Football: Leeds live on commitment

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The Independent Online
Southampton. . . . 1

Leeds United. . . .1

ANYONE who had left The Dell 10 minutes from time would have been convinced that struggling Southampton were on their way to securing only their second win of the season and that Leeds are merely a shadow of the side that won the title so thrillingly last April. The finale, however, showed that the champions have a reservoir of resilience which has not been dispelled by their sluggish start.

Missing the injured Rod Wallace and Eric Cantona, their attack lacked subtlety and, after their midweek humiliation in Stuttgart, they looked jaded. The shorts of their new away strip made them look as if they had just come off the beach at Marbella and no doubt that is where they would have preferred to be. Yet just when many sides might have been throwing in the towel against a stubborn Southampton, Leeds raised their game to a higher level.

With Scott Sellars, who had somewhat surprisingly replaced Steve Hodge, finding space down the left flank, Gary Speed emerged as Leeds' inspiration. Two of his diagonal cross-field passes could not have been bettered by Bobby Charlton and, with six minutes remaining, Speed equalised with an incisive strike from the edge of the penalty area.

Leeds are still without a victory in six games, which is not the kind of form they will need to retain the championship. Yet, despite playing below their best, they have been defeated only twice in the Premier League, another indication of their determination.

Southampton are not the sort of team to face when you are need of a relaxing afternoon. In midfield, Terry Hurlock and David Speedie forged an unlikely but effective partnership. However, manic work-rate is not all Southampton have to offer. In Matthew Le Tissier they have one of the most gifted ball-players in the League.

Nothing except a succession of niggling fouls and offsides had come from all the huffing and puffing until Le Tissier blew open Leeds' defence with a delightful curling pass inside Tony Dorigo two minutes before the interval. Perry Groves almost fell over his own legs in his excitement, but managed to stay cool enough to put the ball in the net.

Sometimes Le Tissier is accused of being a player who floats in and out of games, but it is not always easy for a winger to bring his influence to bear. The ball may not come his way too often or, when it does, it may be accompanied by two defenders. Perhaps a central midfield position would suit Le Tissier more. As it is, his passing ability and, just as important, his perception of space is too often wasted. Of course, he does not know how to tackle, but then neither did Glenn Hoddle or Michel Platini.

Goals: Groves (43) 1-0; Speed (84) 1-1.

Southampton: Flowers; Dodd, Benali, Hurlock, Hall (Kenna, 22), Moore, Le Tissier, Banger, Dixon, Speedie, Groves (Maddison, 74). Substitute not used: Andrews (gk).

Leeds United: Lukic; Wetherall (Shutt, 80), Dorigo, Batty, Fairclough, Whyte, Strachan, Hodge (Sellars, 58), Chapman, McAllister, Speed. Substitute not used: Day (gk).

Referee: A N Buksh (London).

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