Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs) v Leeds United 2nd January 2021 at The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

Here is to 2021 showing some light at the end of that awfully long dark tunnel. Today, I was looking forward to visiting a new ground but sadly we were still seeing games behind closed doors. Although I’ve been to White Hart Lane many times before, this would have been the first visit for me as well as other Leeds fans. As it was, sat at home with the log fire burning and the snow falling, at least we will not be battling the weather today.

Team: Meslier, Alioski, Ayling (captain), Harrison, Rodrigo, Raphinha, Klich, Phillips, Dallas, Bamford and Struijk. Subs: Poveda for Harrison (61), Shackleton for Alioski (64) and Hernandez for Rodrigo (65). Subs not used: Casilla, Costa, Cresswell. Huggins, Casey, and Jenkins. Leeds lost the game 3-0, a penalty awarded to Spurs on 29 minutes changed the game. Attendance: Zero – behind closed doors. Referee: David Coote.

With the cameras being so far from the pitch I should have put my glasses on to watch them. Leeds made a good move which saw Alioski shoot into the side netting which was a good chance. For the first seven minutes of the game, Leeds had a lot of possession and were going forward. Another good move out of defence saw Bamford unlucky with a chance. Meslier had to come out quick to claim the ball at the edge of the area as Spurs looked to be biding their time and come at us down the centre of the pitch. At the other end Bamford was being crowded out with four Spurs players around him at one time. I kept thinking it was a shame the early chance for Alioski did not come off. Spurs shot over the bar when we could not clear the ball and it kept lingering benefitting Spurs and just after that Meslier made a save to keep them out. The referee played advantage after a foul and the final header from Bamford went over the bar, but it had been a good chance. A ball out from Meslier down the centre of the pitch to our man, was picked up by Spurs instead who ran forward and got a penalty when Alioski brought their man down on the line. The ball should have gone to the right rather than the centre in my opinion, but they may have still won the ball. As that decision went against the run of play, to me it changed the game for us. They scored from the penalty which then gave them hope as Leeds relied on good defending to stop them getting a further goal.

Leeds were trying to get back into the game taking a free kick quickly and Bamford did well to get it through as Spurs kicked the ball away just in front of their keeper for a throw in for Leeds. Another good move saw Klich put a great pass through to Raphinha who found his shot saved by the keeper. The game was being played at a fast pace as Spurs counterattacked and got in a dangerous position but luckily for us their shot went over the bar. There was some good defending from Ayling but with Leeds battling and still attacking, we got forwards. Bamford clipped the ball in their penalty area, but there was no one was close enough behind him to hit the ball into the net from a great position. Another great move from Leeds ended with a great shot from Harrison that was just over the bar but deserved a goal. Nice play from Bamford on the edge of the box saw him wait ready to pass to two or three of our players but a path opened for him and the keeper saved his shot. Sadly, for us we took our eyes off the ball as Spurs counterattacked with a long kick from their keeper. We managed to win the ball, but Spurs persistence saw them win it back and put a cross over that saw their player steal in between Dallas and Ayling to score a second goal just before half time. That London hoodoo strikes again. As we were losing 2-0 at half time, I would be happy to get a draw out of the game at least.

I was expecting changes for the start of the second half as I thought Phillips had been quiet in the first half but Bielsa didn’t make any. As we started well with a good cross that was headed away, my initial thoughts were maybe Bielsa was right not making any changes as I shouted, “Come on Leeds”. With that, a Spurs counterattack saw the ball running for them after a quick free kick which saw a brilliant save from Meslier which rebounded around the post. Sadly, they got a third goal from the corner. Their player managed to head the ball when surrounded by our players and Meslier was very unlucky stopping the ball just over the line when he tried keeping it out. Bielsa lost his balance at the side of the pitch as he was shouting out orders to the team. The penalty changed the game, but we needed to change our formation now. We were losing the ball in midfield which was the main issue for me, and we needed to change things. If Bielsa turned out to be right and we got back to 3-3 then I would eat my words.

As it was Bielsa did make changes with Poveda coming on for Harrison. Leeds were still attacking but Spurs were crowding us out in the penalty area before counterattacking us again which saw some good defending from Ayling and then another great save by Meslier. With Shackleton replacing Alioski and then a minute later Hernandez on for Rodrigo, Leeds would continue to attack. When some Leeds attacking broke down, we had to be thankful for Meslier in goal making the save. Spurs were not giving us any space and the thing I found frustrating was no real clear chances for us. As Spurs broke out from defence, they shot from the halfway line but Meslier raced back in his goal as the ball went over. I was desperate for a goal to go in to give us hope as Leeds won two corners in quick succession after good play from Hernandez. A Raphinha shot was saved by their keeper in the 80th minute as Leeds tried getting closer to scoring. A great cross from Klich was just too far in front for Raphinha to get on the end of.

Most of the attacking was by Leeds now as they defended well from Spurs counterattacks. A Bamford header was easily saved by their keeper, then Dallas was down getting treatment at one time but carried on playing afterwards. Phillips found himself in the book which means he is suspended for Crawley now after getting five bookings. To be honest it is good timing although I do not think he played well today, maybe he was shackled too much. Doherty was sent off for a foul on Hernandez in injury time when the late tackle caught him on his instep. It is a shame this happened so late in the game that we could have used to our advantage although I wouldn’t have wished the tackle on Hernandez. As the whistle blew for full time with Leeds losing 3-0, my mantra was, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again”.  We will get there Leeds, but it will take time. I would much rather see our attacking play than spend 90 minutes passing the ball across the back four and never getting out of our half as we have done in the past. We win some and we lose some comes to mind.

Onto Crawley in the FA Cup which would have been another new ground for me had we been allowed to be there. As someone posted on social media this week, we need to put a strong team out for the game, without those nearing suspension or battling injuries and go for it with some youngsters involved. I totally agree; the FA Cup is still near to my heart with my favourite ever game seeing Billy Bremner lift the cup at Wembley from Her Majesty the Queen in 1972. LUFC – Marching on Together!