Leeds United 2 Tottenham Hotspur 1
Scorers: Varney, McCormack Dempsey
Team: Friedel; Naughton (Walker), Caulker, Vertonghen, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Huddlestone (Dembele), Parker, Sigurdsson (Obika), Bale; Dempsey. Subs: (unused) Gomes, Dawson, Livermore, Townsend
The announcement of the Tottenham team without a recognised striker brought instant concerns for Spurs supporters. The absence of Jermain Defoe from the bench with Jonathan Obika, the Under-21 striker, named among the substitutes appeared to confirm rumours from earlier in the week of concerns over Defoe’s fitness. It elicited also a series of tweets lamenting the club’s lack of senior strikers and the lack of movement in the transfer window by Daniel Levy to rectify the situation.
Leeds were also missing their top scorer with Becchio having been left out after a transfer request but it was they who started the better as Spurs conceded a corner with 35 seconds, through a poor mis-control and pass by Scott Parker. Leeds were totally committed and former Tottenham player, Michael Brown, who captained Leeds, led by example and battled for everything. Leeds pressed Spurs at every opportunity and gave the defenders no time to pass out from the back. The two central defenders, Steven Caulker and Jan Vertonghen, had a nightmare, unable to cope with the high ball played forward.
There was no fluency to the Spurs play and when they attacked it was usually as an individual who was quickly confronted by a couple of defenders. Spurs’ lack of a pacy striker was evident in the opening minutes when Dempsey had a chance to take on his man and run at goal but the defender was able to force him wide and shoot harmlessly across goal.
Leeds took the lead after fifteen minutes when Brown flicked on a ball from just inside his own half. Kyle Naughton and Steven Caulker were caught out as Varney got behind them to run at goal and coolly place the ball beyond Friedel.
There was little response from Spurs who tried shots from distance without troubling Ashdown in goal while Leeds were still causing problems when they got forward. In Spurs’ best spell, from a good run after 25 minutes by Aaron Lennon, he played the ball to Dempsey who tried to lift the ball over the goalkeeper but it ended as an easy catch for Ashdown. Spurs’ best effort was three minutes later when Tom Huddlestone flicked the ball up and turned to shoot first time from the edge of the box. Ashdown got down low to parry the shot and a defender completed the clearance. Bale then got away on the right and cut in on goal but when faced with the goalkeeper, he tried to place it beyond him but it was blocked with other players waiting for the pass. Assou-Ekotto played Lennon in to cross but the goalkeeper claimed the ball. Then when Spurs broke quickly on the right, a cross was cleared by the defender who got there just ahead of Dempsey. Dempsey had a turn and shot which the goalkeeper parried.
Leeds pressed Spurs on the edge of their box and nearly created another opening and then with a minute to the interval, Spurs failed to cope with a long ball from the goalkeeper, it was flicked on to McCormack who was through on goal but Friedel saved. In added time Bale broke on the right but his cross failed to find a Tottenham player.
No Second Half Improvement
Spurs needed to improve in the second half but again it was Leeds who started quicker with an early corner. Caulker then gave the ball away but Huddlestone recovered to put in a tackle as Varney prepared to shoot. Then, Vertonghen, under pressure in front of his own area nearly gave the ball away. The early pressure and momentum continued to be with Leeds and Spurs were not responding. In a copy-cat move to that at the end first half, poor defensive play on half-way, allowed McCormack to got clear again but this time he cut in on goal to score after 50 minutes. Spurs had been warned but failed to take the lesson.
On 53 minutes a cross by Lennon found Dempsey at the back post but his shot went past. The game was drifting away from Spurs and just as Andre Villas-Boas was preparing to make two substitutions, out of nothing, Spurs pulled a goal back. Bale crossed from the left and Dempsey managed to get his head to the ball to direct it past the goalkeeper.
Spurs had a lifeline as Mousa Dembele and Jon Obika replaced Gylfi Sigurdsson and Tom Huddlestone. Nothing, however, changed as Spurs failed to match Leeds for their effort and endeavour. Leeds scrapped for everything and Parker became drawn into a midfield battle with Brown. They were quicker to the ball and hungrier to get it and when they had the chance they ran at the Spurs defence and caused them difficulties every time. They also did all in their power to disrupt the game and slow it down whenever possible to the frustration of the Tottenham players.
Naughton played the ball to Lennon who went on a run into the area but lost possession as he was about to shoot. Kyle Walker then replaced Naughton with 25 minutes to play. Dembele shot from distance but it was deflected for a corner. Spurs attempts on goal were shots from distance which were blocked or went out for a corner so they never really looked like getting an equaliser. The best opportunity came in the final minute when Assou-Ekotto played a ball to Obika but as he went to shoot, a defender came across to clear.
Leeds played out time and survived a late free-kick with Friedel up and as the referee blew the final whistle the ball was rolling towards an empty Spurs goal.
Another disappointing Cup defeat for Spurs but they deserved no more. Leeds, as I predicted, were fully committed and Spurs couldn’t match them. Leeds exposed weaknesses in the Tottenham that they have been able to hide in the Premier League and without a goalscoring striker, it could be a long run in to the end of the season. Spurs face Norwich on Wednesday evening who lost 5 – 0 at Liverpool in their last Premier League match and 1 – 0 at home to non-League Luton Town in the Cup. Which team will have more to play for and prove in that match at Carrow Road?
Over To You!
What did you think of the Tottenham team today? Let me know.