Football: Sheringham stifles Leeds

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The Independent Online
Tottenham Hotspur. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4

Leeds United . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

THE humiliation of the champions, who have now travelled and lost in the League nine times in a row, continues unabated. In his press briefing Howard Wilkinson was either lost for words, or ran out of them in the dressing-room after this latest grilling at the hands of a strutting, invigorated Tottenham.

When Teddy Sheringham stroked in Spurs' fourth from the penalty spot with 20 minutes still to go, the chant 'You're worse than San Marino' rang round the stadium. Leeds were not quite that inferior, but their lack of drive and ideas ensured that Erik Thorstvedt's duties were almost as light as Chris Woods' had been on Wednesday.

It was one of those glory-glory afternoons at White Hart Lane and there have been quite a few of them lately. It is easy to point to the panic-strewing telepathy between Nick Barmby and Sheringham, whose spot kick after David Rocastle had felled Barmby was his third goal of the game, 10th in seven outings and 19th this season for Spurs. But you only have to look at Leeds' porous defence, so reminiscent of Tottenham's back four in recent years, to realise where the fundamental alteration in both sides has been made.

Neil Ruddock looks and moves like a lock forward, but he leaps like one too. And confronted by his brand of do-or-die commitment, Lee Chapman, whose goal supply was the foundation of last season's title, has never looked so negated.

Ruddock it was who stole some of Sheringham's thunder with a towering goal from the set piece, making it 3-0. He sailed above Jon Newsome to meet Darren Anderton's byline free-kick, and suddenly, after three headed goals, you thought you were watching some indomitable crash and bang side from south of the river. Sheringham had scored identically in the 10th minute from Anderton's corner, soon after Andy Gray had replaced the injured David Howells, and he got his second, cannily nodding over the advancing John Lukic, from a Ruddock long ball. The immobility of Leeds' defending made the pass look cleverer than it was, and several much better moves, usually involving Barmby, came to nothing. But it was still yards smarter than anything the visitors compiled all afternoon.

On this showing the champions need two new central defenders, two new forwards, a new goalkeeper and an emphatic kick in the posterior for all the other under-performers, the four best of whom may have been tired after international duty. The triumph over Stuttgart as recently as the autumn seemed to belong to some long-lost, sepia-tinted past when the side had imagination, passion, width and, above all, legs. Gary McAllister in particular looked half the player he can be, and that is only partly to do with Gordon Strachan's continued absence.

Tottenham Hotpsur: E Thorstvedt; D Austin, J Edinburgh, V Samways, G Mabbutt, N Ruddock, D Howells (A Gray, 6 min), N Barmby (P Van Den Hauwe, 74 min), D Anderton, T Sheringham, P Allen. Sub not used: I Walker (gk). Coach: D Livermore.

Leeds United: J Lukic; R Bowman, T Dorigo, D Batty, J Newsome, C Whyte, S Hodge, Rod Wallace (D Rocastle, 64 min), L Chapman (F Strandli, 86 min), G McAllister, G Speed. Sub not used: M Day (gk) Manager: H Wilkinson.

Referee: G Ashby (Worcestershire).

Goals: Sheringham (1-0, 10 min); Sheringham (2-0, 39 min); Ruddock (3-0, 49 min); Sheringham pen (4-0, 69 min).

(Photograph omitted)