Defoe treble ends Leeds Cup dream
LEEDS UNITED bowed out of the FA Cup last night, but not without reminding all those watching inside Elland Road, and viewers around the world, that they are a re-emerging force under Simon Grayson.
The Cup run is over, but the memory will remain of Leeds living with the elite, of defeating Manchester United at Old Trafford and holding Tottenham at White Hart Lane.
And worrying them here. For all their possession and chances, Spurs were never completely comfortable. Jermain Defoe's hat-trick carried Harry Redknapp's side into a fifth-round tie against Bolton Wanderers, but there were some nervy moments.
When Luciano Becchio equalised, Spurs had to show their Premier League finishing class, with Defoe striking twice.
"We'll never play you again,'' chanted the Spurs fans. Don't be so sure.
Spurs took control for 20 minutes of a hugely entertaining first half, seizing a deserved lead through Defoe, who could have laid claim to ownership of the match ball by the break.
Until Becchio's dramatic intervention just before the interval, the best chances of the first half fell to Spurs.
Defoe was tormenting Richard Naylor and Lubomir Michalik. When the England international next ran through on goal, Casper Ankergren froze, hesitating near the penalty spot rather than continuing his run to narrow the angle.
Not needing a second invitation, Defoe let fly, but placed his shot too close to Ankergren, who shovelled it to safety.
The Dane really impressed moments later, dropping smartly to his right to keep out a cross from Gareth Bale that had deflected goalwards off Leigh Bromby. Still Spurs pressed, still Defoe caught the eye. Racing on to a Jermaine Jenas ball, Defoe was denied only by a challenge from Michalik that needed to be perfect. And it was.
Hiding his frustration, Defoe seemed on a one-man mission to punish Leeds.
With eight minutes of the half remaining, David Bentley made another good run down the right, this time checking inside and lifting in the ball left-footed.
Given too much space, Defoe controlled the ball before sending a left-footed half-volley looping slowly, almost apologetically, into Ankergren's net. It was not the most elegant entry to Defoe's goal collection, but it drew a huge sigh of relief from the Spurs contingent.
Leeds rallied. Their fans demanded and expected nothing less. Their manager, patrolling the dugout, seemed to be making every tackle with his players. Leeds responded to the exhortations of their manager and their supporters.
Michalik powered in a header that Heurelho Gomes saved, but the Brazilian had no chance when Leeds came calling just before the break.
Robert Snodgrass' corner was cleared by Peter Crouch, but Leeds maintained the pressure. When Jonathan Howson drilled the ball back in from right, Jermaine Beckford had his close-range effort stopped by Gomes.
The Spurs 'keeper was left horribly exposed by his defenders, however, who allowed Becchio to slide in at the far post to equalise.
As the Leeds faithful revelled in the sight of another Premier League side being troubled by the confident football beginning to flow from the men in white, Tottenham players screamed in frustration, surrounding Andre Marriner and insisting that Becchio and Beckford were offside.
The referee waved away their protests, which continued moments later at the break. Redknapp clearly had a word at the interval, and Spurs emerged looking far more businesslike. Crouch really should have restored Spurs' lead, but turned Nico Kranjcar's pass wide.
Spurs' pressure eventually paid off. After Defoe had seen an effort ruled out for offside, the England poacher struck his second after 72 minutes. Redknapp and Joe Jordan had been urging their players to keep a high tempo, to keep the ball moving quicker and a sudden break brought rich reward. Jenas swept the ball down the right for Bentley to chase.
Bentley, showing good form in recent weeks, confirmed his revived mood with a low cross, fired in first-time. The speed of the attack totally caught Leeds' defence out. As Ankergen stepped from his line, Defoe pounced, ramming Bentley's cross into the back of the Leeds net.
Leeds' dream completely died when Defoe broke away deep into injury-time, rounding Ankergren to score. (© Daily Telegraph, London)