Mou’s pragmatism pays off against ‘all-out’ Leeds

03 Jan, 2021 - 00:01 0 Views
Mou’s pragmatism pays off against ‘all-out’ Leeds Jose Mourinho

The Sunday Mail

Jose Mourinho does not care much for poets and so the beauty of the Leeds United side that Marcelo Bielsa has created at Elland Road was never likely to bewitch him or his Spurs team in the way that it has dazzled others this season.

Mourinho sees fragility in beauty and when he confronted it at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, he exposed that fragility ruthlessly and all too easily.

This first meeting of Mourinho and Bielsa in English football pitted the pragmatist against the adventurer, the cautious man against the cavalier, the cynic against the romantic, and those who feared that Leeds’ swashbuckling, crowd-pleasing style would play straight into the hands of the Spurs counter-attacking machine were proved correct.  Leeds played some fine attacking football in patches but they were undone by two mistakes from goalkeeper Illan Meslier and were simply not good enough in defence, where they are depleted by injuries, to cope with their opponents, who moved up to third place with this comfortable 3-0 win. Mourinho’s team ended the match with 10 men after the late dismissal of Matt Doherty for a second bookable offence but snapped a streak of four league games without a victory and now sit only four points behind leaders Liverpool and Manchester United.

And if Mourinho’s tactics are sometimes characterised as anti-football, there is beauty in his team, too, particularly in the attacking partnership between Harry Kane and Son Heung-min who are so talented, so clever and so attuned to each other’s game that they are often unstoppable.

Leeds presented their defence to Kane and Son gift-wrapped and they accepted the gift with both hands.

Spurs had taken the lead against the run of play in the first half with a penalty that stemmed from Meslier playing the ball straight to Harry Winks but it was a fine move between Kane and Son that provided the match’s decisive moment just before half time. Kane was the provider, Son the finisher. It was the 13th time they had combined for a goal this season, equalling the record for an entire campaign, set by Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton for Blackburn Rovers in 1994-95. The strike was also Son’s 100th goal for Spurs.

Bielsa had lost all four of his previous matches against Mourinho when they were bosses at Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid respectively and Leeds never looked like improving his record for him.

Mourinho appears to have his number: his teams have now scored 18 times against Bielsa in five attempts and conceded only twice.  The furore over Leeds’ response to Karen Carney’s comments about their hard-running style and the subsequent deluge of misogynistic abuse she suffered on social media had cast a pall over Leeds’ week but Spurs were not without issues of their own as they approached the game.

The build-up to the match was overshadowed by the emergence of a photograph showing three Spurs players – Giovani Lo Celso, Erik Lamela and Sergio Reguilon – among a group of 18 people celebrating Christmas Day together with West Ham star Manuel Lanzini in contravention of government rules.

The news was particularly embarrassing for Mourinho, coming just a few days after he had mocked the Premier League for the late cancellation of Spurs’ game against Fulham last Wednesday when several Fulham players had tested positive for the coronavirus. Mourinho branded the league ‘unprofessional’ so the actions of his own players must have come as a particularly unpleasant surprise.

Spurs did not duck the issue and condemned the actions of the three players immediately. Reguilon was left out of the starting eleven but pragmatism dictated Mourinho included him among the substitutes. Lamela, however, was left out of the squad altogether. Lo Celso was not in the Tottenham 18 either but he is still recovering from injury.

In a later match, the records kept on tumbling for Sheffield United. For all the wrong reasons.

Two more unwanted landmarks were reached at Selhurst Park as Chris Wilder’s side slumped to defeat once again falling 2-0 to Crystal Palace.

And, as tight as things are in this Premier League season, with every passing week – and defeat – their prospects of defying the odds get bleaker and bleaker.

Eberechi Eze’s stunning goal for Palace stole the show as the Blades suffered another defeat.

Their failure to beat Crystal Palace saw Sheffield United set a new record for the most Premier League games without a win from the start of the season, which now stands at 17 for the rock-bottom Blades.

And there was club history too with their winless league run reaching 20 games including three from the end of last season.

The repeated poundings to their fragile confidence – 15 defeats in 17 games now – have taken their toll and there was little suggestion that respite would be coming any time soon as some familiar failings led to their downfall at Palace.

Toothless in attack, having periods of control but testing Vicente Guaita just twice all game, and Lady Luck nowhere to be seen when they needed her, two unfortunate deflections before the Jeffrey Schlupp goal that set Palace on their way.

How Wilder must have looked on with envy at Palace, firstly at the fortune they received which is eluding his side and especially after watching them control most of the first half only for Ebere Eze to produce a sumptuous, solo second goal just before half-time.

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