Viduka and Smith revitalise Leeds

FA Premiership: Elland Road fans enjoy another goal feast as O'Leary overcomes his mentor once again
Click to follow
The Independent Football

In life, there are misjudgements. And there is George Graham's underestimation of Leeds' potential when he was seduced by Tottenham's entreaties almost exactly two years ago. The Scot was yet again made to rue his short-sightedness by a Leeds side who began as though still in self-congratulatory mood after Tuesday night's Champions' League rout of the Turkish club Besiktas, but concluded a remarkable afternoon having caused considerable embarrassment to a fragile Tottenham rearguard.

In life, there are misjudgements. And there is George Graham's underestimation of Leeds' potential when he was seduced by Tottenham's entreaties almost exactly two years ago. The Scot was yet again made to rue his short-sightedness by a Leeds side who began as though still in self-congratulatory mood after Tuesday night's Champions' League rout of the Turkish club Besiktas, but concluded a remarkable afternoon having caused considerable embarrassment to a fragile Tottenham rearguard.

The result is that Graham's Tottenham have still failed to defeat David O'Leary's Leeds. The additional, delicious irony, of course, is that, only recently, Graham had been decrying the standard of defending by Premiership teams. The Elland Road faithful could hardly contain their mirth that his point was so emphatically proven here. After six of the best on Tuesday night, here was a caning of their least-favourite manager. Well, not quite.

In a game where the defending of both sides was as well orchestrated as Great Britain baton-changing, Leeds' advantage was never truly confirmed until the final whistle.

Nevertheless, such inadequacies should not detract from the deadly accuracy of Mark Viduka and Alan Smith, whose burgeoning partnership produced two goals apiece during a 22-minute second-half spell which produced six. Indeed, with a third attempt the latter might have been rewarded with a hat-trick, but instead struck a post.

Inevitably, the kind of contest which thrills a spectator leaves only a chill within the heart of a manager. It renders all those hours on the training pitch, organising defensive strategies, rather futile, doesn't it? Particularly for Graham, whose CV will always boast "establishing and organising the celebrated Arsenal back four". Never mind the lethal finishing of Tottenham's Ukrainian forward Sergei Rebrov, or the predatory instincts of Smith, scoring his first goals for seven games, and Viduka.

O'Leary provided a précis for both his and his former Arsenal manager's attitudes when he insisted: "I can't take any credit for the second half performance. There was no great tactical plan. Two managers have seen too many bad goals given away today."

For all Leeds' European euphoria, it has been a period of domestic despair for O'Leary's men, who boasted two points from their last 12 before yesterday. They had been particularly ineffective at Elland Road, having suffered humiliating defeats by promoted Manchester City and Ipswich.

Still, Tottenham were hardly in a position to mock, having scored a total of two goals in their last three games, and both of those against Brentford in the Worthington Cup. Unfortunately for the Londoners, once the goals began to flow again, so leaks in the system appeared.

Whether both teams were determined to be on their absolute best behaviour following last season's 18-man brawl in the corresponding fixture - resulting in a £150,000 FA fine apiece - or merely reacting to their midweek endeavours, the first half-hour was devoid of inspiration. The dearth of biting challenges mirrored the lack of opportunities. Indeed, for a time it appeared as though the half would be notable only for a nasty clash of heads between the Leeds captain Lucas Radebe and Tottenham's Les Ferdinand. The latter was removed by stretcher and replaced by Darren Anderton, himself returning from a groin injury. Radebe, who damaged his neck in the 4-0 defeat at Barcelona, attempted to continue, but was eventually forced to retire. Both men were treated for concussion.

By the time Radebe departed, Tottenham had forged into the lead, Stephen Carr sweeping a low ball across the Leeds area for Rebrov to score.

Leeds, so devoid of ideas, and too frequently incapable of finding a white shirt before the break, began the second period in similar mode. Yet, their equaliser, seven minutes after the interval, transformed the contest from moribund tomesmerising.

Lee Bowyer, who had been responsible for igniting the fuse the last time the sides met here with a studs-first challenge on Stephen Clemence, this time displayed the more cultivated side of his nature with a contribution to three of Leeds' goals. The first arrived when Bowyer lobbed a teasing ball into the goalmouth which Sullivan could only finger against a post. The alert Viduka lashed in the rebound.

Almost immediately, Gary Kelly's long-range effort was diverted past Sullivan by a grateful Viduka. His two goals, added to a brace against Besiktas, were a welcome and deserved reward for the Australian international. Smith, a member of Kevin Keegan's squad to face Germany and Finland, steered a header past Sullivan from Lee Bowyer's free kick for Leeds' third - the end of "a crazy 10 minutes", according to Graham - before Chris Perry hauled Tottenham back into contention, heading in Anderton's free-kick. But the repair was never completed. Bowyer and Smith again combined, this time the young striker heading the fourth from the midfielder's corner.

Spurs had still not quite been shrugged aside. Anderton was again the provider with a corner which Iversen headed into the goalmouth for Rebrov to convert with an overhead kick. Smith actually cleared the ball, but he was standing well behind the line.

David O'Leary, who "thinks the world" of his former Arsenal manager, readily concedes that he has only achieved what he has because of the Scot's desire to return to London. Appropriately, on the occasion of Graham's second anniversary at White Hart Lane, the Irishman had good reason to thank his mentor once again.

Comments