Tottenham Hotspur’s aspirations of securing UEFA Champions League football for next season suffered a damaging blow on Saturday lunchtime as they were beaten 3-1 by Leeds United at Elland Road.
After falling behind to Stuart Dallas’ 13th-minute opener, Spurs, who have now failed to win any of their last three away games in the Premier League, drew level through a cool and composed finish from Son Heung-min.
Spurs thought they had then completed the turnaround when Harry Kane dinked the ball over Illan Meslier in the Leeds goal and into the back of the net, only for VAR to rule him offside.
That moment in the contest proved to be significant as Leeds restored the lead just before half time when former Chelsea striker Patrick Bamford tapped the ball home from close range.
In the second half, Ryan Mason’s side did have opportunities to draw themselves level, with both Serge Aurier and Kane going closest, but it was to no avail, as Leeds wrapped up the win once and for all inside the final ten minutes when summer signing Rodrigo tapped home Raphinha’s low centre.
Defeat in west Yorkshire has left Spurs seventh in the Premier League table, seven points shy of fourth-placed Leicester City with just three games remaining, meaning their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League for next season are all but over.
Nevertheless, Spurs have a chance of securing a route into the Europa League for next season, meaning Mason and his players do have something to focus on in the three matches that remain.
But after such a damaging defeat, the Sunday newspapers have had not particularly glowing assessments of Spurs to produce. Here, football.london has taken a close look at how the national media reported Spurs’ latest away day setback.
“Weren’t Leeds the ones with nothing to play for?,” Oscar Paul wrote for The Sun. “For a season-defining game to keep them in the top-four mix, Tottenham did a fine impression of their north London rivals Arsenal.
“Just as meek, passive and rudderless as the Gunners were in the Europa League do-or-die against Villarreal on Thursday, Spurs’ Champions League hopes are now up in smoke.
“Caretaker Ryan Mason demanded four wins to keep their hopes alive.
“Instead, Spurs were completely off the boil when it mattered most – not that many will be surprised.
“That keeper Hugo Lloris was their best player by a distance said it all.”
“Different manager, same old problems,” Alex Milne wrote for the Mirror. “That is what the majority of Tottenham fans will no doubt be thinking after a 3-1 defeat to Leeds on Saturday effectively ended any lingering hopes of Champions League football for next season.
There is no doubt that Spurs have been more entertaining to watch under Ryan Mason than they had been under Jose Mourinho, and they had started positively under the 29-year-old’s interim reign with two wins in two Premier League games.
“But the manner of the loss to Leeds shows that Mourinho’s negativity and alienation of key players was just the tip of the iceberg in the huge issues that are blighting the club at the moment.
“There were some rays of light at Elland Road, with Dele Alli showing a glimpse of his genius of old to beautifully set up Son Heung-Min for Spurs’ first-half equaliser, while Harry Kane looked as bright as ever and Hugo Lloris impressed to keep the scoreline down.
“Yet there is still such a fragility and lack of confidence within the team, and once again their defence crumbled in the big moments to allow first Stuart Dallas, then Patrick Bamford and finally Rodrigo to score three relatively simple goals.”
“Tottenham can testify how far an overachieving Argentinian manager can take a team; Mauricio Pochettino steered them to a Champions League final,” Richard Jolly wrote for the Guardian.
“But as his mentor, Marcelo Bielsa, lifted Leeds to ninth with his brand of vibrancy, energy and a capacity to propel players beyond their natural limits, Spurs’ chances of a return to the European elite were effectively ended.
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“Appointing the untried Ryan Mason represented the last throw of the dice, but his first Premier League defeat came to a manager almost 36 years his senior and consigned Tottenham’s season to failure.
“It is part of Jose Mourinho’s legacy and if Mason’s team selection was a repudiation of his predecessor, it is harsh to fault only the caretaker for the way Spurs ended a dispirited shambles.
“Leeds set the tone in a game of 25 shots. Their fearlessness and relentlessness enabled them to prevail and they will complete the season unbeaten against the “big six” at home.”