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Spurs v Leeds, 27.01.13

(2 P.M.)

Leeds scorers:-
Varney, 15
McCormack, 50

Spurs scorer:-
Dempsey, 58

Referee:- Mr. K. Friend
Assistants:- Mr. G. Beswick & Ms. S. Massey
Fourth Official:- Mr. N. Swarbrick

Attendance:- 29,943

Leeds (4-4-2):- Ashdown; Byram, Lees, Peltier, White; Green, Brown (Capt.), Austin, Varney; Diouf (sub Pearce, 90), McCormack (sub Somma, 90)

Subs not used:- Kenny; Tonge, Norris, Hall, Dawson

Booked:- Diouf (time-wasting re taking free kick), Brown (foul on Parker)

Spurs (4-2-3-1/4-4-2):- Friedel; Naughton (sub Walker, 66), Caulker, Vertonghen, Assou-Ekotto; Huddlestone (sub Dembele, 59), Parker (Capt.); Lennon, Sigurdsson (sub Obika, 59), Bale; Dempsey

Subs not used:- Gomes; Dawson; Livermore, Townsend

Booked:- Vertonghen (foul on McCormack), Assou-Ekotto (Handball)

Victory for “In yer face” football

I hate going out of the FA Cup. I hate losing to lower league opposition, and I hated losing to Leeds. The trouble is that Leeds, after all these years, still play “in yer face” football. They are not the only team to play in such a physical style, but Spurs are a team that don’t seem to be able to handle such physicality. Spurs were not helped at all today by the officials’ willingness to sometimes allow, or just ignore foul play by Leeds, not least when Benoit Assou-Ekotto was pole-axed as he advanced just outside the Leeds area early in the second half.

Don’t get me wrong and accuse me of sour grapes, because Leeds scored two good goals (against some poor defending); closed Spurs down in all areas of the field, and at the end of the day, they just showed more desire to win the game. I’d say that only Spurs skipper Scott Parker matched the home side for their tigerish commitment and effort.

I’d also say that Andre Villas-Boas under-estimated his opponents today, and that he started with too weak a team. Jermain Defoe was not even on the bench, which only serves to exacerbate those mid-week rumours about injury. AVB says that Defoe will be available for Norwich, but we’ll see about that, won’t we? I think that AVB was mistaken to revert to 4-2-3-1, a system he has not played for a while. Included in that system, sometimes as the defensive midfielder, was Tom Huddlestone, a player that is just not suited by physicality. In front of him, between Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale, was Gylfi Sigurdsson, who hardly showed for Tottenham. One play I do recall was when he attempted a curling pass down the line, which sadly resulted in Leeds’ opening goal. I don’t blame Sigurdsson for that, but it is the only piece of play I can recall featuring a man who still has to make his mark at Spurs.

Although AVB had to resort to Jonathan Obika, for whom a first team appearance has been such a rarity, I felt that when he replaced Sigurdsson, and Dembele replaced Huddlestone, and Spurs switched to 4-4-2, we looked far more threatening and likely to score. Obika didn’t get too many touches, but he did have a one on one chance in the closing stages that was only thwarted by a desperate lunge by Peltier.

I was also not happy with the strategy today which led to Gareth Bale playing most of the first half on the right flank. We didn’t see enough decent wing play by either Bale or Lennon, and a lot of the credit for that must go to the Leeds defence.

Leeds set themselves up to attack. They did not include their top scorer and star striker Luciano Becchio, but played a 4-4-2 with El Hadji Diouf and Ross McCormack. Former Spurs midfielder Michael Brown captained Leeds, and led them by his typical determined example.

Spurs kicked off and played towards the South Stand, with the away support located in the West Stand at the South end of the stadium. It’s a new experience at Leeds for me, and at least safety was fine today, with no delayed exit, and no crowd problems in or outside the ground.

Spurs started quite well, with Benoit Assou-Ekotto offering Dempsey a cross from the left, which the Leeds keeper Ashdown just managed to hold on his line. Assou-Ekotto was probing well in these early stages, and Gareth Bale on the left was responding. Spurs won a couple of early corners, actually being lifted over the first defender by Huddlestone, one of which was headed over by Dempsey.

After that Sigurdsson attempted pass (by which time Bale might already have made his switch with Lennon), Leeds picked the ball up, and it was fed to Brown in the middle. Both Naughton and Caulker were guilty of being slow to react, and hoping for an offside flag, which did not come, allowing Varney to advance down the left upon Friedel’s goal, finishing with his right foot across the keeper hitting the net at the back post.

Dempsey had another chance from a Naughton cross, but again, he headed over, with neither power or direction. After another Naughton cross, Assou-Ekotto tried a shot from distance, but that passed over the bar harmlessly. Parker won the ball deep in midfield and Lennon was given a run from the half-way line, but in a central position. Lennon passed to Dempsey towards the right of goal, who tried a shot with the outside of his right foot, held by the keeper.

After a Spurs throw, Huddlestone received the ball just outside the box, with his back to goal. Tom demonstrated skill with an overhead kick to himself, before hitting a low drive. Ashdown parried this shot and Leeds cleared their lines. Caulker carried the ball forward and fed it to Bale down that right wing. Bale did manage to beat two defenders and advance upon goal at a sharp angle. He hit a shot which was deflected then again parried. Another effort by Dempsey was similarly parried, and then the goalkeeper seemed to receive a back pass, but the officials were giving very little to Spurs today.

Friedel had to make a good save from McCormack, after Vertonghen had failed to win a header. To be honest, none of the Spurs defence looked sharp today. In added time at the end of the first half, Bale was away again with a run, but failed to make good use of the ball, when there were two team-mates available for a pass. Bale simply hit the ball at the defence.

There were no changes to the team or the strategy at the start of the second half, except to say that Bale returned to the left side. However, another Spurs attack failed through Sigurdsson, and Assou-Ekotto had been drawn too far forward. Caulker was just too far behind McCormack, who got behind him, beat him to the ball and then took it across Friedel, hitting it with his left foot to the far post.

Spurs fans had been having fun at the expense of Leeds’ connection with a certain Jimmy Savile, but at 2-0 down they were subdued, and Leeds fans were “marching on together”. Naughton did find Lennon with one of his inside the defence passes, and Lennon hit a low cross to the back post, but Dempsey just put it wide. He did get one back for us though, when Bale was sent down the line hit his cross, and Dempsey hit a glancing header beyond Ashdown. For the third time, the goal had been scored inside the back post.

AVB must have already been committed to his changes, as Dembele and Obika came on and Spurs reverted to 4-4-2. There was some pressure, but no reward in the way of chances. Naughton was replaced by Walker with 25 minutes to go. Spurs had a great chance after Bale’s cross and a powerful shot by Dembele, which was blocked by Green. At the other end, Assou-Ekotto fell over and McCormack was allowed a clear run at Friedel, who just saved the shot with his thigh.

Another Bale cross gave another chance to Dempsey, which resulted in a corner. Vertonghen “took one for the team” halting another McCormack advance just inside the Spurs half. With four minutes added time looming, Assou-Ekotto lifted a great ball over the top, and Jonathan Obika had a great chance, but was denied by that Peltier tackle. Leeds made the most use of taking time out of the four minutes with two late substitutions, and apart from Parker’s determination (unfairly halted by Brown near the far corner flag), Spurs failed to threaten the goal, despite Friedel advancing for a late, late corner.

It was by no means the worst Premier League exit from the FA Cup this week-end. After all, Norwich lost to non-league Luton, and Liverpool lost today at Oldham. It still hurts so badly though, and it has been far, far too long since we graced an FA Cup Final. Leeds’ reward for their toils was an away draw against Man City, so maybe there was little more mileage in this year’s Cup for Spurs, after all.

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