No need for Mourinho ‘excuses’ as Spurs play Leeds perfectly

Jose Mourinho’s game plan worked to perfection as Leeds United failed to shake off their New Year’s Day hangover as they lost 3-0 to Spurs. And he didn’t even need to ‘park the bus’.

Many predicted before the match that Mourinho would allow Leeds to have a lot of possession before hitting them on the counter-attack with Harry Kane and Son Heung-min. And those forecasts were proved correct as Spurs nullified the Yorkshire side’s threat and hit them where it hurt. It was clear early on that Tottenham were trying to get Son and Steven Bergwijn in between the centre-backs and the full-backs rather than out wide as they turned over play and attacked at pace.

Ahead of the match, Mourinho claimed Spurs would make no “excuses” for losing as he described their preparation for the match as “nonsense” after their match against Fulham was postponed in midweek. He said: “I don’t want to find any excuses before the game – we have to be focused and optimistic. We didn’t play against Fulham so our preparation was nonsense but let’s be positive. We play with a back four – in different matches we make the best decisions for different opponents. We go to the game in a positive way and want to win a difficult match. Leeds are a difficult opponent with a style of playing, they go man to man and that creates difficulties.”

Mourinho may have been unhappy at the “unprofessional” Premier League’s handling of the postponement but it gave his side extra time to recover from their 1-1 draw against Wolves last weekend. It will affect Tottenham later on in the season as they try to fit an extra fixture into their calendar but it allowed Spurs to match Marcelo Bielsa’s men – who made no changes from their side that played West Brom – for energy on Saturday. And Leeds have a habit of bringing in the New Year on a bum note, with their 2017 victory over Rotherham now the only time in their last eight attempts they have won their first league game of the calendar year.

Like Sheffield United last season, it has been refreshing to see Leeds attack the division with absolutely no fear. They were relentless again here but good chances were few and far between. In truth, they were poor defensively and didn’t have enough big moments at the other end to justify their gung-ho approach. It has worked on many other occasions for them but Glenn Hoddle was certainly over the top in commentary. The Spurs legend hailed them as “incredible” for getting six players in the box while they were losing 3-0, while also praising Leeds for “refusing to lie down”. You have to commend them for the effort they put in to the game –  but Spurs completely controlled the match after the first goal.

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It may have come in controversial circumstances – with a debate as to whether the challenge on Bergwijn was inside the box or not – but Kane made no mistake with the penalty to give Spurs a 29th-minute lead. The England international’s assist for Spurs’ second before the break means he now has more Premier League goal involvements this season (21) than last season. Son, who benefited from his assist, scored his 100th goal in all competitions for Tottenham, becoming the 18th player to score that amount for Spurs, and the first not from the UK or Ireland.

Toby Alderweireld crowned Mourinho’s first ever meeting with Leeds early in the second half when his header was mishandled by Illan Meslier, who fumbled it over the line. The victory means Spurs don’t extend their four-match winless run in the Premier league and instead move up to third in the table, four points off leaders Liverpool. Mourinho has now won all five of his meetings with Bielsa, with an aggregate score in all of those matches of 18-2.

The most surprising aspect of the match was that Leeds didn’t score in the second half, with 11 of the 15 goals Spurs have conceded this season coming after the interval. Mourinho got the balance between attack and defence right on Saturday after sitting back when taking the lead on too many occasions. Spurs had 20 shots against Leeds and could’ve easily extended the scoreline. With Kane and Son in this kind of form, Mourinho will rarely have to offer up any excuses before or after matches. They now face a crucial set of fixtures, with Aston Villa, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City to play in their next seven Premier League matches. Play like they did today and Spurs could catapult themselves into the title mix. Play like they did against Wolves and Leicester and they may have to settle for top-four battle.

Joe Williams

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