Tottenham navigate their way through chaos to head into World Cup break in style


Ottenham ended the half-season with a dramatic win over Leeds that bore many of the hallmarks of their campaign so far: often ridiculous, sometimes sublime, half-time trailing, victorious at the end and inspired by Harry Kane, Dejan Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur.

The Uruguayan midfielder scored twice in as many minutes to seal a 4-3 win as Spurs came from behind three times.

Their remarkable powers of recovery saw them avoid entering the six-week World Cup break after three straight defeats, which would have left fans in a gloomy state and likely pointed the finger at Antonio Conte.

As things stand, Spurs can approach the second half of the season with optimism, sitting comfortably in the Premier League top four and preparing for a Champions League round of 16 tie against AC Milan.

The overall situation is very encouraging, despite some disappointing and sometimes alarming displays.

Rodrigo Bentancur has been Spurs’ Player of the Season so far.

/ Action images via Reuters

Clearly, Conte has some major issues to deal with, especially his side’s tendency to start slow and drag at half-time. Goals from Crysencio Summerville and Rodrigo, either side of Kane’s equaliser, saw Spurs trail the interval for an eighth game in a row.

Both goals were also the result of terribly sloppy defence, with Cristian Romero’s loss to injury and Eric Dier’s loss of form of particular concern.

On the positive side, no team has gained more points – 13 – by losing positions in the top flight, and Spurs’ attacking game has been transformed by the return of Richarlisona and in particular Kulusevski.

The Swede scored the winning goal for Bentancur with sublime wing play and was Spurs’ most dangerous player on the right of the front three.

Bentancur had already canceled out Rodrigo’s second goal to make it 3-3 after a collectible from Ben Davies made it 2-2.

Leeds had Tyler Adams sent off late for a second booking, a malpractice on Yves Bissouma.

If Conte can keep Kulusevski and his other key players fit, the second half of the season will surely be less difficult than the first 15 league games.

Tottenham manager Antonio Conte.

/ Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

Bentancur, meanwhile, is emerging as a huge threat in the final third and a clutch player, after his winner against Bournemouth with two well-scored goals from inside the box.

If Spurs can have as successful a January transfer window as the previous one, when Bentancur and Kulusevski joined Juventus, they will be transformed again.

The obvious positions for improvement are in the back three and at right-back, and this was the day Spurs supporters seemed to finally lose patience with Emerson Royal.

The Brazilian was effectively encouraged off the pitch when he was replaced by Matt Doherty just before the hour mark. The moment made for uncomfortable viewing and Conte is unlikely to have gone unnoticed.

Emerson squandered two big chances in the first time – to groans rather than cheers – even his usually solid defensive play was interrupted, and he was taken out of position for Summerville’s well-taken goal, which kicked the scoring .

It was still likely to be an odd game given its proximity to the World Cup, with 11 of the starters going to Qatar. It was a testament to Spurs’ character that they ultimately capitalized on the chaos, despite eight of their XI traveling to Qatar next week.

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