Rodrigo Bentancur has become an unlikely late rescue artist and his two goals in as many minutes towards the end of a breathless contest with Leeds secured Tottenham a place in the top four as the Premier League breaks for the World Cup.
The elegant Uruguayan midfielder kept their Champions League hopes alive with a late equaliser against Sporting Lisbon, last month, and snatched a late winner at Bournemouth in another epic comeback.
Here, he took his tally to four in six games, transforming defeat into a much-needed victory for Spurs boss Antonio Conte, whose team have been misfiring in recent weeks, and torture for Jesse Marsch.
‘I’m gutted, I feel like someone has ripped my heart out,’ said Leeds boss Marsch after seeing his team take the lead three times only to be pegged back on each occasion and eventually overturned by Bentancur’s second, created by the outstanding Dejan Kulusevski in the 83rd minute.
The visitors finished with 10 men. Tyler Adams collected his second yellow card for a trip on Yves Bissouma and Tottenham had a measure of control which for most of the game had eluded them.
Bentancur equalised in the 81st minute, beating goalkeeper Illan Meslier with the help of a deflection off Luke Ayling, and tapped in the winner two minutes later following a sublime dribble and cut back by Kulusevski.
The Sweden international was influential on his first start since injury in September but Tottenham’s problems at the back continued, evident from the 10th minute, when Leeds went ahead, cutting through Spurs with a diagonal move from right to left, through Willy Gnonto and Brenden Aaronson and into the channel between Emerson Royal and Eric Dier.
Aaronson found Summerville, who collected the pass with the outside of his right boot and held off the challenge of Dier before beating Hugo Lloris with a low shot with his left foot. It was his fourth goal in four outings. For Spurs, an eighth successive game conceding the first goal.
Royal skied a glorious chance as Spurs summoned a reaction. Unmarked and only 10 yards out, the Brazilian’s effort was wild and wasteful after a fine run and cross by Ben Davies, and Spurs could easily have slipped two behind when Summerville sprinted clear again only to be foiled by Lloris.
Tottenham’s equaliser looked like a foul on goalkeeper Illan Meslier, charged by Clement Lenglet as he jumped to punch a corner. Meslier landed in a heap in his own net and his punched clearance fell to Kane, who reacted skilfully to beat Tyler Adams and find the net.
Leeds were incensed. They surrounded ref Michael Salisbury with their protest and Jesse Marsch raged in his technical area. ‘That’s a foul,’ said Marsch later. ‘The fourth official said he thought it was a foul.’
There was no intervention from VAR Paul Tierney, however, and Kane celebrated his 12th Premier League goal of the season. Good news for England.
The visitors were back in front by the interval. This time it was Spurs trying to defend a corner. It was cleared but headed back at them by Liam Cooper and helped on by Rasmus Kristensen, then swept past Lloris on the volley by Rodrigo.
Conte’s players were booed down the tunnel at half-time before Davies hauled them level, six minutes into the second half. Kulusevski picked up the ball from a throw-in, muscled his way to the bye line and cut a pass low towards Kane, whose attempt struck Kristensen.
The rebound found Davies, arriving at the edge of the penalty area. His connection was crisp, although it was surprising to see the ball evade a barrier formed by the bodies of Kristensen and Meslier and spin over the line.
Conte made changes to alter his defence and replaced Richarlison with Bissouma, but his team conceded a third, Rodrigo’s second of the game and a fabulous finish.
Again, there was the mandatory dispute, with Tottenham’s head of football Fabio Paratici and Richarlison leading an appeal party to fourth official Graham Scott. They claimed a foul by Adams on Bentancur as he played a pass forward to Kulusevski.
Cooper nipped ahead of Kulusevski to win possession and launch the move that ended with Rodrigo beating Davinson Sanchez on the outside and lashing a fierce low drive across Lloris from an angle and in off the far post.
It was a superb goal and there was no reason to rule it out. Yet it was still not enough for Leeds, always the specialists in late drama one way or another. This time it went against them. Enter Bentancur to claim the points for Tottenham and bring relief for Conte at the end of this first phase of the season.