Leicester City were overrun by Tottenham Hotspur 6-2 in London on Saturday. An even first half saw Leicester strike twice through a Youri Tielemans penalty and a moment of James Maddison magic on either side of Harry Kane and Eric Dier scoring from corners. The second half was all Spurs as Rodrigo Bentancur struck just after the break and Son Heung-min got a hat trick off the bench.
If Brendan Rodgers wants a team that will show more fight, he couldn’t have done better than handing a debut to Belgium defender Wout Faes. The former Rennes man smacked Madders in the ankle during warm-ups, causing some concern but ultimately not causing any lasting harm. The starting XI: Danny Ward, Timothy Castagne, Wout Faes, Jonny Evans (C), James Justin, Wilfred Ndidi, Harvey Barnes, Kienan Dewsbury-Hall, Youri Tielemans, James Maddison, Patson Daka.
The scene at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.— Jordan Blackwell (@JrdnBlackwell) September 17, 2022
Maddison has just taken a whack on the ankle from Faes in the warm-up and was down for 30 seconds or so. Looks like he’ll be okay, but there was concern initially. #LCFC pic.twitter.com/MR5hyKhZEV
The match started at a furious pace with Spurs pressing and closing down the Foxes at every opportunity. It was therefore a bit against the run of play when Leicester took the lead in the early going. Justin rode two challenges before being toppled by a Davinson Sanchez on the edge of the box. Simon Hooper pointed to the spot and VAR confirmed it. Tielemans’ effort was saved by Hugo Lloris, but the keeper was just barely off the line, forcing a re-take. Lloris guessed correctly but could do nothing about it and the Foxes led.
It was fun while it lasted, but the lead was erased in the blink of an eye. The hosts won a corner and played it short before working the ball back out to Dejan Kulusevski who crossed it to the back post where Harry Kane was waiting. You might ask “How does Harry Kane get free at the back post on a set piece?” One would hope the gaffer was asking the same question. Anyway, the ball found the back of the net and the match was level.
On 20’, City were behind. It was a corner again because of course it was. This one was a lot more straightforward, with the ball pumped into the front edge of the six-yard box. Eric Dier rose highest and glanced it across the face of the goal and inside the far post. New City set piece coach Lars Knudsen watched in bemused helplessness, perhaps only just realising the scope of the task he’s accepted.
Spurs thought they’d added a third from their third corner, but Davinson Sanchez came to Leicester’s rescue a second time. The inswinger was played across the face of goal, eluding Ward and finding Ndidi, who turned the ball into the net. It was unclear whether it was the referee or VAR who spotted Sanchez barrelling into Ward, but regardless, the goal was chalked off.
What followed was a good spell that saw the Foxes create a hatful of fractional chances, worrying the Tottenham defence and quieting the crowd. Faes sent Daka through behind the Spurs’ high line, but his long-range effort was right at Lloris. A clearance fell invitingly to Dewsbury-Hall on the edge of the area, but he blasted over. Barnes had a chance to turn and shot from close range, but he put the effort wide (and was offside anyway).
It was, therefore, not a huge shock when a moment of Maddison magic brought the Foxes level. Castagne did incredibly well to challenge for a high diagonal pass and then win the race to the loose ball in the area. He crossed it first time, finding Madders’ run. The once and future England midfielder took it on the half-volley, scooping the ball over Lloris and into the far corner of the net.
It was no less than Leicester deserved. The team went into the tunnel deservedly on even terms and full of confidence. It feels weird to say this after only 45 minutes of football, but this is the first time this season we’ve seen any belief in the team after going behind. Would that belief be rewarded?
No. No it would not.
It’s probably technically possible for the second half to have started in a worse fashion. Evans fed the ball to Ndidi in midfield, who didn’t see Rodrigo Bentancur lurking behind him. The Uruguay international nipped in, carried the ball unopposed into the area, and blasted a low shot off the near post to restore the host’s advantage.
The Foxes were fingertips from being level just moments later. A break down the right saw Madders loop the ball into the box. Daka somehow managed to leap to get his forehead to the ball and direct it goalward. Lloris dove to his right and just got the tip of his glove to turn it around the post when the Zambian thought he’d scored.
The north London side doubled their lead on 72’ through yet another Leicester error. Justin was caught in possession on the left wing by Bentancur. A single pass sent substitute Son Heung-min away with only Evans to beat. The Northern Ireland defender held the Spurs man up long enough for Faes to join, but it seems unlikely that any number of defenders would have stopped the Golden Boot holder. He cut to his right and unleashed a curling effort that tucked inside the near post and gave Ward no chance at all.
Rodgers reacted to going two goals down by withdrawing Daka and Dewsbury-Hall in favour of Jamie Vardy and Kelechi Iheanacho. It did little to stem the tide as Spurs added another before either of the substitutes had gotten a touch. It was Son again, who found space on the right side just out of the area. He was given far too much time to set up and pick his shot, and curl it into the far corner with his left foot.
The South Korea international had the ball in the net a third time on 86’ with another lightning break. Ward got a hand to it, but couldn’t keep it out. The flag went up for offside, but VAR took a look and it correctly overruled the flag, allowing the goal to stand. For those of you keeping score, and I’m not sure why you would be at this point, it was now 6-2 in favour of the hosts.
At some point, Boubakary Soumare came on for Ndidi. It was probably between two of the Son goals and I honestly couldn’t tell you which. Spurs were just playing circus balls at this point, trying to pad the score. Madders went close at the death, but in reality, they were just running out the clock at this point.
What can you say?
Leicester were at least as good as Spurs in the first half, perhaps maybe slightly better. The Foxes dug in their heels after going down a goal and could have scored several more times than they did. Then, they gave up a terrible goal at the start of the second period and just collapsed.
Tottenham (2.25) 6-2 (1.68) Leicester— The xG Philosophy (@xGPhilosophy) September 17, 2022
Was Spurs’ finishing borderline inhuman? Sure. But, let’s not kid ourselves: We were carved open time and again in the last half hour. For 45 minutes, you could dream that City were on the verge of turning the season around. The second half made it clear just how much more work there is to do.
The defeat leaves us on 1 point from 7 matches. To no one’s surprise, we remain bottom of the table and already 3 points any other club. This match closes out our September as the international break is up next. Next on the docket is Nottingham Forest at the King Power on Monday, 3 October, followed by a trip to Bournemouth the following Saturday.