Leeds United put in a poor second half performance on the way to a disappointing 3-0 defeat to Jose Mourinho’s clinical Tottenham Hotspur side.
The two teams actually came into the game with only three points between them, despite both sides having vastly different aims for the season. Leeds had been boosted by two successive victories over Burnley and West Brom in which they didn’t concede a goal whereas Tottenham had suffered through a dreary December,
only picking up two points in their last four games.
Marcelo Bielsa left his team unaltered from the thrashing of West Brom, though Tyler Robers was notably missing from the bench this time round, lending credence to suggestions that the young attacker will be sent out on loan this month. Jose Mourinho was forced into changes though, with Sergio Regulion, Giovani Lo Celso and Erik Lamela being punished for ignoring lockdown rules over the Christmas period. In came Steven Bergwijn for the aforementioned Reguilon and Toby Alderweireld stepped into the team for Davinson Sanchez.
Leeds have developed a habit now of ensuring an exciting start to games, with early goals quickly becoming a staple of their season and the Yorkshire side started brightly again. First, Ezgjan Alioski was played in behind the Spurs defence courtesy of a Mateusz Klich through ball, but could not find the finish, cracking his half-volley into the side netting from an admittedly tough angle.
Jack Harrison then had an opportunity to get a shot on goal, again from a narrow angle but the on-loan Manchester City winger instead opted to square the ball and Klich’s first touch lacked the quality required. A crossfield ball then provided an opportunity for Bamford to play in Rodrigo but his header was directed just behind the Spaniard and the attack fizzled out.
Harrison nearly turned provider again only five minutes later with a dangerous cross from the edge of the box, but the flight of the ball was slightly ahead of Raphinha and Bamford. There was half-chance after half-chance for Leeds United. Bielsa’s men hammered at Jose Mourinho’s typically resilient defence, waiting for a gap to open up. It didn’t, and then Spurs woke up.
It came from a sloopy Illan Meslier pass into midfield. Tottenham picked up the ball, it was played to the vibrant Steven Bergwijn who went to jet into the Leeds box only to be felled by Ezgjan Alioski. A penalty was given by David Coote, and was not overturned by VAR. It was certainly a close call though, with it appearing as though first contact on the dutch winger had come outside the 18-yard-box. Harry Kane tucked away the penalty in the way we all expect him to and it was back to square one for the away side.
Leeds again set about trying to penetrate the wall made up of Eric Dier and Toby Alderweireld but it proved a momentous task. Immediately, Dier managed to get across to see away any danger created when Rodrigo was set loose in the box, then the pair decided that the area as a whole was out of bounds. Jack Harrison took a dangerous shot from 20 yards that went just over Hugo Lloris’ crossbar, then Patrick Bamford’s ranged curling effort was well held by the Frenchman and then his team scored again.
Lloris’ kick was collected by Harry Kane, who glided away from Pascal Struijik and then drifted onto the right wing, held the ball for a few seconds and then played a delightful cross into the path of Heung Min Son, who converted with typical efficiency.
The score at half-time was 2-0, with Leeds having had the most of the ball and playing with impressive defensive solidity which we have seen develop over the last few games yet finding themselves unable to repress the unstoppable chemistry of Son and Kane.
The only good thing that I can say about the second half from a Leeds perspective is that I don’t have much to write about. You got the sense as soon as Tottenham went ahead that there would be no way back for Leeds United and when the third goal, which was yet another weak concession from a corner, was scored by Alderweireld on 50 minutes, the game was over.
Leeds didn’t lie down though, they essentially turned the last half hour of the match into an attack vs defence exercise. Mouinho’s defensive shape stood up to the test though and Leeds, for perhaps only the third time this season (Chelsea, West Ham) ended the game with a real lack of attacking panache.
Illan Meslier: 6
At fault for the third goal and it was his pass that granted Spurs the ball in the build up to the penalty. Not a classic performance from the young stopper but some excellent saves from Ndombele and Bergwijn brightened his day up a bit.
Stuart Dallas: 7
Did a good job on Son in the first period, with a number or vital interventions, but lost the South Korean for the second goal. A solid performance but his crosses weren’t as good as we’ve seen them.
Luke Ayling: 7
Another impressive performance from the right-back playing centre-back. Didn’t do anything that he could be particularly criticised for. Was solid defensively and impressively progressive with the ball at his feet. As good as he has been in the centre, I’m desperate for him to be back on the right.
Pascal Struijik: 6
The only reason that this score is as low as a six is because he dived in on Harry Kane too early for the second goal and hence allowed the England man more time on the ball than he should have been allowed. He’s assured and capable on and off the ball but improving his decision making under pressure is maybe the key to taking him to the next level
Ezgjan Alioski: 7
We saw the best and worst of Alioski today. But for the penalty, he would have been Leeds’ man of the match, his attacking runs were impeccable and his relationship with Jack Harrison is improving game-by-game. Made one vital last minute tackle to stop Heung Min Son laying in a teammate as Leeds went in search of a consolation goal. The penalty came from a stupid tackle that he is very capable of and needs to cut out of his game if he wants to nail down a starting berth.
Kalvin Phillips: 7
Showed up his competition for an England place in Harry Winks. Quality in the middle of the park. Nothing negative came from him and everything positive came through him. Did well to manage Ndombele throughout. Got a yellow though which rules him out of next week’s clash against Brighton.
Creative in the first half, waned in the second, as did the rest of the Leeds attackers. A brilliant outlet to have for Leeds but not quite his best performance today
Mateusz Klich: 6
Not quite up to the level of his West Brom performance but still a drastic improvement on a few weeks ago. Impressive in the first, struggled offensively in the second. Some lovely passes and touches in there.
Constantly improving. First half was brilliant, the second half less so. Same story as his colleagues. Got into some nice positions inside the area, he keeps getting into those positions and he’ll be scoring goals.
Jack Harrison: 6
So good in the first period. His crosses were perfect and he ran Matt Doherty ragged. Shot from distance came close and you feel as though he’d like to do that a bit more. Waned in the second, obviously, but a real success story this season.
No goal again for Paddy after he didn’t manage to get on the scoresheet midweek against West Brom. Was a nightmare for the defence in the first period and did his job in the second.
Ian Poveda: 6
Impressive on the ball when he came on. Again, his final product lacking here and there but he’s a prospect that I am very excited to see develop.
Jamie Shackleton: 6
Has been the substitute of the season for me. Constantly pressing, constantly pushing forward and wreaking havoc on the opposition midfield. Was right-back this time and you saw his influence wane a bit. Still did his defensive diligence and made some exceptional runs that weren’t always found. Limited impact on the actual game, but excellent effort.
Pablo Hernandez: 7
Tried a lot. Has been affected by injury this year and it has shown at times but really put the effort in to get back into the game. It never really came off for him but good signs.