Like Goliath, Giant Leeds Brought Down by Spurs

August 9 1969

Leeds 0   Tottenham 2 (Greaves 32, Gilzean 65)

The picture that told the story of the day: Leeds dominated but could not score. 7-4 to Leeds outside the Spurs box, but it took a quick witted Mullery to knock the ball into safety.

You wouldn’t pick it in a 1000 summers. Leeds, dominant English champions last season, have played two games at home and have lost both. A man of the City would be selling all and leaving on the next space ship to the Moon, so unpredictable an occurrence this is in the football world.

Last week Leeds lost to Manchester City at home in the Charity Shield. This week they were a bulldozer  going through Spurs as if they were mere garden soil, yet they could not pass Jennings in the Spurs goal. A quiet and unassuming man off the field, if his actions today were translated into words, even Shakespeare would cry from the heroic beauty of his verse. Shakespeare’s Henry V would be a mere limerick to Jennings’ display of fortitude and courage.

The strongest hint that this would not be Leeds’ day came half way through the first half. From a corner the ball landed at the feet of Bremner at the edge of the Spurs box. The Scot didn’t hesitate and sent in a heatwave of a shot into Jennings’ goal that would’ve fried an English breakfast to perfection. Not only did Jennings saved the shot, he held it. The Leeds team looked on in aghast. Perhaps they knew what was coming. It’s happened to them before. Ten minutes later the Ides of March descended upon Elland Road.

Against the run of play, Greaves played a sublime 1-2 with the enigmatic Gilzean, who layed off a summer feast of a pass that unlocked the Leeds defence. That left Greaves facing the Leeds keeper and the ball did what it usually does when Greaves is in such a situation: it nestled in the net of Sprake’s goal. 1-0 to Spurs.

Sprake faces the inevitability of picking the ball out of his net as t Greaves steams towards him.

 

The second half was even more intense. Leeds galloped forward six or seven at a time, spirited on by the roar of their supporters. The Spurs players in turn used more and more desperate means to hold back the hordes of Elland Road. But there was one man who stood in their way: Pat Jennings made half a dozen saves each one increasing the calmness in the Spurs team, while evermore the Leeds side became more fervent and anxious.

On days like this an  underdog victory is bound to come and how: from a spark of genius that hushed the vitriolic home crowd for the rest of the match.

Twenty minutes into the second half Chivers laid off a pass to Gilzean who was 30 yards out and standing on the sideline. In the middle, with arm outstretched, Greaves was galloping forward, trailed by two Leeds players. At the moment everyone in the ground knew the inevitability of the next few moments: a Glizean cross towards Greaves while Charlton and Hunter would try and dismember him, win the ball and begin another Leeds surge towards Jennings. Yet Gilzean at times beats to a different drum, one of such audacity that it takes one’s breath away.

Gilzean ignored Greaves and with the outside of the right foot sent the ball curling and dipping towards the Leeds goal. Such sparks of creativity should always be rewarded and Gilzean was: the ball dipped enough to hurtle into the top right corner of the goal, with Sprake so overaught with the result that he grabbed his hair with both hands trying to transform into a Bobby Charlton lookalike. Jack Charlton could only attack  the ground with his fists, while Hunter viciously kicked the air as if it was an opponent who dared to dribble passed him.

The only player on the pitch who would contemplate shooting: Gilzean about to score an incredible goal to silence the home crowd.

Leeds kept up the pressure but with a two goal cushion, Spurs looked more assured at the constant pressure. Yet new and expensive Leeds acquisition Clarke almost resurrected a point for Leeds with two deftly attempts at goal in the last couple of minutes of this absorbing contest: his first hit the post, while his second on the death throes of full time was inevitably safely held by Jennings.

Leeds did everything but score and from their performance alone they are, by far, the best team in England. Yet they couldn’t contend with two players of great skill and determination. And losing to a Gilzean goal of such boldness and daring is surely acceptable to the current giants of the English game.

Sprake looks on in despair as Gilzean’s audacious shot nestles in the Leeds net.

Leeds: Sprake, Reaney, Madeley, Bremner, Charlton, Hunter, O’Grady, Lorimer, Clarke, Giles, Gray.

Tottenham: Jennings, Beal, Knowles, Mullery, England, Collings, Want, Greaves, Chivers, Gilzean, Morgan.

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