Jeremy Perbet's second-half strike against the run of play gave his manager, Hein Vanhaezebrouck, the perfect birthday present and left us with work to do in the second leg at Wembley next week.
Harry Kane had struck the outside of the post shortly before Gent's opener as we pushed forward in numbers at the start of the second period following a first half devoid of chances at either end.
But Perbet's goal gave Gent, mid-table in the Belgian league, the momentum and they looked most likely to add to the scoreline in the latter stages.
Indeed, it needed a flying save from Hugo Lloris to tip Danijel Milicevic's shot onto the post with just under a quarter-of-an-hour left.
With no way through for us and no away goal, we've a tough challenge ahead of us back in London next week to reach the last 16.
Mauricio Pochettino hinted before the game that he'd field a team featuring a number of regular starters and he did just that, with only a couple of changes from the side that lost at Liverpool in such disappointing fashion in the Premier League on Saturday. In came Harry Winks, fresh from signing a new contract earlier this week, in place of Christian Eriksen in midfield, while Moussa Sissoko earned a start with Heung-Min Son dropping to the bench.
CHANCES: TWICE CLOSE TO A BREAKTHROUGH - 12-13mins
We tried to take the game to Gent from the off and almost found the net 12 minutes in when Ben Davies drilled the ball in to the feet of Dele Alli 20 yards out and he unleashed a low driven effort that zipped inches past the post. A minute later, Kane's snapshot from the edge of the area, always rising, was gathered by home goalkeeper Lovre Kalinic but as the half went on – and not uncommon for us away from home in Europe – we struggled to carve out any clear openings. Lloris was untroubled by the occasional shot from the outskirts of his area and the only other chance of the half came on 33 minutes when Mousa Dembele's cut-back found Dele in the box but his attempt was blocked by Samuel Gigot stooping across goal.
WOODWORK: KANE STRIKES THE UPRIGHT - 48mins
We started the second period very positively with Kyle Walker stationed particularly high and wide on the right and serving as an additional attacking outlet. He was involved three minutes after the restart as he nudged a pass from the excellent Winks towards Dele in the centre, he swiftly found Kane in the box but the striker's shot-on-the-turn from 10 yards out glanced off the outside of the post. Dembele's effort was then fumbled and gathered at the second attempt by Kalinic following more good work from Winks to keep the ball in play at the byline.
Above: Gent goalkeeper Lovre Kalinic claims the ball.
GOAL: GENT 1-0 SPURS - JEREMY PERBET - 59mins
Against the run of play, we fell behind just before the hour mark. Milicevic latched onto Nana Asare's through ball, got to the byline on the left and cut back for Jeremy Perbet, who stepped inside the sliding challenge of Davies and slotted into the net from seven yards out.
SAVE AND WOODWORK: MILICEVIC DENIED BY LLORIS AND THE POST - 76mins
Buoyed by tremendous noise inside the Ghelamco Arena, Gent continued on the front foot and after the unmarked Stefan Mitrovic headed over the bar at the back post from a corner, they almost grabbed a second goal on 76 minutes when centre-back Toby Alderweireld was caught in possession, the ball was worked to Milicevic and his shot was tipped onto the post by Lloris, diving full-stretch to his left. With Kane often crowded out up front, we couldn't get going again after that with substitute Christian Eriksen lofting a pair of shots over the top to further underline our disappointment. It means we've yet to win a competitive game in Belgium after five attempts, two of which were draws with three defeats. Nevertheless, we’ll look to turn things around next week in the return fixture.
MOUSA DEMBELE SAID
“It was a difficult game for us, they were very sharp and they were on top of every action. At Wembley we need to make it up now. We know we have a lot of quality, we haven't had the success we'd hoped for at Wembley but now we need to turn this around.”
MAURICIO POCHETTINO SAID
“It's true, in the second half we were better, we changed our formation a little bit, tried to find the solution to create more chances and it was good but we conceded a goal in our best moment. That is football and sometimes it's difficult to explain. When you lose it's always a bad feeling but the tie is open, it's a minimal advantage for Gent and we need to play at Wembley next Thursday and try to win the game. If we are capable of turning the tie and deserving to go to the next round we will go.”
KAA Gent (4-3-3): Kalinic, Mitrovic, Asare (c, Gershon 80), Dejaegere, Gigot; Saief, Esiti, Foket; Simon (Kalu 74), Perbet (Coulibaly 74), Milicevic. Substitutes (not used): Rinne, Renato Neto, De Smet, Verstraete.
Spurs: 4-2-3-1): Lloris (c), Walker, Alderweireld, Dier, Davies; Wanyama, Winks (Eriksen 80); Sissoko (Nkoudou 71), Dembele (Son 68), Dele; Kane. Substitutes (not used): Vorm, Trippier, Wimmer, Onomah.
Goals: Gent - Perbet 59.
Yellow cards: Spurs - Walker 54, Dele 73.
Referee: Benoit Bastien.
We return to action in the FA Cup on Sunday with a trip to Championship side Fulham for a fifth round tie, kick-off 2pm. We haven't faced the Cottagers in a competitive game since their relegation from the top flight in 2013-14 but they knocked out Premier League opposition in the last round with a 4-1 defeat of Hull City.