Spurs exploit Leeds errors as Mourinho’s philosophy wins out vs Bielsa

A meeting between Mourinho and Marcelo Bielsa was always likely to be an intriguing clash of styles and so it proved, as Spurs ruthlessly exploited three defensive lapses, while seeing less of the ball than their unpredictable opponents.

The match was ultimately an example of the both legendary managers’ most infamous quotes. Bielsa once said he would “never lose” if only his players “weren’t human”, while Mourinho has justified his contain-and-counter approach by saying the team who has the ball is “more likely to make a mistake”.

Spurs’ performance should dampen criticism of Mourinho’s divisive style, amid accusations his side were too negative after taking the lead in the 1-1 draws with Crystal Palace and Wolves last month.

Their display after taking the lead through Kane’s 29th-minute penalty and particularly in the second half was more positive than at Selhurst Park or Molineux, arguably marking a turning point in Mourinho’s approach – although the Spurs manager has insisted he did not instruct his players to defend their recent leads.

Tottenham’s return to form also suggested the postponement of Wednesday’s match against Fulham may ultimately prove beneficial to Mourinho’s side, despite the manager’s complaints this week. Leeds looked leggier than their opponents and faded in the second half after a bright start.

Spurs took the lead when goalkeeper Illan Meslier’s poor pass out from the back was intercepted by Harry Winks, who immediately released Steven Bergwijn.

The Dutchman – back in the team after being dropped following two big misses in the defeat at Liverpool – was caught by Ezgjan Alioski as he turned on the edge of the box, and Kane sent the penalty straight down the middle.

The England captain is the first player in the Premier League to reach double figures for goals and assists this season – and no-one has ever achieved the feat in just 16 matches.

Leeds continued to threaten but Spurs took complete control shortly before half-time, exploiting another Leeds error in the process.

The excellent Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg won the ball high up the pitch and fed Kane, who surged into space on the right flank and delivered the perfect cross for Son to turn home. It was the pair’s 13th combination leading to a goal in the Premier League this season, equalling a record set by Chris Sutton and Alan Shearer at Blackburn – and with 22 matches still to play.

Spurs must have been aware of the criticism of their recent second-half displays and they remained on the front foot in the second half, Alderweireld nodding home Son’s corner five minutes after the restart – with a little help from Meslier.

A fine afternoon for Spurs was marred in stoppage-time, when Matt Doherty was sent off for a record yellow card following a clumsy foul on Pablo Hernandez, continuing the right-back’s difficult start to life in north London.

( POOL/AFP via Getty Images )

Steven Bergwijn was pivotal in setting Spurs on their way to victory, winning the penalty with a smart turn away from Alioski and enabling Kane to open the scoring against the run of play.

It was one of several impressive contributions from Bergwijn on his return to the XI. The Dutchman was pivotal in their fine form at the end of November and start of December, but was taken out of the firing line by Mourinho following two glaring and costly misses in the second half of the 2-1 defeat at Anfield.

It was, however, another afternoon for the Dutchman to forget in front of goal.

At 1-0, he blazed over from 12 yards following good work from Ben Davies, leaving Mourinho incredulous, and he twice forced saves from Meslier after the interval – the first leading to the corner from which Alderweireld scored.

The second chance was one-on-one with the French goalkeeper and betrayed Bergwijn’s lack of confidence in front of goal as he blasted it from close range.

Despite his misses, Spurs look a far more effective side with Bergwijn in it and he is clearly offering more to the team than Gareth Bale or Lucas Moura at the moment, even if they’re both more clinical in front of goal. It feels like all that is missing for the 23-year-old is goals, which will surely come in time if he keeps getting in the right positions.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg was arguably Spurs’ man-of-the-match in a typically all-action display but his midfield partner Harry Winks was also impressive.

Keeping his place ahead of Moussa Sissoko, Winks played like he had a point to prove, charging into challenges as if to show Mourinho he is robust enough for his team.

The England international played his part in the win, intercepting the ball and feeding Bergwijn for the penalty, and his soaring confidence was underlined with an ambitious 40-yard effort on goal late on.

internWinks’ inclusion was another piece of evidence that Mourinho is preparing to be more adventurous following recent criticism. Sissoko is a great option in matches where you don’t plan to have the ball but Winks is a far more effective player in games when you want possession.

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