Second-half strikes from Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Sergio Reguilon ensured Antonio Conte’s first Premier League home game as Tottenham head coach ended in victory as Leeds were beaten 2-1 on Super Sunday.
After an abject first half in which Spurs failed to register a shot on target and deservedly trailed courtesy of Daniel James’s close-range finish (44), Conte saw the perfect response from his players in the second period as Tottenham’s creative energy came flooding back.
Hojbjerg swept home the equaliser from Lucas Moura’s pass (58) and the turnaround was complete when Reguilon was quickest to react to Eric Dier’s deflected free-kick striking the post to thrash home his first Premier League goal.
The result in this 100th meeting in all competitions between the two sides means Spurs climb three places in the league to seventh position while Leeds remain 17th, two points above the relegation zone.
Tottenham: Lloris (6), Dier (6), Tanganga (6), Davies (7), Reguilon (8), Royal (7), Winks (6), Hojbjerg (7), Moura (8), Son (7), Kane (6).
Subs: Sessegnon (6), Alli (n/a).
Leeds: Meslier (7), Forshaw (6), Cooper (6), Llorente (6), Struijk (7), Dallas (7), Harrison (6), Phillips (7), Klich (6), Gelhardt (7), James (7).
Subs: Firpo (6).
Man of the match: Sergio Reguilon.
Conte finds Spurs’ creative streak
After seeing Tottenham fail to register a single shot on target in the goalless draw at Everton, Conte warned that patience would be needed while his players get used to his methods.
Conte – with his all-action charismatic demeanour on the touchline – was facing a Marcelo Bielsa team for the first time in his managerial career, and he witnessed the visitors make the more confident start as Pascal Struijk stole the ball off Lucas Moura to set up Stuart Dallas for a low drive that fizzed a yard wide inside eight minutes.
It wasn’t quite clicking for Spurs, who began the game playing like a side that is being stitched back together after a tough opening to a season under a new manager, and certainly following an international break.
Conte hasn’t had much time at all to impose those rigorous methods of his, and Spurs’ first meaningful attack midway through the opening period saw Heung-min Son’s run and cross towards Harry Kane snuffed out easily by Kalvin Phillips.
Kane’s confidence looked visibly lifted, fresh from seven goals in two games for England, and he very nearly had a clear sight of goal when Reguilon’s cross was brilliantly taken off his head by the retreating Liam Cooper.
Leeds made a quiet start to the campaign as a result of persistent injuries but they arrived in the capital having taken eight points in their previous five games.
Bielsa will feel his players are now slowly finding their feet, and Adam Forshaw came close to crowning his recent return following a lengthy spell out of the game when his speculative shot had Hugo Lloris scrambling as it veered wide.
Leeds, who were 2-1 winners at Fulham in March, were looking to record consecutive away league wins in London for the first time since April 2008 – and they deservedly took the lead on the stroke of half-time. Harrison beat Emerson Royal far too easily having been fed down the left, and his low cross was gleefully accepted by James on the edge of the six-yard box.
Bielsa’s biggest problem has been fragility at the back; just one clean sheet so far. This was a chance then for Spurs’ stuttering attack to have another shot at making a better impression, but they ended a sixth consecutive half of Premier League football without an effort on target.
That changed within a minute of the second as clever work from Moura slipped Kane through but his shot was blocked by the underworked Illan Meslier onto the post. Kane looked to the skies, but Leeds broke from the resulting corner to test Lloris once more through James’ unorthodox toe-poke having cut inside from the right.
Conte had clearly ripped into his players at the interval as within minutes of the restart, his side struck the woodwork for a second time as Moura found Son only for his shot to deflect up onto the crossbar off Diego Llorente.
Antonio Conte made two changes for his first home Premier League game in charge of Tottenham against Leeds.
Cristian Romero was out injured and Oliver Skipp was suspended so Japhet Tanganga and Harry Winks came in.
Leeds also made two changes, with Joe Gelhardt coming in for Rodrigo, who has a foot injury, while Mateusz Klich replaced ill Raphinha.
Joe Gelhardt saw two shots fielded by Lloris and an eventful start to the second period took another turn when Son went down inside the box under a challenge from Phillips. The incident was referred to VAR Darren England but no penalty was awarded.
Tottenham had their tails up now, however, and duly levelled when the lively Moura latched onto Reguilon’s pass before Meslier could sweep it, and the Brazilian picked out Hojbjerg to bundle his first-time finish into the unguarded net.
Tottenham were in the ascendancy now as Leeds started to look weary having been so disciplined in the absence of so many key personnel, as Kane rolled Cooper but Struijk came across to make a vital block. Ben Davies was next to get in behind Cooper, managing to get his shot away as he went to ground but Meslier made yet another smart save.
Leeds’ respite would be short-lived, however, as following a foul by Cooper on Moura, Dier’s free-kick deflected off Struijk onto the base of the post before Reguilon was on hand to poach his first Premier League goal.
Rather than form the foundations of a newly-confident Tottenham, the goal inevitablyy led to them retreating as Kane survived a penalty scare when Gelhardt’s shot on the turn struck his hand by his side.
There was plenty of tension as Conte frantically prowled the touchline urging his players to keep getting forward in search of a third to kill the game off, and he bayed for a reaction from his supporters in the final minutes, but two was enough.
Tottenham face NS Mura in the Europa Conference League on Thursday at 5.45pm before returning to Premier League action on Sunday against Burnley at Turf Moor; kick-off 2pm.
Leeds visit Brighton in the Premier League on Saturday Night Football; kick-off 5.30pm.