effort, the second making a smart Gollini save.
It was no surprise when the goal came 12 minutes from time as Wittek brilliantly stole Dasa’s cross from the edge of the box to drive the home crowd crazy.
While none of the players who have played are likely to start against West Ham, Nuno insisted it was not his second XI.
“I don’t see it that way,” he said. “A football match is always a chance to compete. Our approach is always the same, we expect our players to participate in all games, regardless of the competition.
“This is not the point. It is about having minutes, to compete, to improve because, as you know, we have a difficult schedule ahead of us and we will need all the players in the game. the best possible conditions.