LEEDS UNITED (Home)
Saturday 24th February 2001
|Of all the teams
who have come to rival Arsenal for our disaffection, Leeds surely are
the heirs to the crown. Their general attitude on the pitch, their
whingeing manager and their players and fans behaviour off it.
Much has changed since the Seventies, but not in Leeds it appears.
Lining up in goal is likely to be Nigel Martyn. England's accredited number 2 goalkeeper now, but one who still has three or four question marks against him. A good shot stopper, but iffy on crosses and never really at ease when he has to play the ball with his feet. Vulnerable to coming out rashly and losing his bearings, he could be the weakest link. Paul Robinson has deputised for Martyn when injured recently and has impressed many. However, he is still young and has a lot to learn, although his potential cannot be doubted.
In defence, the Yorkshire side have a number of options. The veteran Radebe has been in and out the side, mainly through injury, but also trips to play for South Africa. His experience is valuable to what can sometimes be a young rear guard. Alongside him is Jonathan Woodgate, the accused in an assault trial currently being heard at Hull Crown Court. His entrance to League football was hailed as a major boost for the country's defence, but the only defence he will be worried about in the next few weeks is his legal team that will be representing him. Duberry (also involved in the court case) and Gary Kelly will be out injured, so Ian Harte will slot in and also threaten from free-kicks (unlike Bowyer and Woodgate who threaten with free kicks). With any luck Rio Ferdinand will play and Leeds style has not been the same since he transferred there from West Ham United. He often loses his position and his love of trying to play the ball out of defence often gives other sides a chance to get something from them. Liverpool's Dominic Matteo is more likely to line up in the middle of defence that Radebe, alongside Woodgate. He is god in the air and tiggerish in the tackle, but Spurs will hope that Rebrov is nimble enough to get round him. Ex-Charlton full back Danny Mills is likely to complete the back four, although I have always doubted his pedigree as a Premiership player, but Sven Goran Eriksson seems to think he will be a good full international soon !!
In midfield, Leeds have a number of players to choose from. Another old-timer, David Batty, is back and Lee Bowyer will be on his best behaviour on the pitch after attending court off it. On pitch bad boy, Oliver Dacourt has settled back into the English game, but is still picking up cards like an inveterate gambler. Out for a long period after injury, Harry Kewell is just starting to get back into the team and he may be saved for the European ties that the Whites have ahead. A class act, but a touch of nastiness about him that runs through the side unfortunately. Maybe that is why David O'Deary thinks they are picked on !! McPhail is out for the season with an Achilles injury, Jason Wilcox can play wide on the left to give width and Eirik Bakke is likely to busy himself in between the two penalty areas.
In attack, they have a few attackers. Alan Smith is a sly striker who likes a bit of afters. He is no doubt looking forward to playing at White Hart Lane after getting sent off there and as he scored two against Spurs at Elland Road earlier this season. Another throwback to the Leeds heydays. Mark Viduka is another forward who will be raring to go. In a bit of a scoring drought at the moment, he is a big bloke, who uses his strength to it's best advantage. But he is not all brute strength, using his awareness of the penalty area to score delicate goals when they are called for. Interested Spurs apparently in the summer and would have provided an ideal foil for Rebrov. As Michael Bridges is out for the rest of the season (he would have fitted in well at the Lane too), Leeds have brought in Robbie Keane on loan from Internazionale of Milan. Funnily enough, another former Spurs target, who, it transpired from evidence in Alan Sugar's court case, GG didn't think would get a regular game for Tottenham. I'm sure Keane will be out to prove him wrong too.
Leeds had been hit by injuries to key players earlier in the season, but a few wins have lifted them up the table to the top six, when they were down in 16th position. Just goes to show how tight it is and what effect a little run cane have. However, they are still running hot and cold, as last week's draw against Derby County showed when it was followed by a win over Anderlecht. Another tie against the Belgians is to come before our League game, so we will have to hope that they will be suffering from the exertion of a trip to the continent. However, with Spurs also gaining momentum and confidence, I consider it will finish ...
PREDICTION : - Tottenham 1 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 1 Leeds United 2
Saturday 24th February 2001
Weather : - Bright, sunny,
Young, Campbell, Sherwood, Davies (Thelwell 45), King, Clemence (Iversen
79), Freund, Doherty, Ferdinand (Etherington 79), Rebrov.
Although it was slightly hard to take this defeat because Tottenham had done reasonably well, it really came down to a stack of missed chances that went begging. With more accurate finishing and less acrobatic goalkeeping, the score could have been about 5-8 !!
Spurs were better in the first half, although they had to survive a few close calls and then were hard done by at the end of it. The match started with Viduka going down under challenge by Sol, which looked to me a penalty, but on TV evidence perhaps not, and this was shortly followed by Robbie Keane being put away in the area in the middle of the goal, but his low shot was turned around for a corner by Sullivan. It didn't end there, because a dodgy offside decision let Viduka through and another chance went away. As for Spurs, they were finding it hard to get through Leeds' tenacious midfield, but did make an opportunity when Davies worried their defence and created a volleyed chance for Les. There were a few nice passing moves, but none produced a clear opening, while at the other end, Sully again dived to palm a rising shot from Mills over the bar, something he wasn't called upon to do when Harte hit a free-kick high over the goal.
On the half hour, Rio Ferdinand (not for the first time) climbed all over Rebrov and Spurs were awarded a free-kick in the Leeds half. It was swung in by Sherwood and Les rose above the Leeds defence to head it onto the post, from which it bounced back, hit a surprised Nigel Martyn and then off for a corner. A couple of minutes later, a long ball was headed sideways by Rio Ferdinand intended for a team-mate, but well read by Sergei. Collecting the ball, he drew the £18 million man and then slipped the ball past him for Sir Les to run onto it, take it into the box and round Martyn, sweeping the ball into the net in the same movement. It was a classy finish. On the balance of play, Leeds had been pressing and had a number of corners to their credit, but now things started to turn Tottenham's way. Almost immediately, the ball fell to Sergei on the edge of the penalty area and his first time shot had the Leeds keeper scrambling across the goal, but it went a couple off feet wide. Then Davies from a similar position out on the right, controlled the ball like he did for his second goal last week and got in a low shot, but could not find enough power to get past Martyn. Then came the shot of the match. A high ball was played in the direction of Les Ferdinand. He controlled the ball on his chest and as it dropped unleashed a fierce half-volley from 35 yards that flew inches wide of the post. This was Les as he used to play.
At this point things looked good for Spurs as Rebrov had a couple of long shots blocked by Matteo, but Keane reminded Tottenham of the visitors threat when he was released again and could only hit a weak shot straight into Sullivan's arms from a central position. Then it happened. As if he was trying to balance up the first appeal that was turned down (and another when Keane dropped like a stone in the box), referee Jeff Winter awarded a penalty when Bowyer went down as Gary Doherty ran alongside him, making what seemed minimal contact. Sullivan was booked for kicking the ball away, but could not stop Harte's spot-kick even though he guessed the right way. Coming in first half injury time, it was a cruel blow.
With Thelwell entering play for Davies, it was decided to throw Doherty forward, but this didn't work as the move left Spurs a bit over-run in midfield. An early example was the chance that fell to Bowyer. A move down the right gave Leeds a man over and his cross found Viduka in the penalty area. His shot was saved by Sullivan and as it bounced away he punched it upwards, but unfortunately it dropped kindly for Bowyer. From where I was sitting he hit the ball into the net and then seemingly rammed it in again as players do when they celebrate goals. However, when play went on I wondered what was going on. What had actually happened was that his first shot had been blocked by Clemence's stomach as he dived to the ground on the goal-line, then his follow-up was again stopped by Clem's heel as he got up. It was an amazing miss and although Spurs escaped, it was to be only a short reprieve. A corner was played short to the Leeds midfielder who has spent most of the last two weeks in court and he manoeuvred into a shooting position on the right hand edge of the box. His low shot went through a sea of legs and Viduka tried to back heel it, missed and it bounced past Sullivan into the net. There were cries of offside, but Thelwell had stayed back and played Keane and Viduka on. It was s oft goal as he should have been stopped at the corner from shooting and players should have pushed out to catch them offside. However, it came at the end of a passage of play where Spurs had been penned back in their own half and could not cope with the play of the Leeds midfield, which denied Tottenham the ball.
There was little that Martyn had to deal with directly, as it all went wide of him or the goal. The finishing needs to be more accurate to make the keeper work. Two headers from King and Sherwood flashed across the face of goal and a Rebrov snapshot from 25 yards flew close to the post, but Spurs didn't really look like scoring as there was little supply from midfield. In fact, Leeds came closest, with a Harte free kick drilled just over the goal and Sully turned a ferocious drive form Viduka over the bar.
The match represented a watershed for Spurs. Having just managed to win away, they have now lost at home for the first time this season. Leeds were better at passing and general use of the ball, but there was more fluidity about their play and it is something that Spurs must get going in their game to get something out of the remainder of this season.
MEHSTG TOP MAN : - NEIL SULLIVAN
|Why did it have to be him ? Of all
the midfielders in all the world, why ? It had to happen - both
losing at home and Bowyer getting on the scoresheet, but when he missed
a completely open goal, it looked as though he might end up with egg on
his face (as opposed to blood on his jacket - allegedly). But his
involvement in both goals robbed Spurs of the points.
It took a criminal decision to get Leeds back into it when Doherty ran alongside the accused and minimal contact took place before the Leeds midfielder went down in the box (hopefully not the only time he will do this in the next few weeks). It seemed a favourite pastime for the Leeds players who had obviously had a tough time in Belgium in midweek. For a big strong bloke, Viduka collapses faster than the Spurs share price and Robbie Keane hit the deck more often than Popeye. Referee Jeff Winter made sure that fans went home knowing his name as he proceeded to make a catalogue of controversial decisions that left him the centre of attention. Perhaps refs should undergo psychological testing before they are admitted to the premier League list to ensure that they do not suffer from Attention Deficiency Syndrome. Still he pointed to the spot and the rest (as was Spurs' unbeaten home record) was history.
For Spurs, the plus points were in Ledley King's cool display, Sol's amazing recoveries and block tackles, Sullivan's agility in goal that kept the score down and Steffen Freund, who used the ball really perceptively today. Luke Young had a tough time, as he had few options to pass to when he received the ball and Stephen Clemence seemed hesitant when in possession. Simon Davies started and although eh did not make such a stunning impact as he had done the week before, his work was quietly efficient and he covered a lot of ground, whereas Sherwood suffered when the young Welshman was substituted at half-time, with Doherty pushed up front. Batty must be at least the same age as Sherwood, but still seems able to get and down the pitch without much trouble. Gary did not get much decent service and the same went for Rebrov. When a decent cross was played in, Leeds did look uncomfortable in the air. Les looked like the Ferdinand of old, taking his goal very well and his first half pile-driver that just missed and a header that bounced off the post and off Martyn to go behind a reminder of the power he once showed on a regular basis. Coming on as a substitute, Thelwell did well against the bigger man in Viduka and although GG tried to swing things Spurs' way with the introduction of Iversen and Etherington, they did not have much of an opportunity to do too much.
It was sad that the home record went in a manner where two soft goals were conceded, but better that it is now than in some more important match, which may have a bearing on our season. In this case, Spurs fought the law and the law-breaker won.
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