Leeds go down with a whimper as Tottenham miss Europe despite win

It was the moment when it really turned ugly, the fury and frustration that the Leeds support felt rushing to the surface and spilling everywhere. Pedro Porro had scored at the start of the second half to put Tottenham 2-0 up and, from all corners of Elland Road, came the cry: “You’re not fit to wear the shirt.”

Leeds had needed a miracle to retain their Premier League status. A first win in nine games and the results involving Everton and Leicester to go for them, too. They needed to find some cohesion. And they needed to defend properly, which they have not done for an awfully long time.

Related: Sam Allardyce open to Leeds stay but warns side may struggle in second tier

It was always likely to prove beyond them. But now there was mutiny. Leeds were going down with one of the game’s most grievous insults ringing in their ears and there would be further choruses of it after the substitute Lucas Moura – on his farewell Spurs appearance – made it 4-1 in stoppage-time.

At 2-0, the Leeds fans urged the owner, Andrea Radrizzani, to sell up and return to Italy – or words to that effect. There were repeated calls of “sack the board”, there was abuse for Weston McKennie when he was substituted and it would be quicker to say which Leeds players were spared after the full-time whistle when they did an extremely nervous small circle of appreciation: Adam Forshaw, Liam Cooper, Jack Harrison and Wilfried Gnonto.

It was a desperate day for everyone connected to the club, heavy on recrimination, with only the occasional splashes of gallows humour. When a pitch invader was wrestled away in the 77th minute by a posse of security guards, there was a demand for the hierarchy to sign him up. “He’s got more fight than you,” was the follow‑up chant to the team.

Sam Allardyce reacts while watching his side lose at home to Tottenham and be relegated from the Premier League
Sam Allardyce reacts while watching his side lose at home to Tottenham and be relegated from the Premier League. Photograph: Scott Heppell/Reuters

Harry Kane scored the other goals for Spurs to reach 30 for the league season – the focus will now turn to his future – although he was quick to say that eighth place was not good enough. Spurs have failed to qualify for Europe for the first time since 2008‑09.

The focus was on Leeds and it picked out so much more than the pipe-dream of Sam Allardyce’s attempted rescue mission. When the story of their last three seasons is told – their first stint in the top flight since 2004 – it will major on the communion under Marcelo Bielsa, whose name the fans bellowed; how the club appeared ready to kick on after the ninth-placed finish of 2020-21.

How they have regressed from a position of strength is scarcely believable on one level and yet entirely so on many others. This is Leeds, the trap-door never far away. They have paid for making so many poor decisions, especially on the recruitment front.

Related: Everton seal Premier League survival as Doucouré screamer sinks Bournemouth

Leeds had survived on the final day of last season when they won at Brentford and saw their relegation rivals, Burnley, lose at home against Newcastle. The hope was that history could somehow repeat itself, however outlandish it seemed at kick-off time, and it quickly came to feel even more that way when Kane scored after 93 seconds.

Allardyce had made a tactical change, setting up with five at the back, Pascal Struijk asked to make a left wing-back role work for the team, which felt like a big ask. He started badly, allowing Porro to run inside him on to an Emerson Royal chip; Struijk was on his heels. Porro worked the ball to Son Heung-min, it was an easy pass from him to Kane and the finish was a formality.

Leeds’s chaotic defending was a feature. Of course it was. It has been a motif of the season. There was a moment midway through the first half when Rasmus Kristensen stopped rather than move to clear a punt out of the Spurs defence, allowing Dejan Kulusevski to break from halfway and feed Son. Kristensen got back to tackle but even then Leeds almost gave the ball straight back to Spurs inside their area.

By then, Struijk and Max Wöber had each been forced to commit yellow‑card fouls to stop Spurs breaks. Leeds were on the edge. The crowd were on edge, too, howling.

Robin Koch spurned a glorious chance to equalise in the seventh minute, heading wide when all alone inside the area following Rodrigo’s ball in from the right. But it was mostly rudimentary stuff from Leeds; frantic, too, little composure in the areas that mattered. The first half was summed up for them when Harrison missed his pass to Rodrigo on an attempted short corner. There were boos at the interval.

It was all over with less than 90 seconds of the second half gone even if – the hard truth be told – Leeds never looked alive, capable of manufacturing something to give them hope. Allardyce would lament individual errors and Struijk was guilty of another one when he miscued a Kane pass to let Porro in. The finish was drilled low into the far corner.

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Harrison, who had tears in his eyes when he was substituted late on, pulled a goal back but it was merely the prompt for another soft concession, Leeds wide open as Kane scored on the counter.

Lucas Moura’s goal was a gem. He sliced past four would-be tacklers and it was a fitting finale for a player who will always be remembered for his last-gasp Champions League semi-final winner at Ajax. It was a neat counterpoint to the Leeds misery.