Tottenham’s visit to play Leicester was meant to be one which the London club used to springboard themselves back into the title race, but it became something of a nightmare for Mauricio Pochettino’s men as they endured a torrid 2-1 defeat.
The first-half was a largely entertaining one, and it culminated in sublime efforts from Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, as they dusted off a vintage display from their 2015/16 title-winning season.
The second-half saw Spurs improve as they gave Leicester problems, but time and time again their final ball let them down. Leicester seemed to take their foot off the pedal as the game wore on, clearly content with their lead, but, as per usual, Harry Kane was there to smash home, assisted by the returning Erik Lamela.
With Tottenham just a goal behind, they rediscovered their form and were knocking on the door. However, they had given themselves too much to do against a resolute Leicester side, and poor finishing also meant that they failed to win yet again.
From Leicester’s superb win, what five things did we learn?
It goes from bad to worse for Tottenham
It just all went wrong for Tottenham on Tuesday evening. Their big names didn’t ever really turn up as the Foxes once again made them pay for their profligacy. It will still be hurting Tottenham that it was Leicester that ultimately denied them a shot at the title two years ago, and they may just have knocked them out of the race this season too.
Their evening was summed up in one first-half moment as Tottenham broke following a Leicester corner, and Christian Eriksen was able to pick out a pinpoint ball that found Dele Alli. In space, the midfielder inexplicably decided to take the shot on from a distance, with the youngster apparently not possessing the spacial awareness to realise how much time he had.
As it was, Kasper Schmeichel easily saved his weak effort, before Harry Kane was adjudged to have been offside when the shot was taken. To make matters worse, Christian Eriksen and Fernando Llorente had glorious chances to score, but both wasted their moments.
Ultimately, it was not Tottenham’s night, and the defeat means that they are 13 points shy of Manchester City, who now have a game in hand over Spurs. They usually say that some things are decided by the smallest of margins, but that hasn’t been the case in what is seemingly Tottenham already out of the title race.
Riyad Mahrez is still a classy player
When a player has a good season, the general consensus of the public is that they are now a world class talent that is ready to take on anyone, and a move to Real Madrid or Barcelona is just over the horizon.
Well, this was the fate that befell Riyad Mahrez after he played a huge role in Leicester’s 2015/16 title-winning campaign. The Algerian could do no wrong as he won Player of the Season in a whirlwind term. However, last year, both he and Leicester struggled, with their formerly ‘world class’ player anonymous.
The summer saw transfer talk and speculation surrounding his future, but he remained with the Foxes. Many wondered how he would do this season, and despite some shaky performances, he is showing that he is still a very classy player. His showings do not warrant the tag of world class to be levelled again, but he is finally turning up for his side.
Against Tottenham, he was able to score the second goal as he picked up the ball on Leicester’s right-flank before he danced between a number of defenders and fired a sublime shot into the top corner, past the despairing Lloris. While his inconsistent showing this and last season mean his goal should not be heralded as a second coming, it was a timely reminder that he is still a fine player.
Delle Alli struggles again
It has been a tough few months for Dele Alli, with Tottenham’s golden boy struggling for the club. He has been criticised massively for his influence, or lack thereof, in the biggest games, as he has allowed matches to pass him by all too often.
Of course, fans of the youngster will point people to his match-winning performance against Real Madrid, a game in which he was superb. However, those days are not often forthcoming. If Harry Kane is having a bad day, he still gets stuck in with tackles, he is part of Spurs’ build-up play, and he does his best to create chances.
Alli often looks uninterested in the middle, while if he is playing badly, nothing goes his way. Touches are poor, passes are misplaced, and shots fly wide. This was contrasted by Erik Lamela, who has just returned from surgery on his hips. The Argentine took to the field and was immediately involved as he assisted Kane, who smashed a shot home.
Considering Alli had struggled to have any impact over the course of 90 minutes, and Lamela came on to assist almost immediately, it really compounded the struggles of the Englishman.
Jamie Vardy was at it again on Tuesday evening as he made the King Power Stadium come to life with a sublime finish. Marc Albrighton played a speculative lobbed pass in behind Tottenham’s defence, and the Leicester striker didn’t ever take his eyes off the ball as he connected with a deft first-time volley that floated over the on-rushing Hugo Lloris and into the back of the net.
Question marks hang over the Tottenham defence as the five defenders failed to deal with a regulation pass, while Lloris was too quick to come off his line when staying put would have ended in a regulation catch.
However, nothing can be taken away from the finish, with Vardy’s composure and technique of the highest order. It was the type of goal that if Lionel Messi had scored it, people would be raving about it for months.
Interestingly, Vardy has now scored 11 Premier League goals against the top six since the start of the season, which is five more than any other player. Considering the struggles of the likes of Romelu Lukaku in particular against the top sides, it makes Vardy’s achievement even more impressive.
Claude Puel was an astute signing
When Craig Shakespeare was sacked by Leicester, many wondered where they would go from there. Claudio Ranieri had won the title and was fired mere months later. Shakespeare had averted a relegation crisis and was dispensed of before the turn of the year.
Of course, there were a glut of managers that were available, but few seemed to match the requirements, and former-Southampton manager Claude Puel was installed. Initially, this was met with mild surprise, with many still assuming they would see Leicester’s name in or near to the relegation zone come May.
However, since Puel was appointed, the Foxes have looked like a different team. They have picked up eight points from a possible 15, with their only defeat coming at the hands of Manchester City, while they were able to pick up two away draws with Stoke City and West Ham.
Leicester have now risen to ninth in the table with 17 points, seven clear of West Ham in 18th. While they are not out of the woods yet, Puel will feel that he has proved many of his critics wrong, while Leicester are putting some serious space between themselves and that dreaded dotted line.
Leicester: Schmeichel 7 – Simpson 8, Morgan 8, Maguire 8, Chilwell 8 – Albrighton 7, Ndidi 7.5, Iborra 7.5, Mahrez 8 (Gray 6) – Vardy 8 (Slimani 6), Okazaki 6 (Choudhury 6).
Unused subs: Hamer, King, Dragovic, Amartey.
Tottenham: Lloris 6 – Aurier 6, Vertonghen 6, Dier 6, Sanchez 6, Rose 6 – Dembele 6.5 (Llorente 5), Sissoko 5(Son 6) – Alli 4, Eriksen 5 (Lamela 6) – Kane 6.5.
Unused subs: Vorm, Trippier, Foyth, Davies.
Referee: Anthony Taylor.
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