Monday 1st April 2002
win over bottom of the table Leicester City under their belts and
sitting in fifth place in the League, Leeds will be confident of taking
home something from Tottenham. And the way Spurs are playing
lately, who can blame them ? Their game on Saturday against
Manchester United will be a titanic one and we must hope that they are
exhausted from that fiercely contested match.
Off the back of three straight League defeats, Spurs went to Fulham and won. With a match against Middlesbrough in between, there is ample opportunity to get another point at least under the belt. However, injuries strike once again and Spurs are reduced to about 20 fit squad players to choose from. Not a problem Leeds have !!
There is strength throughout the team starting in goal with Nigel Martyn and Paul Robinson. Martyn is probably England's No. 2 keeper with a good record on shot stopping, although his judgement on crosses can be suspect and don't ask him to play football with his feet, where there is a definite weakness. Robinson will probably soon get frustrated at not getting an opportunity to play in the first team, where he made a good impression last season when Martyn was out injured. A very capable and physically intimidating goalie, he has a bright future that is being held back on the Leeds bench.
The defence has been hit by absences through injury and suspension throughout the season and despite spending £18 million on Rio Ferdinand to bolster this area of the side, the defensive side of his game still raises questions. He reads the game pretty well, but will try and play too much football in dangerous areas of the pitch. Old timers Ian Harte and Gary Kelly have been making up the wing back pairing while Danny Mills has been suspended, but expect the player to return in place of Kelly for this game. He is able to get forward to supply balls into the box, but his suspect temperament means that he has cost Leeds some games this season. Jonathan Woodgate has returned to the side following his guilty affray verdict in the assault case, but he will be striving to prove to Sven Goran Eriksson that he is worth taking to Japan and Korea despite a pending private action against him and the others involved. That leaves the outcast Michael Duberry and ex-Liverpool man Dominic Matteo to be fitted in. If Ferdinand is fit, Matteo will drop to the bench and Duberry will miss out of the final 16. Both play in central defence with Matteo the more mobile of the two with a greater range in terms of ability, whereas Duberry lacks pace to make the position his own.
The innocent Lee Bowyer has not been playing that well since his court experience and whether it is that which is laying on his mind or the transfer speculation. He is one who seems to have a thing about playing Spurs (or any other team come to that), but hopefully the ref will keep a sharp eye out for his misdeeds. Filling in for absent colleagues, Norwegian Eirik Bakke has been functioning as the legs in midfield while David Batty has also been given a game while Olivier Dacourt has been out injured. Dacourt has also been the subject of transfer rumour, but has said he wants to stay at Elland Road and his grit and passing ability would be missed should be he sold. However, Seth Johnson would replace his industry and Harry Kewell, should he not be sold on, would be the imagination the side need. Kewell is rather an excellent player and should he be up for grabs, you can bet that the might of Europe would be in for him with big money. Former Blackburn Rovers winger Jason Wilcox is still at the club and can operate across the midfield, but prefers the left wing role.
In this section of the squad, there could be some big changes come the summer. With some players to be off-loaded, Mark Viduka is one of the prominent players named for a move. Rumours of Roma or Spanish clubs being interested in him have not deflected his concentration as he continues to knock the ball in with regularity. A big, strong striker, he will provide a formidable test for whoever Spurs have fit to put out against him. Another player being linked with a transfer from Elland Road is Robbie Keane and Spurs are one of the clubs said to be interested. He is a quick, agile forward, who will sniff out a chance that is available. Spurs could have had him when he was being touted for sale at Wolverhampton Wanderers. Yet another big money signing in the shape of Robbie Fowler comes next. Fowler has the happy knack of scoring wherever he plays. He has adapted quickly into his new surroundings and has 12 goals this season. The sort of born finisher that Tottenham could benefit from, but are likely to be punished by. Didn't play in the previous fixture this season, but will need to be watched very carefully should Tottenham want to keep him quiet. Lastly in the forward department is Alan Smith, who needs no introduction. And that is what most defenders get before feeling his studs or his elbow.
The only two players Leeds are likely to be missing are long term casualties Michael Bridges and Lucas Radebe. Other injuries are expected to have cleared by the time this game comes around.
There is still, mathematically, a Champions League place within Leeds' grasp, but realistically, their season has been a flop as they have won nothing again and have failed to attain a place high enough up the League for the Golden Goose of the European Cup. With David O'Deary an ex-Gooner, he will get his troops fired up for this game and expect the busiest man on the park to be the ref ...
PREDICTION : - Tottenham 0 Leeds United 1
For more information on the opponents and their history, including full result history of matches between the two teams, click here.
|Tottenham 2 Leeds United 1 (Half time score: 2-0)|
|FA PREMIER LEAGUE|
|Monday 1st April 2002|
|Venue : White Hart Lane|
|Kick Off : 3.00 p.m.|
|Weather : - Warm, sunny|
|Crowd : - 35,167|
|Referee : - Mr. U. Rennie (Sheffield)|
Scorers : - Tottenham - Iversen
10, Sheringham 30
Tottenham : Etherington (simulation) 34, Thatcher (foul) 39
Leeds United : None
: Keller; Thatcher, Richards, Gardner, Perry; Etherington
(Clemence 83), Sherwood, Davies, Anderton (Poyet 62); Sheringham (Rebrov
Leeds United : Martyn;
Harte, Woodgate, Matteo, Mills; Bowyer, Batty, Bakke (Keane 66), A.
Smith; Viduka, Fowler
Tottenham : White shirts, navy blue shorts, navy blue socks
Leeds United : Yellow shirts, shorts and socks
Leeds have had the Indian sign over Tottenham
for quite a while now and this win by Spurs broke the hoodoo of the equal
longest spell without a win over the Yorkshire side.
Within the first few minutes the score could have been 1-1 with chances at both ends. Iversen latched onto a flick header from Sheringham and could only get a weak shot in on goal as he was challenged by Matteo. At the other end, a weak back header by Gardner let in Fowler, who flicked the ball high and goalwards, but Keller showed quick feet to get back and acrobatically slap the ball away as it arced towards the top of the net.
It was with great surprise when Tottenham took the lead. In the 10th minute, Thatcher was fed the ball back by Etherington and he had time to pinpoint his cross onto Iversen's head. Steffen rose well at the far post and attacked the ball over the static Matteo and past Martyn, who was rooted to his line. Iversen showed the athleticism that he can bring to the side and chased well for the 90 minutes. Playing alongside Teddy, who is still woefully out of touch, Iversen had a fair amount of work to do and the willingness to chase long balls made him a useful outlet.
Leeds hit back with a Viduka header that went just over and there was a bit of last ditch defending as the ball was unceremoniously cleared from the Spurs box to avoid threats to the goal. While Keller had to stretch to push out a header in a crowded goalmouth, Tottenham's Matthew Etherington did get a low shot in that Martyn kept out, but the game got a bit bogged down with few direct efforts on goal. However, the next goal of the game came at the other end and once more, Thatcher was involved. As in the Boro game, his long throw caused panic in the ranks of the Leeds defence, as Richards glanced a header into the six yard box. Falling at Sheringham's feet, he deftly laid it straight back to Davies, who fired in a shot that was blocked by Woodgate. Luckily the ball bounced a foot away from him to Teddy, who was on hand to stick it high into the roof of the net. His part in the goal was vital, but truthfully, it was Sheri's only decent contribution to the game. When he was substituted late on, he strode straight off down the tunnel in a state of high dudgeon !!
Tottenham had gone two up without playing particularly well and the Leeds defending had left a bit to desire. Their attacking produced a lot of passes, but the final one did not live up to those preceding it. Some of this was due to good defending as a team by Tottenham. Sherwood sat in front of the back four and provided a shield for them and although he was guilty of giving the ball away and losing possession on occasion, he played a part in the way the team stuck to their positions. It is not a role that he plays as well as Freund, but then he is the best to fill that role at the moment. Unfortunately, Spurs collected two yellow cards, both which seemed unnecessary. Etherington's was for diving, when he had Danny Mills right behind him and although it might not have been a foul, he did clearly catch him on the ankle. Thatcher's booking was more straightforward for a shove on Alan Smith that took him into the advertising hoardings. However, Fowler was also closing in and Ben looked as though he was just shepherding the ball out. Sheringham indicated that it was a shoulder charge and Smith took exception to this calling Teddy all sorts of rude names. Ted's response was a comment with a smile that obviously was not appreciated by the narky little Leeds player. To add insult to injury, the ref gave the throw Leeds way !!
The second half started with Leeds coming at Spurs as would have been expected after their first half performance. A drive from the edge of the box by Lee ("You're supposed to be inside") Bowyer, was deflected by a Spurs body and past a stationary Viduka, who only had to touch the ball in for a goal. It slipped past the post and it was only later, when Sherwood gave away possession, that Fowler flicked on for Viduka to turn Richards on the edge of the area and stride forward to hit his shot across Keller into the right hand bottom corner of the goal. The goal had been coming for a few minutes, but only two minutes into the half meant that Tottenham had a lot of defending to do as the clearances only found a yellow shirt on a regular basis.
A number of ground shots were aimed straight at Keller, so he little trouble fielding them. The only two that caused problems were from Harte. Spurs had done well to prevent conceding free-kicks around the box, as he is an expert at that, but when they did, Thatcher ran out of the wall to block it. His two dangerous shots came as the game progressed. One dipped just as it reached Kasey's chest and he fell on the ball at the second attempt to deny the three Leeds forwards closing in. The other was dangerous as it nearly decapitated the fans around the corner flag as Harte let fly with his less favoured right foot !!
Tottenham were not holding the ball up at all well in the last third, so the Leeds possession in the second half must have been about 70%-30%. However, near the end, we did have a couple of headed chances. Iversen got on the end of Sherwood's long cross and although he was 12 yards out, it caused Martyn to dive full-length to palm it away as it was almost already behind him. Then with Poyet on for Anderton, he rose at the far post to head Sherwood's free-kick just wide, with Teddy in the middle ready to receive any knock down that might have come his way.
With one last hope Leeds flung high balls into the box, but Tottenham held firm and when Davies came out of the area with the ball, the final whistle heralded a well fought victory. Not pretty, but a most unexpected three points form a game that looked a dead cert defeat before kick-off. Perhaps the new 4-4-2 is more suited to the team and although the flowing football we saw earlier in the season is not as pronounced as it was, the team seem to be able to get points with this system. Here's to a few more before the end of the season.
|MEHSTG TOP MAN : - BEN THATCHER|
|There are few better things in
football than the unexpected win and this game falls into this
category. For every game that we have expected to win and slipped
to defeat, it would have been nice if there could have been one match
won that would have evened things up.
For the first half to have needed 2-0 to Spurs was not a true reflection of the game, but for once, Spurs took their chances and Leeds didn't. And for once, Tottenham's defence managed to hold out against the second half onslaught on their goal from the visitors. Even though they got one back after a couple of minutes after the break, the lessons of the 3-5 against Manchester United earlier this season had been learned.
Tottenham's star performer was, without doubt, Ben Thatcher. The East Lower appeared to be willing him to take over the mantle of the Jerry Mental Man as the cult hero of our side. With Rebrov given his usual two minutes to run around without touching the ball, there was little else to get the Spurs fans going apart from the two goals and the awful officiating. Matthew Etherington raised the cheers from the Spurs fans for his dogged determination to get past Danny "Dangerous" Mills. Even picking up a booking, but not for damaging the Leeds full back, only falling over his feet and getting a caution for "diving". Mr. Rennie really should take something for his ailment.
Ben Thatcher was involved all over the pitch. He created the first with his long cross straight onto Iversen's head so that he could not miss and then a long throw onto Deano's head lead to a melee that saw Ted thrash the ball in from short range. With Alan Smith being dispatched into the advertising hoardings, Thatcher was rapidly becoming the one to keep your eyes on. For ages, we have been waiting for him to show what he is capable of and against the likes of Bowyer and Smith, he was in his element to do so. There was little that he could do wring, unless you were the ref and then you just had to have his name in your book.
The ratio of chances taken seemed quite high from Spurs today, as few chances were made in a game where defences had most to do. Leeds passing was off the mark and when they did get into good positions, the Spurs defence got in the way. Fowler's early lob was well saved by Keller, who exhibited very quick feet to back-pedal and push the ball wide. Then the Yankee keeper shovelled away a header in the goalmouth as Leeds players closed in.
For the Tottenham midfield, there was something missing. Whether they have the legs to play the 4-4-2 system ,I don't know. Anderton just looked plain unfit. Davies was industrious and almost broke away when he wriggled past tow Leeds defenders, but not Mills. Sherwood was the defensive man in midfield, but his lack of pace was shown up sometimes and his distribution was not aided by the lack of movement ahead of him. Etherington at least provided someone to pass the ball to and try and work it up the line.
Iversen almost had to play up front on his own, as Teddy was in a charitable mood giving the ball away at almost every opportunity. With That onus on him, he chased and ran, but neither his link-up play with Sheringham nor his touch were good enough to keep the ball away from the Tottenham goal. Teddy was disgusted to see his number held up two minutes from the end, as he thought the magical armband would protect him once again from substitution. So much so that he refused to take it off as he disappeared down the tunnel with the right hump. It is a move that should have been made a few games ago, when he was playing in a similar manner, but appeared immune to being replaced, however badly he was doing.
Leeds' attack did spark into life just after half tie, but apart from that they were limited to long range shots which rarely troubled Keller. While there is a understanding in the back four, the system requires the midfield to work hard at getting back. How well it works, we will see next week.
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