Gareth Bale made his first start since returning to Tottenham but he could do nothing as Spurs slipped to a shock 1-0 Europa League defeat to Royal Antwerp.

The home side burst into the lead in the 29th minute as Lior Refaelov hammered home to punish a poor mistake from Ben Davies.

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But Bale and co offered very little as an attacking force, with Jose Mourinho making FOUR changes at half time, before replacing the Welshman with Harry Kane 13 minutes into the second half.

Gareth Bale of Tottenham Hotspur during the UEFA Europa League match between Royal Antwerp v Tottenham Hotspur at the Bosuil Stadium

Image credit: Getty Images

Even with all those changes, Spurs finished the match without having created a real opening of note, slipping to their first defeat since the opening day in limp style, blowing their Europa League group surprisingly wide open in the process.

Mourinho shuffled his pack for the trip to Belgium, but the Portuguese did name a strong team, with Bale starting a Spurs game for the first time in six-and-a-half years and Dele Alli also back in the starting XI. All the attacking play, however, came from the home side.

On his 200th appearance, playing in a central defensive role, Davies delayed too long on the ball and Antwerp pounced, with Refaelov breaking the deadlock in empathic style.

It was just lethargic from Spurs, who were in fact lucky not to concede a second on two separate occasions, as Jean Butez in the home goal could sit back, relax and enjoy a famous win for his side, with Mourinho tasting Europa League defeat for the first time in 13 matches.

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TALKING POINT - Bale and Alli fail to grasp opportunity

It was billed as the perfect opportunity for Bale to get his Spurs return up and running, but the Real Madrid loanee looked shorn of match practice, and fitness. The issue is, on a year-long loan, he needs to get back firing, quickly.

Alli has started just three games for Tottenham in all competitions this season and has been substituted at half-time in two of them.

The England international was ineffective in the extreme, and it begs the question of how many more chances Mourinho will give him.

MAN OF THE MATCH - Ritchie De Laet

The former Manchester United and Leicester defender was literally in the way of everything, and marshalled an array of talent with aplomb.

PLAYER RATINGS

Antwerp: Butez 7, De Laet 8, Gelin 7, Seck 8, Juklerod 7, Hongla 6, Haroun 6, Gerkens 7, Miyoshi 7, Mbokani 6, Refaelov 7… Subs: Buta 6, Verstraete 6.

Tottenham: Lloris 6, Aurier 5, Sanchez 4, Davies 5, Reguilon 5, Winks 5, Dele 4, Lo Celso 5, Bergwijn 4, Bale 4, Vinicius 4... Subs: Hojbjerg 6, Lamela 5, Lucas 5, Son 6, Kane 6.

Gareth Bale of Tottenham

Image credit: Getty Images

KEY MOMENTS

29’ - GGGGGOOOOAAAALLLL!!! Antwerp 1-0 Tottenham. Mistake from Ben Davies as Rafaelov puts the hosts in front. Just what Spurs deserve really. Davies delayed far too long and loses the ball, former Norwich and Hull man Dieumerci Mbokani breaks, feeds it across for Refaelov, who hammers the ball into the net. What a story this could be!

54’ - WHAT A CHANCE! Should be two. Great football again from the hosts, super ball across from Miyoshi picks out Mbokani at the back post, but he blazes over the bar from four yards! What a let off for Spurs.

62’ - CHANCE! First real chance for Spurs, Lucas slides the ball across for Heung-Min Son, but Seck makes a fine block. Son did not quite connect with the finish properly, however.

72’ - MISS! Another great opportunity to make sure of a famous win for the home side, but Juklerod, who never looked convincing, blazes over after racing through on goal.

Antwerp's Israeli forward Lior Rafaelov (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the UEFA Europa League football match between Royal Antwerp and Tottenham Hotspur at the Bosuilstadion Stadium

Image credit: Getty Images

KEY STATS

Spurs have never won away to Belgian opposition (P6 D2 L4), losing on each of their last three visits.

Royal Antwerp are the first Belgian side to beat English opposition in European competition since KAA Gent beat Tottenham in the Europa League in February 2017 (Belgian sides were winless in nine such matches prior to today).

Tottenham failed to score in a game for the first time since September, in their opening game of the Premier League season against Everton (scored in 10 consecutive matches across all competitions prior to today), which was also their last defeat prior to today.

This was Jose Mourinho’s first defeat in a Europa League game since November 2016 (a 2-1 defeat to Fenerbahçe), ending a 12-match unbeaten run for the Portuguese manager in the competition.

Lior Refaelov scored with Royal Antwerp’s first shot on target in this game.

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