Soccer

Mason’s attacking reboot ends in failure

Tottenham can testify how far an overachieving Argentinian manager can take a team; Mauricio Pochettino steered them to a Champions League final.

s 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.

Appointing the untried Ryan Mason represented the last throw of the dice, but his first Premier League defeat came to a manager 36 years his senior and a side with a cohesion and gameplan Spurs should envy. If Mason’s team selection was a repudiation of José Mourinho, the next Roma manager’s legacy can be found in the league table. Leeds’ fearlessness and relentlessness enabled them to prevail in a game of 25 shots and they will complete the season unbeaten against ‘big six’ opponents at home.

Mourinho frequently implied Spurs’ defence was not good enough; Mason’s more attacking reboot may have proved his point by leaving them exposed and they were shambolic by the time two substitutes, Raphinha and Rodrigo, combined for Leeds’ third goal.

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Before then, Tottenham had frequent reasons to thank Hugo Lloris for his damage-limitation exercise in an error-strewn display. The captain doubled up as rescuer, denying Patrick Bamford, Jack Harrison and Stuart Dallas. Arguably his best stop still led to the opener.

Dallas swept in a shot after Harrison crossed and Lloris excelled to deny Sergio Reguilón an own goal. Six of his eight goals this season have come against the Manchester clubs, Leicester and, now, Spurs.

More danger stemmed from the opposite flank as Harrison eluded Serge Aurier at will. Even before Leeds scored, he had already set up two chances in a minute for Bamford and Pascal Struijk.

Harrison, inevitably, was involved when Leeds retook the lead. He fed the overlapping Ezgjan Alioski and as Gareth Bale, the left-back’s immediate opponent, was conspicuous by his absence, he crossed for Bamford to clip in a shot at the near post.

If it offered reasons why Mourinho was reluctant to select Bale, Dele Alli’s catalytic display suggested Spurs accomplished little by marginalising him for so long. This was the third time Bale, Alli, Harry Kane and Son Heung-min started together. Alli marked the occasion with a belated first Premier League assist of the season.

Son has struck in all three league games under Mason. He maintained his 100 per cent record with a low shot after Alli supplied a defence-splitting pass. Next, Alli provided a second incisive ball for Kane, who dinked a finish in, but he was ruled offside by the narrowest of margins.

The firepower they provided gave Spurs a series of further chances and Kane clipped the bar with a free-kick, but Tottenham’s slapdash performance got what it deserved.

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