Ross McCormack makes it 2-0 to the Whites - Laurence Griffiths
Leeds United once again came up with the goods in the Cup against top flight opposition to earn a spot in the FA Cup 5th round. Pessimistic before the game, Stephen Clark came away from Elland Road wondering why the side can't produce performances like this on a consistent basis.
Leeds United produced an outstanding performance full of hard work and determination to see off Premier League Tottenham Hotspur in an enthralling FA Cup tie at Elland Road. Strikes from Luke Varney and Ross McCormack gave Leeds a priceless two goal advantage which they clung onto valiantly, despite a scare when Clint Dempsey pulled a goal back on the hour.
It was no great surprise that Luciano Becchio was left out of the Leeds United starting line up, although the sentimental side of me would have loved to see him on the bench and be given the opportunity to say goodbye to the fans who adore him. Not many Leeds supporters would have looked at the starting line up and felt optimistic of our chances. Jamie Ashdown replaced Paddy Kenny in goal, Michael Brown took over the armband in a midfield four alongside Rodolph Austin with Paul Green and Luke Varney in the wide areas, El-Hadji Diouf and Ross McCormack up front.
Tottenham Hotspur made five changes from the side that drew with Manchester United last weekend, Brad Friedel took his place between the sticks with Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Tom Huddlestone, Gylffi Sigurdsson and Jan Vertonghen coming into the team, which still looked a strong line up. Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon were on the wings. Two other former Leeds men were on the Spurs bench with Jake Livermore and the hugely talented, sorry huge foreheaded Andros Townsend.
Leeds were forced to kick towards the Kop end in the first half and immediately forced an early corner as they looked to pressurise the Tottenham back line. Brad Friedel was forced into action, punching the ball away as Leeds made a bright start. The visitors looked for Gareth Bale to provide their attacking inspiration, the Welshman forcing Lee Peltier into a desperate challenge.
Leeds though were very much on the front foot and they took the lead on 15 minutes. If the goal was a surprise, it wasn't as big a surprise as the goalscorer. A break down the left saw Luke Varney burst clear, and despite looking offside was allowed to go on, finishing unerringly past Friedel.
Varney has been the butt of plenty of abuse from the Leeds support this season, but his goal sparked chants of "Varney Army" and "Who needs Van Persie, We've got Luke Varney" from the Kop. Inspired by his goal, Varney continued to cause problems for the Spurs defence, interchanging positions well with Diouf. He fired another effort over the crossbar on 21 minutes as Leeds continued to press forward.
At the other end frustration was mounting for Spurs. Bale having got no change from Sam Byram, switched wings to try and get at Aidy White. However if the Leeds full back has one thing in his locker it's pace, and he did superbly well to frustrate the Welshman, so much so he was reduced to pushing White over in his efforts to get past him, the serial diver having the temerity to claim simulation against White.
In central midfield Tom Huddlestone was gliding around in his usual languid style. He forced Ashdown into his first real save of the match on the half hour, a fine effort from the edge of the area which the keeper got down well to palm away.
Spurs were coming more into the game now and Bale had a great chance as he waltzed into the area on the right hand side. However he tried to force the ball past Ashdown at the near post rather than picking out a team mate in the box, the keeper blocking the effort.
Spurs continued to press forward and Clint Dempsey forced Ashdown into another save, his swerving effort half blocked by the keper, Lees shepherding the ball back to the keeper.
Leeds should have doubled thier lead just before half time, Varney flicking a header into the path of McCormack who was denied by the legs of Friedel.
The Leeds players went off to huge cheers at half time, a pleasant change to the boos which have ben the norm in recent weeks. Those cheers raised in volume five minutes into the second half as Leeds doubled their advantage.
The Whites worked the ball out of defence superbly, Byram finding Lees who played the ball forward towards Diouf. the Senegalese striker flicked the ball into the path of McCormack who cut back inside of Steven Caulker before driving the ball into the top corner past the despairing Friedel.
Tottenham knew they were in trouble now and upped their game markedly. They should have pulled a goal back on 54 minutes when Lennon broke down the right, his ball across the goal sliced horribly wide of the opening goal from six yards out by Dempsey.
Five minutes later and Dempsey redeemed himself as Spurs found themselves back in the game. Bale did well to dig out a cross from the left and the US striker glanced a header over Ashdown and looped it into the net.
Andre Villas Boas then turned to his bench to try to dig his team out of the hole, Mousa Dembele and Jonathan Obika replacing Huddlestone and Sigurdsson.
The midfield battle was becoming a fascinating one as Michael Brown was putting in a fine shift, his battle with Scott Parker pivotal to the outcome of the match. Skipper for the day, Brown may not offer Leeds anything in a creative sense, but certainly was getting under the skin of the Premier League side.
With 20 minute left AVB made his last substitution, a strange one as Kyle Walker replaced Kyle Naughton at right back. However the best right back on the pitch was Byram, the Leeds youngster showing he was worth his new contract with another superb performance. Time and time again he thwarted Spurs advances, as Leeds began to be pressed back by Tottenham's efforts to rescue the game.
Leeds should have made the game safe when McCormack burst clear of the defence once again. However Brad Friedel produced a stunning save in the one on one situation, a strong block with his left hand denying Leeds a third.
That looked like being one of those moments which could prove to be a turning point, and Leeds fans must have had hearts in mouths as a long ball over the top gave Spurs the opportunity to level the tie in the final minute. Obika was clean through but delayed his shot allowing Lee Peltier to get back and make a stunning last ditch challenge.
With four minutes added time, Leeds were clinging on desperately. With the clock winding down, Brown gave away a foolish free lick near the right had corner flag. Brad Friedel joined the Tottenham attack and actually had a header on goal which was blocked by a white shirt. With the goal open at the other end Leeds cleared the ball and as Rodolph Austin rolled the ball from the halfway line into the empty net, Kevin Friend had already brought the tie to an end.
It was Leeds United's third win over Premier League opposition of the season and took the club into the 5th round of the cup for the first time in 12 years. The reward, an away tie at Manchester City, the one side from the top six who we haven't faced in recent years.
Before that Leeds have two league games and must show as much commitment in those as was shown against Tottenham if they are to have any chance of promotion. If they can do that then crowds like the 29K at Elland Road today will be the norm. Inspiration is a two way street, and we need the football to be of a similar nature if we are to fully get behind the team. The bar has been set, it's up to the team now to raise it, and the roof at Elland Road, regularly.
Who was your man of the match today?
Sam Byram (33 votes)
Lee Peltier (3 votes)
Tom Lees (0 votes)
Aidy White (0 votes)
Michael Brown (19 votes)
Luke Varney (3 votes)
Ross McCormack (10 votes)
El-Hadji Diouf (5 votes)
73 total votes