Leicester City climbed to second place in the Premier League with an impressive 2-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane. Jamie Vardy gave Brendan Rodgers’ side the lead with a penalty in first-half stoppage time after Serge Aurier needlessly levelled Wesley Fofana in the corner of the box. Vardy played a huge part in the second goal, forcing Toby Alderweireld to bundle the ball into his own net after 59 minutes.
Jose Mourinho’s team were poor. They were unable to develop any rhythm and the Portuguese’s tactics were more suited to an away side. A packed stadium might have urged Spurs into action but their performance was as empty as the stands.
Rodgers and Mourinho have a complicated relationship. The Leicester manager worked under the 57-year-old at Chelsea, is said to have got the Liverpool job using Mourinho’s dossier and then had a potential title win denied him at Anfield by his mentor’s team in 2014. Things were much more simple at the Lane. Rodgers’ side outthought and outplayed Tottenham and embarrassed his old boss.
Leicester began to turn up the pressure after a slow start by both teams. Spurs were happy to sit deep and allow their opponents the ball but there were few chances early on. Vardy found the space to fire off a shot that was blocked and James Maddison’s long-range effort cleared the bar but the first quarter of the match passed without any real opportunities.
Harry Kane pounced on a stray pass and found Son Heung-min in space in the box but the South Korean’s cross ran harmlessly out of play. Tottenham tried to play on the counter but Kaspar Schmeichel cautioned his defence against forming a high line, telling his team-mates to drop off and deny space behind the back four. Even at Leicester corners, the goalkeeper called to his side to watch for the break. It was all a bit ponderous, the tackling much sharper than the passing.
A Wilfred Ndidi challenge on Giovani Lo Celso 25 yards from goal drew a foul and caused the Leicester players to complain theatrically. Kane took the free kick and forced a relatively straightforward save from Schmeichel.
As half-time neared there was a flurry of activity. Aurier released Kane down the right and the captain’s cross was laid off by Son to Lo Celso, whose shot was deflected for a corner. From the resulting set-piece Kane had Tottenham’s best chance of the opening period, heading over from close range. It was a let-off for Leicester. Within moments the Spurs talisman got his head to another cross but could not get enough power in the effort.
The tepid opening period picked up pace in its closing minutes. Vardy shot over the bar after the cumbersome Moussa Sissoko was disposed in midfield and, after 45 minutes of percentage football Spurs made an even more critical mistake. Aurier barged through Fofana on the edge of the box. It was a pointless challenge, clumsy and stupid in equal measure. Alerted by the VAR official, Craig Pawson checked the replay on the pitchside monitor. The referee did not take long to point to the spot and Vardy blasted the penalty into the net with the final kick of the half.
Mourinho needed to change things around at the break. Garth Bale replaced Tanguy Ndombele for the restart but Leicester retained the impetus. Maddison’s shot was saved by Hugo Lloris at the near post and within seconds the 24-year-old had a goal ruled out for offside by VAR in the tightest of decisions. Lo Celso limped off with a hamstring injury and Lucas Moura joined the action and now it was Leicester’s turn to sit back and look to counter attack.
Bale added little. He fluffed a header on the sideline that disturbed his topknot and was rearranging his hair when the throw in was taken. Tottenham lacked cohesion. Leicester were ready to take advantage.
The away side doubled their lead after Wilfred Ndidi won the ball in midfield and fed Marc Albrighton, whose cross found Vardy at the back post. The striker’s header was wayward but it hit Alderweireld and the ball was diverted into the net. Leicester had the lead they deserved.
Kane tried manfully to reduce the deficit, combining with Son and then squirming along the edge of the box before shooting but Schmeichel was unworried. The goalkeeper was much more concerned when the South Korean found space at the back post from a corner but the Dane made an exceptional save to maintain the two-goal lead. Leicester looked likeliest to score again. Lloris saved from Vardy and Youri Tielemans shot over from inside the box.
Spurs were reduced to appealing for a penalty when Moura’s blasted the ball against Fofana’s body but the home side never looked like getting anything out of the match. Mourinho got things badly wrong. Leicester were impressive.
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