No shame but irritation in Leeds United defeat at Tottenham Hotspur as Whites assist Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min - Graham Smyth's Verdict

There was no shame in losing 3-0 to Tottenham Hotspur but there was irritation for Leeds United.

Sunday, 3rd January 2021, 5:49 am
DEADLY DUO - Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min both found the net against Leeds United but were given a helping hand by the visitors. Pic: Getty

It's a sign of how far the club has come under Marcelo Bielsa that players who might well have been pinching themselves walking out at the £1bn Tottenham Hotspur Stadium before kick-off were kicking themselves at full-time.

Leeds errors, coupled with the ruthless efficiency of Jose Mourinho's attack, proved the difference, said Bielsa.

It was the quality of the world class attackers in the Spurs side and their counter attacking ability as a side that was expected to prove the difference in this game.

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In Son Heung-Min and Harry Kane Mourinho has two of the best, players with deadly individual threat and a wonderful connection that makes them even more dangerous as a pair.

They need very little in the way of help from opposition sides yet that's exactly what Leeds gave them.

A poor pass and a clumsy challenge handed Kane the chance to open the lead from the penalty spot.

A lost duel in midfield and a missed tackle allowed Kane to clip the ball into the path of Son for the second.

And Leeds threw in the obligatory goal from a corner, failing to do anywhere near enough to stop Toby Alderweireld from heading in a Son corner.

The third, which came five minutes after half-time, was the comfortable cushion the hosts needed to sit back and defend, packing the final third and frustrating Leeds to the final whistle.

Spurs 'did a job' on Leeds according to Alan Shearer on Five Live but Leeds lent a helping hand.

It was a mixed start for the Whites' on their first visit to Spurs' new home and Gjanni Alioski was in the thick of it.

He gave the ball away after 12 seconds as Spurs pressed high and hungrily.

He popped up in the hosts' area from a well weighted Mateusz Klich pass with the type of the third man run we're so used to seeing from Bielsa's side and slammed his shot into the sidenetting.

Leeds were playing a full part in the game early on, showing they too can counter attack.

When Son's attempt to win a free-kick from Stuart Dallas in the visiting half failed, Leeds quickly swung the ball left and threatened through Jack Harrison whose deflected cutback was brought down and then sent back up, high over the bar by Klich.

A confident corner take from Illan Meslier and a quick throw out sent them on another rush upfield, Dallas, Klich and Rodrigo involved in a move that teed up Patrick Bamford, his effort too tame to trouble Hugo Lloris.

Kalvin Phillips had started the game quietly, struggling to find space in order to receive the ball, so Luke Ayling took it upon himself to carrier it upfield, bypassing the first line of the Spurs' press and allowing Leeds to build from the back.

When Phillips did start to get on the ball, good things happened, Leeds putting together another quick counter that ended with Bamford heading Raphinha's dangerous cross over the top.

That attack started through some sloppy Spurs play.

When Leeds were sloppy, the punishment was swift and decisive.

Meslier played an uncharacteristic poor pass out through the middle of the pitch, Harry Winks picked it off and found Steven Bergwijn who drew a foul from Alioski right on the edge of the box.

VAR confirmed referee David Coote's decision to award a penalty, Kane stepped up with an inevitability that comes from the air of robotic reliability he carries in such situations. It's easy to picture him scoring because we've seen it so often. This was his 42nd successful conversion from 12 yards, from 49 attempts.

Leeds, Alioski in particular, looked more than a little rattled and when he dived in on Bergwijn again, Bielsa was screaming for calm from his technical area. The subsequent free-kick caused problems and Kane shot wide.

Leeds kept attacking, however, a quickly taken free-kick of their own so close to putting Bamford in alone on Lloris.

There was another nice move started by Phillips, Leeds showcasing their intelligence, slick passing and the attractive football that has won them so many plaudits since promotion, before Harrison curled over the top.

But Spurs, almost immediately, doubled their lead. And they did so with such little fuss. One long ball, one 50:50 won, one forward pass, one perfect cross, two goals to the good. Kane knew where Son would be when he fired the ball in, Son knew where to be, how to get there and how to finish.

For Dallas and Luke Ayling, the run was nigh on impossible to pick up and for Meslier the finish was too hot to handle.

If the timing of the second goal, just two minutes before the break, was frustrating for Leeds, the arrival of the third was maddening.

A bright enough start to the second half meant nothing when Son curled in a corner and Alderweireld's desire to get to the ball first left Phillips in his wake and knocked Bamford out of his path, Meslier unable to keep out the header.

That, in essence, was that. The scoreline does not reflect Leeds' relentless search for a route back into the game or the wave after wave of attack as they dominated the ball, but the realisation had long since dawned that Spurs were quite happy to defend their lead, in numbers, by the time Phillips headed over from a Raphinha corner and Pablo Hernandez, on for the faded Rodrigo, had a pair of shots deflected wide.

The second yellow and subsequent red card shown to Matt Doherty in injury time came too late to trouble the hosts who had little problem in seeing out the remainder.

"We have gone through similar problems to the ones we faced today," said Bielsa after.

"It's not through a lack of experience or the need for a longer adaptation period to the league, we are in condition to take better decisions than the ones we took."

But 17 games into a Premier League campaign that has them sitting 11th in the table, perspective on Leeds' problems is easy to find. A look at the top flight table shows Sheffield United in real trouble, a glance at the Championship shows clubs who considered themselves Leeds' promotion rivals at the start of last season in strife.

The performance against Spurs could have been better but life could be so much worse.