Spurs now have three games left of this brutal and bruising season. After this defeat, the results of these fixtures will have little bearing on the club’s immediate future.
Tottenham’s lingering hopes of a top-four finish were dealt a fatal blow at Elland Road, as they fell to a comprehensive 3-1 defeat to Leeds United. By any metric, Daniel Levy must now view this campaign – which started with the release of an Amazon documentary priming the club to become a truly global brand – as an unmitigated disaster. Spurs are now struggling to qualify for European football of any kind next season – even the much-maligned new Europa Conference League – for the first time in over a decade.
Rookie interim manager Ryan Mason will be absolved of any responsibility when the painful recriminations begin in earnest. His promotion was always a desperate long-shot. And now that Mason has proved unable to work a miracle, the Spurs chairman must attend to solving the mess that he alone is irrefutably responsible for making. A good starting point for Levy would be to suss out exactly how committed Marcelo Bielsa is to Leeds United. Of all the names linked to the Spurs manager’s job since Jose Mourinho’s departure, few would quicken the pulses of the club’s fans like the Argentine.
Leeds were irresistible from the outset here, first to every ball and relentlessly committed to attacking Spurs from the first minute to the last. They were close to opening the scoring inside eight minutes. Bamford found space in the Tottenham area and drilled a low shot through Alderweireld’s legs that only a fine one-handed save from Lloris kept out. The resulting corner eluded everyone before falling beyond the far post to Jack Harrison. His hooked cross was met by Stuijk, who planted a firm half-volley over the bar from close range.
There was no let-up from Leeds, and they soon had their breakthrough. Having worked the ball from one flank to the other, Harrison scorched past Aurier on the outside before delivering a low teasing centre across the sodden goalmouth. Fearful of putting through his own net, Dier permitted the ball to pass him at the near post. Reguilon, under pressure at the far, reluctantly jabbed out a boot, diverting the ball goalwards. Lloris made a staggering reflex save but was powerless to stop Stuart Dallas thundering in the rebound.
Approaching the 20-minute mark, the visitors, at last, offered an offensive threat of their own. A sweet triangle saw Bale and Son combine to release Alli for a shooting chance in the area that Koch did well to block. Alli was the liveliest of Tottenham’s attacking quartet in the first half, and he was the architect of their equaliser. Collecting a pass from Lo Celso, Alli held on to the ball just long enough to allow Kane and Son to make their darting runs. The England captain’s diagonal sprint proved the decoy, allowing the Korean to latch onto Alli’s deft through ball smuggled between Llorente’s legs. The forward’s first-time finish left Illan Meslier with no chance.
Bielsa’s Leeds are not a team to take a backwards step. From the restart, they went straight for Spurs again. Mateusz Klich fed Harrison for another run at Aurier. This time, rather than heading for the byline, the winger cut inside, pounding a shot towards the top corner. Only the fingertips of the excellent Lloris kept it out.
For all their endeavour and exuberance, Leeds were extremely fortunate not to fall behind on the half-hour. Alli again unlocked the home defence threading a sumptuous pass through to Kane. The striker tickled a delicious dink over Meslier but failed to celebrate, already resigning himself to the fact the ‘goal’ would be vandalised by VAR. A myriad of lines drawn on a Stockley Park screen failed to prove in any intelligible way that Kane – or even his shadow – were beyond the last defender when the ball was played. But offside was given nonetheless.
The decision robbed Spurs of whatever will they had left to resist Leeds as the rain continued to stair-rod down. It came as little surprise when the Yorkshiremen restored their advantage just before the interval. Eric Dier intercepted a long punt forward with his head, which Sergio Reguilon should have reached before Dallas. The full-back, however, was slow to react, and Dallas nipped in, weaving infield before rolling the ball wide to Harrison. Bale had failed to track Alioski, who offered the overlap and then crossed for Bamford to tuck home from beneath the crossbar.
After the break, the fluency of Leeds passing briefly deteriorated. But Spurs were unable to make any decisive attacking inroads. Lloris preserved hopes of a comeback with the pick of his many outstanding saves, thrusting out a hand to deny Klich’s fierce drive from inside the box.
Moura and Lamela were then sent on with 25 minutes remaining to try and enliven Tottenham. The Brazilian’s attempts to surge with the ball through the middle of the pitch encouraged Aurier to make a rare attacking foray. Escaping a challenge, the Ivorian flashed a cross-cum-shot that deflected off Alioski and extended Meslier for the first time. Seconds later, Reguilon was hauled down in the D allowing Kane to line up a free-kick. With Meslier beaten, the forward’s curling effort grazed the top of the crossbar. The keeper then did well to keep out a Lamela shot from the angle following Kane’s perceptive pass.
Much to Bielsa’s chagrin on the sidelines, Leeds wasted chance after chance to kill the contest. But as the game entered its final ten minutes and Spurs, in desperation, began pushing Dier and Alderweireld forward from the back, The Peacocks finally sealed their victory. Raphinha evaded a weary attempt by Hojbjerg to play offside, streaking clear of the porous Tottenham defence to square for fellow substitute Rodrigo to finish into the bottom corner.
Spurs now have three games left of this brutal and bruising season. After this defeat, the results of these fixtures will have little bearing on the club’s immediate future. It is off the pitch in their next managerial appointment that Tottenham Hotspur and Daniel Levy must not fail.
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