With the international break now over, the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium saw Leeds United and Spurs return to Premier League action. Leeds had a number of injury problems while the hosts were without Oliver Skipp through suspension and Cristian Romero with injury. Leeds played with intensity in the first half but it was Antonio Conte’s energy that made the difference in the end.
Tottenham Hotspur Win Against Leeds United: Antonio Conte’s Energy Apparent After First Half Woe
New Manager, Same Players, Same Problems for Tottenham Hotspur
It was Antonio Conte’s first home game in charge in the Premier League but the first half showed just how much work the new manager has to do to change the clubs’ fortunes around. It was very much a case of new manager, same players, same issues. With Pierre Emile-Hojbjerg and Harry Winks in midfield, Spurs lacked creativity and Leeds were able to pick the ball up far too easily with Kalvin Phillips mopping up anything Spurs mustered.
It was Dan James who gave the visitors the lead on halftime after great work on the left from Jack Harrison but Spurs’ defensive frailties were laid bare once more. Emerson Royal had impressed against Everton at right-wing-back but his defensive capabilities are far from certain. Up against Harrison, he was brushed aside too easily and no one tracked James in the box who prodded home into an empty net.
When the half-time whistle blew, the response from the fans was the same as Nuno Espírito Santo’s last game in charge, the 3-0 defeat to Manchester United, a crescendo of boos. The natives were not happy and Leeds went in deservedly in front. For Spurs, it was yet another 45 minutes of football without a single shot on target.
Conte was not happy at half-time, and rightly so, but his Spurs side came out with a much higher intensity in the second period with Harry Kane and Son Heung-min hitting the post and bar respectively before Hojbjerg levelled the match with a bobbling shot that snuck its way into the goal.
All of a sudden Leeds were on the back foot and Conte was as energetic on the touchline as his players were on the field of play. Royal and Sergio Reguilon were much further forward and Lucas Moura was causing the Leeds backline all sorts of problems, running at pace with the ball. He had tried to do so in the first half but with little success, but in the 66th minute, he ran at pace with the ball stuck to his feet before being brought down on the edge of the box.
Eric Dier’s free-kick was deflected off the wall onto the woodwork for the third time in the second half and the quickest to react was Reguilon, putting Conte’s Tottenham in front. The noise in the stadium rose and suddenly Spurs looked full of energy and attacking intent. From no shots on target in 45 minutes to four in 20 in the second.
Leeds’ Youngsters Show Promise But Relegation Battle Looms
Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds have earned plaudits for their marauding style of football but they are most definitely mired in a relegation battle, just two points above the bottom three following this hard-working, but ultimately fruitless, display. It’s a difficult period for Leeds with injuries but one thing is certain is that they have talented youth at their disposal. James is a tricky winger, not afraid to have a shot, and Joe Gelhardt looks to be a very promising player but looked shattered when taken off in the last few minutes having given his all.
Bielsa needs players back quickly though if he is getting his team away from the drop zone and games against Brighton & Hove Albion and Brentford to come are now must win ties or must not lose at the very least.
Antonio Conte’s Energy Starts to Show on the Pitch
After what was a flat and typically stale Spurs performance in the first half, the second half was anything but and Antonio Conte’s energy was clear to see. He was whipping up the crowd when they dropped in volume, never stopped directing play from the touchline and was asked on more than one occasion to get back into his technical area such was his animation.
It was far from perfect from Tottenham but Conte got the win and pushed his players all the way to grab all three points which they just about deserved come the full-time whistle. Spurs now sit in seventh place and Conte will want more of what he saw in the second half and less of what he witnessed in the first half when Spurs travel to Burnley next before hosting Norwich City, in two games where six points could push Spurs right back into the race for the top four.