Spurs through after sparkling Defoe hangs Whites out to dry

Leeds United 1 Tottenham Hotspur 3
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The Independent Online

With nearly 38,000 packing the famous Elland Road stadium, almost matching the crowd that turned out for the visit of Liverpool in the Carling Cup earlier in the season, there were echoes of glorious times past for Leeds United last night but no continuation of their unlikely tilt at the FA Cup.

Having knocked out Manchester United on a Sunday afternoon they will not forget in a while, then scored in the sixth minute of added time to bring last night's opponents back home, their supporters sang out loud and proud and dreamt they might just be at Bolton in the fifth round on Saturday week.

Luciano Becchio scored in the dying moments of the first half to keep the fantasy going for a while, although Tottenham were adamant it should not have counted. But a third hat-trick of the season from Jermain Defoe, the last scored on a stoppage-time breakaway as Leeds tried to engineer more drama at the other end, saw to it that Harry Redknapp's team took a step closer to Wembley and the rather more likely proposition that it will be Tottenham's name on the trophy.

Defoe's tally for the season stands at 23 and the Leeds manager, Simon Grayson, admitted that he could do little more than stand back and admire his work. "There wasn't much we could do that the referee would have let us get away with," the Leeds manager said. "He's just got a natural instinct for scoring goals."

It was a line readily taken up by Redknapp. "Wayne Rooney is the best front man I have seen in years but Jermain is a terrific finisher and there is no question he is up there with the most natural finishers in the country," he said.

Flushed with the success of the suitably named Arry's Orse in his colours at Lingfield yesterday afternoon, Redknapp arrived in the snow intent on completing a nice win double with last night's odds-on favourites. Yet, having parted with Robbie Keane and Alan Hutton on Monday, he had only 12 senior players available against a Leeds side who have proved they can play above their League One status.

Leeds could not quibble with Redknapp's view that Tottenham should have won at White Hart Lane 11 days earlier but Jermaine Beckford's nerveless last-gasp penalty meant that they did not and, having arrested a blip in their league form by beating Colchester last weekend, Grayson's team were taking no notice of the bookmakers.

When the ball pinged back off from a Beckford header, expectations naturally were raised. Nonetheless, it was Tottenham who looked likeliest to draw first blood, not least when Defoe slipped through onside after 25 minutes only for Casper Ankergren to make just enough contact with the ball to send it wide.

Ankergren rescued Leeds again moments later, when Gareth Bale's shot took a deflection off Leigh Bromby. After diving to his left to save when space opened for Defoe again, the goalkeeper set down an early claim for man of the match he was to reinforce later.

But the chance of a noble clean sheet disappeared after 36 minutes. David Bentley, on one of his better nights, skipped past Andrew Hughes, the Leeds left back. His cutback found Defoe, whose shot was mishit but worked to his advantage, looping over the line of defenders in front of him and beyond the reach of Ankergren.

Leeds did not wilt, however. Soon Heurelho Gomes was earning his wages, pulling off a fine save to keep out Ludomir Michalik's header. Then, in first-half stoppage time, Gomes blocked from Beckford at close range but could not stop Becchio's follow-up as Tottenham looked in vain for an offside flag.

At times, Leeds made nonsense of the 42 places between the sides but Tottenham's attacks always carried the greater threat. Ankergren defied them twice again, arching his back to turn Michael Dawson's header over the bar, then leaping high to send Bentley's shot the same way.

Inevitably, then, Tottenham restored their lead. Again it was Defoe whom Leeds could not quite contain, the striker's instincts leading him to the right place to turn in Bentley's low cross with 16 minutes left. The third was academic so far as the result was concerned, although not to the player himself, who goes level with Rooney's tally. Not a bad time for two English players to be leading the goalscoring charts.

Leeds can refocus on promotion to the Championship. "We were never going to win the Cup but we take a lot of confidence from how we have performed," Grayson said. "And crowds like we had in here tonight, with the atmosphere they created, bringing back memories of five or six years ago when we were in the Premiership and the Champions League, can only be an added motivation."

Leeds United (4-4-2): Ankergren; Bromby, Naylor, Michalik, Hughes (White, 75); Snodgrass, Howson, Doyle, Johnson (Crowe, 86); Beckford, Becchio (Grella, 86). Substitutes not used: Martin (gk), Robinson, Somma, Hatfield.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Gomes; Corluka, Dawson, Bassong, Bale; Bentley, Jenas, Huddlestone, Kranjcar; Defoe, Crouch. Substitutes not used: Alnwick (gk), Palacios, Modric, Rose, Dervite, Parrett, Fredericks.

Referee: A Marriner (West Midlands).

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