Leeds 0-4 Tottenham: Player ratings as Spurs pile misery on dreadful hosts

Tottenham ended a week of speculation about Antonio Conte’s future on a real high after a comprehensive 4-0 win over Leeds at Elland Road.

A blitz of goals from Matt Doherty, Dejan Kulusevski and Harry Kane put the game out of sight after just 27 minutes, before Son Heung-min added a deserved fourth with five minutes remaining.

The result heaps further pressure onto the shoulders of Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa, whose side have now conceded three or more goals in their last five Premier League games and an incredible 60 for the season.

In front of a raucous home crowd, Leeds should actually have been the side to take the lead, only for Pascal Struijk to glance a free header wide of Hugo Lloris’ post from Stuart Dallas’ cracking delivery.

Son then tested the handling skills of Illan Meslier in the Leeds goal before Doherty, who had played just 322 minutes of Premier League football this season prior to the game, gave the visitors the lead after a swift Spurs counter attack.

Harry Winks was instrumental in the goal, turning sharply in midfield before releasing Ryan Sessegnon down the left flank with a precise through ball. The former Fulham star, operating at wing-back, then slid a perfectly weighted ball across the penalty area to Doherty, and he smashed past Meslier first time after escaping the attentions of Junior Firpo.

Five minutes later it was two as Kulusevski, with a bit of help from Doherty, punished some awful defending from Firpo and Diego Llorente to rifle a low shot inside Meslier’s near post.

It went from bad to worse for Leeds after Robin Koch struck the base of Lloris’ post as Kane, just before the half-hour mark, received a tremendous ball over the top from Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg before side-footing a volley past Meslier from an acute angle.

Heung-Min Son, Harry KaneHeung-Min Son, Harry Kane

Kane and Son, the Premier League’s most prolific combination ever / Chris Brunskill/GettyImages

Leeds upped the tempo in an attempt to get back into the game, but for their all endeavour in the final 15 minutes of the opening period, a Luke Ayling header over the bar was the best effort they could muster.

The second half was equally as high-octane as the first, with Spurs in particular creating chances on the counter attack. Doherty, Sessegon and Son went close, Kane the architect of much of their good work after dropping deep.

Kulusevski also tested Meslier’s reactions with a stinging low drive before Dallas, after nicking the ball away from Lloris after he’d brainlessly rushed out of his goal, inexplicably opted not to shoot as he bore down on a Spurs goal protected only by Sessegnon.

Son made it four late-on after a tremendous long ball from Kane, which epitomised the quality of his passing, and there was still time for Raphinha to rattle Lloris’ post with an arrowing free-kick.

Pascal StruijkPascal Struijk

Struijk missed this free header early on / Chris Brunskill/GettyImages

Illan Meslier (GK) – 5/10 – Powerless to stop any of Tottenham’s goals, truth be told. Perhaps could have used his 6’4 frame to better effect when attempting to smother Doherty but that’s being super picky.

Luke Ayling (RB) – 4/10 – Pulled from pillar to post by Son’s movement and wasn’t ever really at right back when out of possession.

Diego Llorente (CB) – 2/10 – Not entirely sure what he was doing for Kulusevski’s goal, inexplicably letting him ghost past him. Should really have done better with Hojbjerg’s lofted pass to Kane, too.

Pascal Struijk (CB) – 3/10 – 45 minutes, three goals conceded and a glorious chance missed after two minutes. Says it all.

Junior Firpo (LB) – 3/10 – Was unable to cope with the class of Kulusevski. How he allowed the Swede to wriggle into the penalty area after being penned in the corner is a mystery. Booked.

Robin Koch (DM) – 4/10 – Shoved into the back four after a difficult first half at the base of midfield. Out of position far too many times, but following the usual mental instructions you can only assume.

Stuart Dallas (CM) – 4/10 – You can never accuse the Northern Irishman of giving any less than 100%, but you can accuse him of dithering. Robbed Lloris of the ball, had a gaping goal to aim at and…didn’t shoot? Bizarre.

Adam Forshaw (CM) – 4/10 – Pressed Spurs’ backline and midfield to death but that led to Spurs countering in-behind far too many times. Lacked quality on the ball.

Raphinha, Ryan SessegnonRaphinha, Ryan Sessegnon

What must Raphinha be thinking? / Laurence Griffiths/GettyImages

Raphinha (RW) – 5/10 – Barely got a kick in the opening half an hour but was the one who looked capable of sparking Leeds into life.

Daniel James (ST) – 4/10 – A passenger in the first 45 minutes. Shifted out wide in the second period in the hope of finding a spark – it didn’t work.

Jack Harrison (LW) – 4/10 – Positive in everything he did on the ball but lacked any kind of quality or cohesion around him. Tracking wasn’t enough for Bielsa and was hooked at the break.

Mateusz Klich (46′ for Struijk) – (CM) – 5/10 – Stemmed the flow of Tottenham attacks but didn’t offer anything meaningful.

Rodrigo (46′ for Harrison) – (ST) – 4/10 – Couldn’t get involved at all after coming on at the break.

Jamie Shackleton (78′ for Firpo) – (RB) – N/A – Not enough time to do anything of note.

Cristian Romero, Daniel JamesCristian Romero, Daniel James

Romero looks like a good signing for Spurs / Chris Brunskill/GettyImages

Hugo Lloris (GK) – 5/10 – Got down smartly to deal with a fizzing low Firpo cross in the first half but got so bored in the second that he decided to pull out a party piece error. Lucky boy not to be punished.

Cristian Romero (CB) – 7/10 – Played the occasional hospital pass but has that aura about him that screams class.

Eric Dier (CB) – 7/10 – It has been quite the career turnaround for Dier, who looks at home next to Romero.

Ben Davies (CB) – 6/10 – For those of a Football Manager persuasion, you’ll understand that Davies’ instructions had been tweaked to ‘Wide Centre-Back, Support’ – which often helped Spurs with numbers in attack. Made a late error to earn himself a booking.

Matt Doherty (RWB) – 7/10 – Offered far more than Emerson Royal does at both ends. Composed finish early doors.

Harry Winks (CM) – 7/10 – Set Tottenham on their way with a terrific spin and defence-splitting ball through to Sessegnon.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (CM) – 7/10 – His deliciously precise ball over the top allowed Kane to volley in Spurs’ third. Didn’t need to be at his brilliant best to dominate.

Ryan Sessegnon (LWB) – 8/10 – Enjoyed Leeds being absolutely all over the shop positionally. Perfectly weighted his cross to Doherty and provided a real throwback to the quality he showed at Fulham.

Harry Kane, Ryan SessegnonHarry Kane, Ryan Sessegnon

Kane was superb throughout / Laurence Griffiths/GettyImages

Dejan Kulusevski (RF) – 7/10 – Involved in absolutely everything early on and sent a sizzling strike into Meslier’s bottom corner. Faded but looks like a good acquisition.

Harry Kane (ST) – 9/10 – Subtle movement into the hole opened up so much space for Spurs. Timed the run for his goal to absolute perfection and executed the finish with his usual ruthlessness, before turning provider in the second half time and time again. Great assist for Son.

Son Heung-min (LF) – 8/10 – Dragged Ayling all over the place with some wonderfully intelligent runs. Showed great strength holding up the ball at times, something you don’t always associate with Son, and finished off Kane’s wonderful pass late on.

Emerson Royal (78′ for Sessegnon) – (RWB) – 6/10 – Could have scored after being sent through on Meslier’s goal.

Steven Bergwijn (78′ for Kulusevski) (RF) – 5/10 – Not enough time on the field to really make an impact.

Dane Scarlett (87′ for Son) – N/A – Also not enough time to make an impact.

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Newcastle aiming to be ‘a Man City or Man Utd’ in next five years

There’s no reason for Newcastle not to become a club like Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool or Chelsea in the next five years, according to Mehrdad Ghodoussi, husband of director Amanda Staveley.

In a wide-ranging first interview since taking control of the Magpies, the duo talked to The Athletic about the pressures of taking over a Premier League club, their ambition and hope that Eddie Howe can become the next Sir Alex Ferguson.

While that may be fanciful to some, there is clearly a lot of faith being placed in Howe following his appointment as head coach in November, and the long-term vision is clear – Newcastle’s owners want to ascend to the very top of the Premier League mountain.

“There is no reason why Newcastle in the next five years should not be a Man City or a Man Utd or a Liverpool or a Chelsea,” Ghodoussi said, off the back of Staveley detailing a recent visit to Manchester City.

“Just to talk to them and see their training facilities, to see what we can do,” she said of the trip. “I was thinking, ‘God, I can’t wait for our guys to get their trophies, I can’t wait to deliver what the fans really deserve’.”

“That’s ultimately what we want,” Ghodoussi added. “We want success.”

Howe’s first job is to ensure Newcastle preserve their Premier League status, with that looking a far more realistic target after a period of good form.

A run of six games without defeat, including three wins, has not only lifted the Magpies out of the relegation zone, it has reinforced Ghodoussi and Staveley’s belief that Howe was the right candidate to appoint after narrowing down a shortlist of 30-40 possible new managers.

“We got down to two people,” Ghodoussi said of the process to replace Steve Bruce. “Eddie was one of them and Unai Emery the other. Unai had a track record of success and maybe that made us move towards him a bit more. I have to say, though, that the chairman [Yasir Al-Rumayyan] wanted Eddie from day one.”

“Eddie was actually ahead of everybody on points,” Staveley added. “When you looked at his data, he was fantastic. You could see what he’d done at Bournemouth was extraordinary, but could he do the same with more resource? Unai had a good name and a reputation, but would he have been able to get up to speed without the infrastructure?”

“I would love Eddie to be the next Alex Ferguson,” Ghodoussi concluded.

On deciding against appointing Emery, Staveley remarked: “It would have been wrong. We made the right decision with Eddie. He’s come in, no airs or graces, no ego, and we’re there to support him. I’ve really grown to care a great deal about him and his coaches.

“We talk to Eddie multiple times a day. I’m fascinated by what he does. He’s so detailed, so hard working. You don’t know when you’re interviewing someone what they’re going to be like but he’s got huge integrity.”

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Chelsea ‘could go out of business’ if Roman Abramovich faces sanctions

Chelsea face the prospect of going out of business if the government decides to impose sanctions against owner Roman Abramovich, a leading financier has warned.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is coming under increasing pressure from ministers and leading parliamentary officials to seize or freeze Abramovich’s UK assets in response to Russia’s deadly invasion of Ukraine.

In 2019, Abramovich was named as a person of interest because of his “public association with corrupt activity and practices” in Russia, and it was confirmed earlier this week that prohibitive measures would be put in place to target Vladimir Putin’s ‘inner circle’.

However, Abramovich, who has close ties with Putin in the past, is yet to be sanctioned despite confirmation earlier this week that Russian banks and businesses would have their assets frozen.

Kieran Maguire, a football finance lecturer at Liverpool University, has now warned that Abramovich, who is owed a £1.5 billion loan by the club, could use the complicated nature of his Chelsea ownership to ward off any threat of government sanctions, which may put in jeopardy the future of the Blues long-term.

“If he feels he is being made a scapegoat for the activities of Putin then the worst-case scenario is he tries to call in the loan,” Maguire said via The Times. “Then we’ve got a crisis. He and Putin could argue that it is the British government that has destroyed Chelsea Football Club.”

Maguire added there may be “a lot of misrepresentation and accusations made from all parties if the British government does go down this route. But I suspect this government will not want to upset football fans as we have a populist government, I suspect Chelsea’s legal team would be going through all the options,”

His view is supported by Dr Rob Wilson, a finance lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, who added of the situation: “If the government do seize the assets, in which case they seize Chelsea, that is probably for him a bit of a final straw.

“He would likely try to walk away from the club…which would create a problem for Chelsea because it would have to be sold or go out of business. Who would buy Chelsea with a £2 billion loan?”

Prospective buyers are said to be monitoring proceedings at Chelsea, while head coach Thomas Tuchel has already admitted that the club – who are actually owned by Fordstam, a private company Abramovich set up when he took charge – face ‘many uncertainties’ should action be taken.

The German also conceded in a press conference that his players, who are preparing to face Liverpool in the Carabao Cup final on Sunday, are ‘worrying’ about what’s going on and the conflict in Ukraine as a whole.

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Barcelona’s Kalidou Koulibaly pursuit could hinge on Erling Haaland saga

Barcelona are keeping tabs on Kalidou Koulibaly’s situation at Napoli with the defender open to a switch to Camp Nou, but a move for the defender could hinge on Erling Haaland’s own proposed transfer to Catalonia.

Koulibaly’s contract expires at the end of next season and it looks unlikely that he will pen fresh terms at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.

The Senegal international has long been linked with a move away from Napoli and was heavily tipped to join Manchester City before they signed Ruben Dias.

Sport report that Barça are eyeing the centre-back, but are wary of Napoli’s asking price of over €40m as they believe they could instead sign him on a free transfer in 2023.

Barcelona remain interested in Juventus’ Matthijs de Ligt and Sevilla’s Jules Kounde, but either of those options could cost them in the range of €80m.

That has led the Blaugrana back to Koulibaly, who they have been offered in the past and are huge admirers of.

They will not be forced into paying over the top for a player with little over a year left on his deal, and a summer pursuit of Erling Haaland remains their priority.

If Barcelona are forced into a bidding war (at least regarding personal terms) for Haaland, then they will look at signing other players on free transfers, with Sport suggesting Barça are willing to wait on Koulibaly until next year.

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Poland refuse to play Russia in World Cup qualifying play-off

The Polish FA have confirmed they have no intention of playing Russia in their World Cup qualifying play-off match scheduled for next month following the invasion of Ukraine.

The pair are due to clash in Russia on 24 March, with Sweden or Czech Republic potentially facing a trip to Moscow five days later should Russia emerge victorious.

But following a joint statement on Friday that saw the governing bodies of Poland, Sweden and Czech Republic condemn Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine, the head of the Polish FA, Cezary Kulesza, has now confirmed his country do not intend to play.

“No more words, time to act! Due to the escalation of the aggression of the Russian Federation towards Ukraine, the Polish national team does not intend to play the play-off match against Russia,” Kulesza said in a social media post.

“This is the only right decision. We are in talks with the federations of Sweden and the Czech Republic to bring forward a common position to FIFA.”

His stance was quickly backed up by Poland striker Robert Lewandowski on social media, with the Bayern Munich striker writing: “It is the right decision! I can’t imagine playing a match with the Russian National Team in a situation when armed aggression in Ukraine continues.

“Russian footballers and fans are not responsible for this, but we can’t pretend that nothing is happening.”

A full statement from Poland’s players followed, with a number of player sharing on social media: “We, the players of the Polish national team, together with the Polish Football Association, decided that as a result of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, we do not intend to play in the play-off match against Russia.

“It is not an easy decision, but there are more important things in life than football, Our thoughts are with the Ukrainian nation and our friend from the national team, Tomasz Kędziora, who is still in Kyiv with his family. #SolidarnizUkrainq #NoWarPlease.”

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