Harry Kewell undertakes the long haul to Melbourne tomorrow after scoring a goal that restored Leeds United to the Premiership summit yet which did nothing for confounding sterotypical notions about Scottish goalkeepers, even if Tottenham's Neil Sullivan does hail from a Surrey clan.
Leeds, who remain the only unbeaten club in the English game, were eight minutes from a fourth consecutive draw yesterday when they won a throw-in level with Spurs' area. Even when the Leeds-born Dean Richards mis-headed Danny Mills' throw, Sullivan had what looked a routine collection. But he and Chris Perry left the ball to each other, allowing Kewell to steal in between them and flick the ball into an unguarded net. Leeds, who had swiftly nullified Gustavo Poyet's fine opener with a goal which Ian Harte will claim but was arguably an own goal by Sullivan, thus clinched their first League victory in five weeks and restricted Liverpool's tenure on top to half an hour.
Neither Kewell nor Mark Viduka is available for Leeds' next two fixtures, at Sunderland on 18 November and home to Aston Villa a week later, or for the Uefa Cup trip to Grasshopper Zurich in between. They fly out this week for Australia's controversial friendly with France and the ensuing World Cup play-offs.
David O'Leary, the Leeds manager, views the period as crucial. "If we can still be there or thereabouts by the end of November, when we get all our players back, we'll be in with a chance," he said. "We've played well in the big games when we've a full squad available; we beat Arsenal away and could have won at Manchester United and Liverpool." Notwithstanding events at Anfield, O'Leary still sees Manchester United as "the team to beat", saying: "Arsenal and Liverpool won't be far away but United will be thereabouts because they have a great manager and great players."
Leeds deserved the points, having shown a cohesion lacking in their Uefa Cup scrape in France. Several times this season they have won while below their best. Until Sullivan took a hand, or rather did not, it seemed one of their best displays might be rewarded by a first defeat.
Spurs moved the ball around at times with a confidence born of three successive wins. They spurned a gilt-edged chance midway through the first half when Darren Anderton's cross passed through Les Ferdinand's legs, much as a stoppage-time chance would elude the otherwise excellent Richards.
But Leeds, with Olivier Dacourt as inspirational as he was ineffectual at Troyes, dominated the first half. Lee Bowyer was culpable in front of goal before limping off with a hamstring strain, enabling Seth Johnson to make a spikily impressive debut following his £7m switch from Derby.
The newcomer was at fault, however, when Spurs went ahead. First he relinquished possession in midfield; then, after tracking back as Teddy Sheringham and Christian Ziege worked the ball into a central position, he was too easily rounded by Poyet. The Uruguayan's rising shot from 20 yards was the first Premiership goal Leeds have conceded at Elland Road this season. The lead lasted only nine minutes. Viduka's deep cross was laid back by Kewell to Harte, whose right-footed drive from 18 yards was pushed on to the post by Sullivan only for the rebounding ball to strike him on the back and cross the line.
Kewell's opportunism left O'Leary admitting he was still waiting for the match-winner "to explode". Glenn Hoddle, who felt Spurs were unlucky to lose and had made better progress than he expected this early in his reign, was asked whether Sullivan had held his hands up in the dressing-room. "Not high enough," came the Spurs manager's sardonic riposte.
Goals: Poyet (52) 0-1; Harte (61) 1-1; Kewell (82) 2-1.
Leeds United (4-4-2): Martyn 6; Mills 6, R Ferdinand 8, Matteo 7, Harte 6; Bowyer 6 (Johnson 5, 38), Bakke 5, Dacourt 8 (Batty, 81), Kewell 5; Keane 6 (Smith 5, 73), Viduka 5. Substitutes not used: Duberry, Robinson (gk).
Tottenham Hotspur (3-5-2): Sullivan 4; Perry 6, Richards 7, King 5; Taricco 6, Poyet 7 (Davies, 87), Freund 4 (Rebrov, 87), Anderton 6, Ziege 6; Sheringham 6, L Ferdinand 4. Substitutes not used: Bunjevcevic, Thatcher, Keller (gk).
Referee: S Bennett (Orpington) 6.
Bookings: Leeds: Johnson; Tottenham: Poyet, Sheringham, Ziege.
Man of the match: Dacourt.