I'm no magician, laments Conte after Mura stunner

LONDON • Tottenham manager Antonio Conte got a taste of just how tough a task it will be to turn the team's fortunes around, as they suffered a humiliating 2-1 defeat by Slovenian minnows Mura in the Europa Conference League on Thursday.

The English Premier League side fell behind in the 11th minute when Tomi Horvat arrowed a fine shot into the top corner, before Spurs full-back Ryan Sessegnon was sent off for picking up two yellow cards inside 31 minutes.

The visitors fought back with stand-in captain Harry Kane equalising in the 72nd minute, only for Amadej Marosa's 94th-minute deflected strike to give the hosts, who sit fifth in the Slovenian top flight, a famous victory.

Mura collected their first points in the inaugural Europa Conference League at the fifth attempt, while Spurs are second in Group G and can no longer finish top to secure an automatic last-16 spot, although they can still earn a play-off place.

Conte's men are level on points with third-placed Vitesse Arnhem, ahead of their final match against unbeaten group leaders Rennes on Dec 9.

The Italian admitted the same frailties that were seen under predecessors Nuno Santo Espirito and Jose Mourinho are not going to go away overnight.

"After three weeks, I am starting to understand the situation," he said after his first defeat in three games so far.

"It is not simple. At this moment, the level at Tottenham is not so high.

"I am happy to stay here but we have to work a lot to improve the quality of the squad. There is an important gap with the top teams but I am not scared.

"I am not a magician and after three weeks, I have found players that want to work and have great commitment, but sometimes, it is not enough."

In the Europa League, Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers was delighted that the team's fate was back in their own hands after Thursday's 3-1 victory over Legia Warsaw put them top of Group C and on the brink of qualification for the knockout stage.

The Foxes have eight points from five games in Group C, a point ahead of Spartak Moscow and Napoli, with Legia a point further back.

Victory over Napoli in Italy in their final group game next month will guarantee Leicester's place in the last 16.

Already qualified West Ham eased to a 2-0 win at Rapid Vienna to confirm top spot in Group H.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 27, 2021, with the headline I'm no magician, laments Conte after Mura stunner. Subscribe