José Mourinho has been a little grouchy of late, moaning about the inability of his Tottenham players to follow on-field orders and railing at the perceived failings of authority, namely the late decision to postpone Wednesday's game against Fulham.
The last thing he needed was for the news to break on the eve of this game that three of his players had flouted coronavirus rules by attending a Christmas party.
What was going through the minds of Sergio Reguilón, Erik Lamela and Giovani Lo Celso? Presumably nothing. None of them played here, although Lo Celso was never going to because of a hamstring injury.
Mourinho, though, could feel the storm clouds lift as his team won for the first time in five Premier League matches and won well, with a reassuringly stable presence helping to make the difference, to go third in the table.
Harry Kane had celebrated the birth of his third child last Tuesday. Here, he turned the game in Spurs’ favour with a 29th-minute penalty before his show-stopping moment – a clinical pass that took out two Leeds defenders and allowed Son Heung-min to add the second with his 100th goal for the club.
Leeds were broken and the cold truth was that no team can afford to defend as generously as they did. There was plenty to admire about their swashbuckling spirit but the second half became a non-event after Illan Meslier had carried a Toby Alderweireld header into his own net.
Leeds made the running at the outset, their defenders stepping up with the ball at their feet, their determination to find spaces in the final third clear. They had the chances to have been in front by the midway point of the first half, with none better than the header that Patrick Bamford blew on 23 minutes. All alone inside the area after Doherty’s cover melted away, he was picked out by Raphinha’s delivery only for his sights to be awry.
Everything changed after Kane’s breakthrough. The downside to Marcelo Bielsa’s creed at Leeds is that mistakes will be made at the back. Risk-taking carries a string. Twice, Leeds had been loose with their distribution and on the third occasion they paid.
Bielsa has made the point that Meslier is generally solid with his short passing game but the keeper played one straight out to Harry Winks, who fed the ball back into Steven Bergwijn on the edge of the area.
The subsequent error belonged to Ezgjan Alioski, who went in clumsily on Bergwijn to concede the penalty. It feels like a symbol of Leeds’s enterprise that Alioski, the left-back, wears No 10 and he was rather better going forward than defending. Kane’s conversion was typically clinical.
Spurs had flickered through Kane and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg; the former flashing high from an angle, the latter shooting straight at Meslier. Now they went for the kill.
Leeds were far too loose in their defensive third, particularly in the one-on-ones. Spurs got around the back twice, first when Højbjerg beat Alioski too easily to pull back for Alderweireld, whose shot was blocked, and then when Ben Davies did likewise to Raphinha. From his low cross Tanguy Ndombele manoeuvred a glorious opening only to blaze high.
Mourinho cursed in the technical area. A failure to turn 1-0 into 2-0 has been a problem for his team but not this time. Højbjerg won the ball with a measure of comfort and when he found Kane the striker’s pass for Son was a beauty – the latest example of the understanding between the pair.
“Sometimes it’s telepathy, sometimes we work on it,” Son said. his finish was almost nonchalant.
It was not Meslier’s day. He pushed an Ndombele shot around the post for a corner at the start of the second half but when Son swung it over and Alderweireld got in front of Kalvin Phillips to nod goalwards, it was the prompt for a horror moment. Meslier had the ball in his hands but as he tumbled back he carried it over the line. His attempt to throw it out at the last moment was in vain. The referee, David Coote, felt the notification from the goalline technology.
Spurs could enjoy themselves and they cut through Leeds at will for a period. Kane lashed into the side-netting, Son missed a final pass and Meslier saved from Ndombele and Kane – the former a very smart block.
“We have been through problems similar to the ones today,” Bielsa said. “And not through a lack of experience or the need for longer adaptation to the league. We are in conditions to take better decisions. Spurs’ goals came about through errors by us. We created 10 chances, they created 12 and scored three. The fundamental difference was the efficiency.”