Leeds 2 Tottenham 1
Toothless Tottenham bowed out of the FA Cup at the fourth-round stage this afternoon as they were beaten at npower Championship side Leeds.
With Jermain Defoe reportedly injured and Emmanuel Adebayor on international duty, manager Andre Villas-Boas went into the Elland Road clash without a recognised striker and it showed as Spurs, Clint Dempsey’s consolation strike aside, repeatedly failed in front of goal.
Leeds actually had striking problems of their own ahead of the game – leading scorer Luciano Becchio was not involved as a move away from Elland Road looms - but they gave no suggestion of it as Luke Varney and then Ross McCormack found the target to send Spurs packing.
McCormack’s effort was a stunning 50th-minute strike that gave Neil Warnock’s side some breathing space. Varney’s 15th-minute opener had earlier set the tone, with Leeds sharper in the final third.
With no out-ball up front, Villas-Boas relied heavily on wing pair Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon but the duo rarely got any change out of full-backs Sam Byram and Aidy White and, when chances did come to Dempsey, he was largely unable to take them.
With 19-goal Becchio watching at home as his agent and the club disagree over a contract offer, it was surprising to see Leeds so sprightly in attack, even if they did have to weather an early Tottenham storm during which Dempsey dragged wide and Gylfi Sigurdsson headed at Jamie Ashdown.
Dempsey also put a header over but after that Leeds settled and went ahead through Varney, a player who has been a target for the boo boys this season for his anaemic record in front of goal.
This was just his second of the campaign but he took it with the confidence of a man who had more, opening his body to beat Brad Friedel after he got clear on Michael Brown’s hopeful punt forward, with El-Hadji Diouf’s faux flick confusing the visiting defenders.
Spurs could have responded through Dempsey, but he was unable to get the ball out of his feet when put in by Lennon, while Ashdown did well to get down quickly when Tom Huddlestone caught him cold with a snap-shot.
Bale then drifted into the game and beat two men on a mazy run which lacked a finish, but Leeds ended the half the stronger and McCormack was denied by Friedel.
A second goal duly arrived five minutes into the second half, though, with McCormack producing a memorable strike that gave Friedel no chance.
The Scotland international pulled a long ball out of the sky and laid it off for Diouf before racing ahead to collect his strike partner’s return pass. With Stephen Caulker in front of him he checked, cut inside from the right and thumped a curling strike beyond the American.
Dempsey should have made it 2-1 almost immediately but scuffed wide from six yards after Lennon had got to the byline, but he got the goal his effort, if not his finishing, deserved with 58 minutes gone, getting a head on Bale’s cross to beat Ashdown.
Leeds’ two-goal cushion should have been restored when McCormack got away again with 72 minutes gone, but this time he allowed the angle to get too tight and Friedel shut him out.
The miss would have no consequence, however, as Leeds held on for the win, with Tottenham not really able to get a sight of their goal apart from Lee Peltier’s last-ditch denial of Jon Obika, with the frustrations of Bale all too obvious as the home side’s youthful back four constantly locked him out.