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Determined Leeds trash Spurs hopes of top four finish
Sunday, 9th May 2021 13:52 by Tim Whelan

After all the moaning over our worst performance of the season last week at Brighton, Leeds woke up and produced one of the best, treating us to a 3-1 demolition of the mighty Tottenham Hotspur.

Marcello Bielsa opted to stick with the same starting line-up as our previous game, even though Phillips and Raphinha were back from injury, with both having to be content with a place on the bench for the time being. Cooper's suspension had finished, but he'd managed to get injured without playing, so we'll have to wait longer for his return.

Spurs were also unchanged, including their much-vaunted attacking foursome of Kane, Son, Bale and Alli (complete with dodgy new hairdo). Spurs still had hopes of the Champions League after their 4-0 thrashing of Sheffield United, but found that doing the same to us was an altogether different proposition.

Interim boss Ryan Mason has restored Ali and Bale to the side after both had their problems with Jose Mourinho, but accommodating them both leaves their back four a little short of protection in the difficult games.

I was concerned when I saw Bale would be on the Spurs right and up against Alioski, given the latter’s limitations as a defender, but I needn’t have worried. Bale was so anonymous I forgot he was playing, and his unwillingness to track back left the hapless Aurier facing Harrison and Alioski on his own, as we directed many our attacks down that flank.

It took only a few minutes for our left-sided pair to set up Bamford for a close-range shot, and Lloris was forced into the first of a number of fine saves, in a game that would produce a fine exhibition of French goalkeeping. And after thirteen minutes Leeds were in front. Spurs were quick to get plenty of defenders in front of Tyler Roberts as he cut in from the right, but just when I thought he was running into trouble, he played a long ball out to the left, where there was far more space.

Harrison sent a low cross across the face of goal, and Dier inexplicably let it pass rather than taking the opportunity to smash it to safety. So Reguilon had to deal with in the centre, and could only send it towards his own goal, where Lloris made an excellent save from his own player. But that left him helpless on the floor when Dallas arrived at the far to smash the ball into the roof of the net.

We continued to dominate possession, only for Tottenham to snatch an equaliser in the 25th. minute. Ali raced through the centre and while Struijk followed Kane to the near post, Ali played an excellent ball through to find Son in plenty of space. The Korean made no mistake in slotting the ball past Meslier, with Llorente and Alioski left to argue about who should have been picking him up.

We reacted well to Spurs drawing level, with Harrison forcing Lloris into another fine save, but the scoreline could have got worse a few minutes later. Ali played Kane in for the England centre forward to keep his cool and put the ball into the net with a net chip over the advancing Meslier, only to be denied by the linesman’s flag.

Ryan Mason was to complain about VAR’s failure to overturn this decision, as it ruled that Kane offside by the width of a toenail, rather than being level and therefore onside. But if you take the view that VAR is supposed to overturn a decision that is clearly wrong then it was correct to allow the on-field decision of offside to stand. Anyway, it’s about time that we had a marginal VAR decision going in our favour!

Mason thought that goal would have turned the tide in their favour, but as it was Leeds were able to get back in front before half-time. Dallas was fouled about thirty yards out, but as he fell he managed to poke the ball to Harrison, who then sent Alioski racing past the last defender to the byline. As the cross came into the six yard box, Dier fell asleep and allowed Bamford to nip in front of him for the simple task of scoring from close range.

Spurs began the second half looking keen to get back into the game and get the points they urgently needed, but when Kane got the ball into the net for the second time he was offside by a far greater margin than before, and there was no need to get the lines out that time. And when Son found space once again he could only send his shot into the side netting.

Bielsa felt the need to re-establish a bit of control by replacing Roberts, who was one of the few Leeds players who hadn’t really shone, with Raphinha coming on to play on the left, with Harrison moving to the right and Dallas coming in from that flank to play in the centre. And shortly afterwards Harrison played set up Kilch for a powerful shot that produced another fine save from Lloris.

At the other end Lloris’s compatriot also had to be alert, and Meslier reacted swiftly to tip a dangerous cross from Aurier over the bar. On 66 minutes Mason finally decided he needed more bite in the Spurs midfield and replaced Bale and Alli with Lamela and Moura. Alli had looked good in patches, in front of the watching Gareth Southgate, but will need to do a lot more to force his way into the squad for the Euros at this late stage.

Spurs were gifted another opportunity as Harrison conceded a free kick in a dangerous spot as he tried to break away. Kane’s free kick clipped the top of the bar, but it looked as though Meslier had it covered if it had been going in. And our young custodian was also on hand when Kane sent Lamela down the left, coming out quickly to stop the cross.

Bielsa made his second change, with Rodrigo coming on for Bamford, and with six minutes of normal time remaining, the Spaniard got the goal that would ultimately seal the win. It began with a through ball to set Raphinha down the left, and while he looked offside at first, Dier had actually been playing him on. That’s right, Dier by name and dire by nature was at fault for all three of our goals.

Up to that point Raphinha had seemed to be conserving his energy and lacking match fitness, but he was back to his old self as he raced down the wing. He looked up and played the ball across to Rodrigo, who had plenty of time to smash the ball past Lloris in the direction he had just come from, into the corner of the net. After the difficult first season Rodrigo has endured with injuries and Covid, it was great to see him back among the goals.

As we moved into injury time our final substitution saw Phillips replacing Klich, perhaps to tighten things up and see the game out. And if that was the plan it obviously worked, with Spurs offering no further threat as Leeds completed our record of finishing the season unbeaten at home against the self-styled super league big six.

All that was left was for Bamford to mentally switch off during his post-match interview with BT Sport, unlike Eric Dier he managed to lose concentration when it no longer really mattered. And while it looks like Spurs have a big rebuilding job ahead of them in the summer, Leeds have plenty to build on for the new season, and with a few additions in the right positions we could be the ones challenging for Europe next season.

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