Tottenham Hotspur secured first place in Europa League Group J with a 2-0 home win over Royal Antwerp thanks to second-half goals from Carlos Vinicius and Giovanni Lo Celso on Thursday.
Brazilian striker Vinicius netted from close range after Gareth Bale’s superb long-range free kick was tipped onto the bar by goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand before Argentine Lo Celso wrapped up the win with 20 minutes remaining.
The result means Spurs will be seeded in the last 32 of the competition thereby avoiding some of the favourites.
Tottenham enjoyed the majority of possession in a tame first half on a chilly night in north London. There was little for the almost 2,000-strong fans to cheer, aside from an early Bale header wide and a Lo Celso shot saved by Beiranvand.
But the hosts took the lead in the 57th when Vinicius had an easy tap after Beiranvand saved Bale’s free kick only for the ball to come back off the bar into the striker’s path. It was the on-loan Benfica player’s third Europa League goal for Spurs.
Home coach Jose Mourinho then brought on the big guns of Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and Tanguy Ndombele to secure the win. It worked as Kane released an overlapping Lo Celso on his right in the 71st, with the midfielder poking the ball home.
Antwerp’s second-place finish a point behind Tottenham, who have 13, means the Belgians have reached the knockout stage of European competition for the first time in 30 years while Spurs are among the favourites for Europe’s second-tier competition.
Elsewhere, Leicester eased past AEK Athens 2-0 as they marched on to win their group.
Quickfire first-half goals from Cengiz Under and Harvey Barnes ensured the Foxes clinched top spot in Group G.
Brendan Rodgers’ side finished ahead of Braga, who beat Zorya Luhansk 2-0, and will be seeded in Monday’s draw for the last 32.
AEK Athens end their campaign bottom after losing five of their six games, including a 2-1 home defeat to the Foxes.
It was a breeze for the hosts, who were able to leave Jamie Vardy on the bench and were without the injured James Maddison, as they continue their impressive European and domestic efforts.
Under-pressure AEK boss Massimo Carrera had vowed his team would fight after three defeats in their last four games but they folded inside the first 14 minutes.