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Premier League Match Report: Tottenham Hotspur 0 - 2 Leicester City

Foxes go second as Rodgers gets the best of Mourinho

Tottenham Hotspur v Leicester City - Premier League Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

Leicester City ran out deserved 2-0 winners against Tottenham Hotspur in London on Sunday afternoon. A first-half penalty from Jamie Vardy and a Toby Alderweireld own goal in the second half gave the Foxes a victory that in no way flattered the visitors.

FWIW, this was posted before the most violent performance in the history of the Premier League. Also, I really, REALLY enjoy beating Spurs.

Manager Brendan Rodgers opted to stick with the 4-2-3-1 shape (that BBC calls a 4-1-4-1 but really, it isn’t), albeit with several changes to the personnel. Kasper Schmeichel retained his place in goal behind Timothy Castagne, Wesley Fofana, Jonny Evans, and James Justin. Youri Tielemans and Wilfred Ndidi partnered in central midfield behind attacking midfielders Marc Albrighton, James Maddison, and Harvey Barnes. Jamie Vardy spearheaded the attack as the lone striker. This marked Castagne’s first start in months and, interestingly, he lined up on the left with Justin on the right.

The opening exchanges featured the free-flowing football both of these sides are known for...just kidding, the main feature of the opening ten minutes was the sound of referee Craig Pawson’s whistle. Both sides were awarded a couple of free kicks deep in their opponents’ territory. None of them came to anything, but given our record defending set pieces, it was a cause for concern.

Play settled into a pattern of the Foxes bossing possession with Spurs trying to force turnovers in midfield and hit on the break. City were patient, but not in the sluggish “we’re just going to knock it around aimlessly until we play a sloppy pass” sort of way. Maddison and Tielemans needed to be in charge and they were doing the job, dictating the pace and keeping things ticking.

Regular readers may know that when I spend a great deal of time describing the run of play, then there has hasn’t been much in the way of goalmouth action and such was the case here. The half hour mark ticked with neither goalkeeper having had a save to make. That changed on 33’ when Ndidi fouled Giovani Lo Celso just outside the area and Harry Kane lined up the free kick. It took a wicked deflection, but Schmeichel did well to change direction and parry it to safety.

The best chance of the half fell to the hosts on 40’. Albrighton did marvelously well to get back and prevent Lo Celso from getting off a close-range shot and giving up a corner. Son Heung-Min’s ball was perfectly delivered to Kane in the box, but the England striker headed well over when you’ve have expected him to hit the target.

There was drama right at the end of the half when the Foxes won a free kick just inside the Spurs’ half. As the ball spun around at the edge of the box, Serge Aurier decided to just plow through Fofana for no apparent reason. Pawson let play continue, but VAR thought he might want to give it a look. He did, and since it was a pretty blatant penalty, it was given. Vardy stepped up and smashed it home to give the Foxes the lead at the break.

Tottenham Hotspur v Leicester City - Premier League
Is Serge Aurier the Frank Sinclair of penalties? Discuss.
Photo by Plumb Images/Leicester City FC via Getty Images

The second half started with Jose Mourinho withdrawing Tanguy Ndombele and introducing Gareth Bale, giving Michael a full-blown existential crisis (editor’s note: true). Almost immediately after the restart, Justin sent a long ball over the top to Madders, who controlled it perfectly and blasted the ball past the despairing Hugo Lloris. He looked to be well onside, but VAR said otherwise, wiping out a beautiful goal and giving the rest of us Leicester fans our own existential crisis (I was a philosophy major and I don’t get to use my Kierkegaard very often, so give me this one.).

No matter, though, as the Foxes doubled the lead just before the hour mark. Ndidi did Ndidi things and won the ball deep in the Leicester half before releasing Albrighton on the right. The former Villa man carried the ball deep into the enemy half before crossing to Vardy at the back post. It was a tight angle, so he lined up a bank shot, heading off of Toby Alderweireld ‘s knee and into the back of the net. It’ll go down as an own goal but we all know Vardy did it on purpose.

Tottenham Hotspur v Leicester City - Premier League
I want you to try to imagine seeing the world through Moussa Sissoko’s eyes at this moment.
Photo by Frank Augstein - Pool/Getty Images

That marked the end of Castagne’s day, as he was withdrawn on the hour for Daniel Amartey, who was also marking his return from a long-term injury. Justin switched over to the left as the Ghana defender slotted in on the right.

The game was opening up as the 70’ mark approached. Spurs pushed for a goal that would get them back in the game, and should have had pulled one back. Alderweireld flicked a Bale corner to the back post where Son was unmarked. His first time effort looked sure to ripple the back of the net, but Schmeichel got a hand to it and not only kept it out but kept it away from the lurking Kane.

City were playing a dangerous game defending deep against the absurd offensive talent Spurs had on the pitch. The Foxes were just holding on in defense and carrying no small amount of threat on the break. It looked for all the world like a second penalty was coming when Madders appeared to have been dragged down the area, but VAR gave it a look and determined that, well, honestly, who knows what the determination is beyond “no penalty”?

Rodgers hauled off Barnes, who had grown into the game in the second half, in favor of Dennis Praet. Spurs switched their game plan to the tried and true “wave your arms like a loon every time the ball is in the box and hope for a penalty. While that silliness was going on, Leicester pinned Dier back near his own corner flag and forced him to turn the ball over to Vardy. The former Fleetwood Town man picked out Tielemans who had acres of space to pick out his shot, but he picked “blaze well over,” which was a dubious choice at best.

Vardy was limping badly at this point with what one hopes was not another groin injury, so Rodgers took him off and sent Kelechi Iheanacho into the fray for the last three minutes of regular time. The Foxes engaged in an impressive display of keep-ball down by Spurs’ corner flag, burning precious minutes off the clock.

Four minutes of time were added on. A lot can happen in four minutes. It can, but it didn’t. Spurs attacked with more intensity than effectiveness and the Leicester defense held firm.

A penalty and an own goal may make it appear like the Foxes were a bit fortunate to take all three points, but that was not the case at all today. City were on the front foot throughout the match. Spurs had some chances, but they were rare and almost invariably crushed by one Mr. Wilfred Ndidi.

With all due respect to Nampalys Mendy, there’s only one Wilfred Ndidi.

It’s been an up-and-down season (and literally nothing in between as we still haven’t drawn a match), but somehow, we’re going to wake up on Christmas morning 2nd on the table despite having lost five matches already. Of course, we’ve also won nine, joint best in the league, which explains it. We get almost a full week of rest before hosting Manchester United on Boxing day, and then it’s down to London to face Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on the 28th.