Ange Postecoglou defended his decision to make nine changes after Tottenham suffered a penalty shoot-out defeat at Fulham in the Carabao Cup second round.
Spurs entered this contest following back-to-back wins in the Premier League, which had generated a feelgood factor around the club despite the departure of all-time top scorer Harry Kane on the eve of the new season.
Only Micky van de Ven and Richarlison retained their starting berths from the win at Bournemouth and while Tottenham improved from a sluggish start, penalties were required after a 1-1 draw and Davinson Sanchez failed to score from 12 yards to hand the visitors a 5-3 spot-kick loss.
It inflicted a painful dent to the momentum built during the first couple of months of the Postecoglou era but the Australian pointed to the need for players to get minutes when quizzed on his changes.
“Obviously disappointed with the outcome, getting knocked out of the cup,” Postecoglou said after Richarlison’s second-half goal cancelled out Van de Ven’s own-goal after 17 minutes.
“We weren’t at our fluent best, particularly early on which was not surprising considering the amount of changes I made. A lot of the boys tonight, it was their first start of the season.
“We lacked cohesion and fluency, but I really liked the way we hung in there. There are many different ways to grow as a team and we showed some real character.
“We had our moments in the second half to maybe go and win it. We weren’t able to get over the line and lost on penalties.
“It is my priority (the cups) but there is no European football so how am I going to find out about our players? What opportunity would I have to do that other than the game? They are all part of our club.
“We thought they’d be able to bring a different energy tonight and that doesn’t mean the cup or any game isn’t our priority.
“From my perspective, we’re very much at the discovery stage so we need to find out and give the players the opportunity to contribute, because that’s why they’re here.
“They’re not just here to make up the numbers. They keep working hard and deserved the opportunity to go out and play tonight.”
Fulham boss Marco Silva felt the best team won and insisted his players would react differently in the future if a repeat occurred of a bizarre incident with right-back Kenny Tete after half-time.
Tete was forced to leave the pitch for a number of minutes after he broke his boot and Spurs went on to score, with Ivan Perisic making the most of space on Tottenham’s left-hand side to cross in for Richarlison to head home the equaliser in the 56th minute.
Dutch full-back Tete was all smiles at full-time after he scored the decisive fifth kick to help Fulham progress into round three with a 5-3 shoot-out success at Craven Cottage.
“Yes the best team won and the best team on the pitch will play in the next round of Carabao Cup,” Silva, who served a touchline ban, said.
“During the 97 minutes, we were the team with the more chances to score and unfortunately we concede a goal in one moment we were with 10 men after the Kenny Tete incident.
“In the future we are going to approach that in a different way because you cannot give the opposition the chance to play against 10 men for two or three minutes because that incident happens.
“Of course it was the first and it will be the last time it happens for us because we will approach in a very different way.”