GOAL NO2 Polished Bentley Fuels Defoe's Treble; the Much-Criticised Winger Is Starting to Impress Redknapp Again after Tearing Leeds Apart and Helping the Striker to Bag His Hat-Trick. by Tom Collomosse
Byline: Tom Collomosse
LEEDS UNITED 1 TOTTENHAM 3
HARRY REDKNAPP had two reasons to celebrate after his team reached the fifth round of the FA Cup and his racehorse won at Lingfield yesterday. Arry's Orse came in at 5-6 favourite in the 1.40, but the question troubling every Tottenham supporter is whether their team have the staying power to claim the trophy for the first time since 1991.
After overcoming a difficult hurdle at Elland Road last night, Redknapp's men are likely to find the going just as tough at Bolton on Valentine's Day. Yet with Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool out of the competition, Spurs' players could be forgiven for thinking this was their year.
This was a strong display, crowned by Jermain Defoe's hat-trick, which took his tally for the campaign to 20.
It was the in-form England striker's third treble of the season and he said: "Les Ferdinand [Spurs' forwards coach] said to me at half-time that if I didn't score a hat-trick in the game, I'd get a kick up the backside. He could see I would get chances.
"Leeds are a good side, they put you under pressure and they work so hard defensively. So to go to Elland Road and win like that was unbelievable."
Despite Defoe's praise, it must be remembered that the League One club are 42 places below Spurs and a better team might have exploited the weaknesses the visitors still display. With his team approaching a run of three games in nine days, Redknapp was right to rest Wilson Palacios and Luka Modric, especially as Spurs remain contenders for a place in next season's Champions League.
Palacios has looked jaded in recent matches, lacking his customary energy and bite but even when he is below his best, the Honduran is the one midfielder able to fulfil the role of artisan to Spurs' artists.
Without him, Spurs can sometimes look vulnerable, especially on their left side. Gareth Bale's defending is improving but he is not as secure as the injured Benoit Assou-Ekotto at left-back. Furthermore, the Welshman receives only sporadic assistance from Niko Kranjcar, a gifted attacking player who rarely enjoys the defensive side of the game.
Under such circumstances, Robert Snodgrass, Leeds' most inventive player, was able to cause plenty of damage in the first half and better teammates might have been able to turn his intelligent work into more than just Luciano Becchio's equaliser in first-half stoppage time.
Luckily for Spurs, Leeds' top scorer Jermaine Beckford was not at his best. Beckford's two goals at White Hart Lane brought about last night's replay but it was the visitors' forward play which was far sharper, with David Bentley prominent once again on his return to the team. …