Leicester City cruised past Tottenham Hotspur by a score of 4-1 on Saturday at the King Power. The visitors struck first through Rodrigo Bentancur, but goals from Nampalys Mendy, James Maddison, and Kelechi Iheahancho gave the Foxes a two-goal lead at the half. A Harvey Barnes strike in the second period provided the final margin of victory in what was ultimately a very comfortable victory.
Manager Brendan Rodgers understandably kept faith with the players who produced the 4-2 win against Villa last week, handing full home debuts to hit January signings. The one change was the inclusion of Nampalys Mendy in place of Youri Tielemans, who was unavailable for selection. Danny Ward, Timothy Castagne, Harry Souttar, Wout Faes, Victor Kristiansen, Mendy, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, Tete, James Maddison (C), Harvey Barnes, Kelechi Iheanacho.
The opening quarter hour was hard fought and largely even with both sides pressing high up the pitch trying to force turnovers but asking a lot of their own defence when the press was broken. Faes was forced into giving away of free kick in a dangerous area. Ward did well to turn Ivan Perisic’s strike over and concede a corner. Iheanacho nearly scored from the set piece, which was unfortunate as it was a Spurs corner, but Kristiansen did remarkably well to put the ball over from close range and save the Seniorman an own-goal.
There would be no such respite from the ensuing corner. It fell to Kristansen in the middle of the six yard box and bounced to Rodrigo Bentancur. The midfielder knew nothing about it as it caromed off of his shin and into the back of the net. VAR took an unreasonably long time to look at it to check for offside, but in the end, they made the correct call and gave the goal.
It took all of nine minutes for the Foxes to level the score and it came from the least likely source. Well, OK, Ward would be the least likely, so let’s say the second least-likely. A Maddison corner caused chaos in the Spurs box. It fell to the very busy Kristiansen on the edge of the area. His shot was blocked and looped over to the other side of the box where it landed at the feet of Nampalys Mendy. The Senegal man took it first time, blasting it into the roof of the net like a seasoned striker for his first league goal for the Foxes.
Youri who?!!— GlennTheFoxile (@GlennTheFoxile) February 11, 2023
What a strike from Papy! pic.twitter.com/yTWnpw4PQC
Youri Tielemans, that’s who. He’s quite goo...oh, you’re doing a bit. My bad.
Minutes later, City had their noses in front. Faes made a brilliant sliding tackle in midfield, He knocked the ball directly to Iheanacho, who was in with Madders against a single defender. The former Manchester City man drew in his defender and then slid the ball to Maddison. It’s not often I can call a goal before the attacker receives the ball, let alone before he strikes it, but in this case? As soon as the pass was played, there was only going to be one result. Madders passed it into the back of the net to put the Foxes in front.
Last week, the Foxes got a third goal deep into injury time. Would they do it again? Why yes, yes they would KDH found Iheanacho deep in Spurs’ territory. Seniorman took it down well, turned Dier inside out, and found a yard of space. He still had a lot to do, but he placed his shot perfectly, finding the inside of the side netting and getting his second goal in two starts.
I’m afraid Pamela is no longer permitted to watch the Foxes. Her sacrifice is one I’m prepared to make.
The gaffer sent the same XI out to start the second period, albeit with a slightly different remit: Keep it tidy and don’t let Spurs back into the match. Things were a little less fluid and more gritty, but that suited Rodgers just fine. Referee Michael Salisbury got a little crazy with the cards in what was not a particularly violent affair, showing six yellow cards for mostly innocuous challenges.
Mendy had run himself into the dirt and taken a few heavy challenges, so the manager made his first change on the hour, bringing on Wilfred Ndidi to anchor the midfield for the remainder of the match. Almost immediately, the Foxes thought they’d made it 4-1. Iheanacho slipped in Barnes, who calmly finished from the middle of the area. VAR wasn’t convinced and took ages to determine that he had a toenail offside and chalked it off.
No matter though, as Barnes got his goal just a few minutes later. This time, it was Madders who set him up. This one was a mirror image of Seniorman’s goal, as Dier got caught in no-man’s land, allowing the winger to square up and pass the ball into the inside of the side netting. Just before the goal, Dennis Praet and Jamie Vardy came on for Iheanacho and Tete. I should have mentioned that before, but I like the narrative of Barnes scoring right after having one disallowed. Just go with it.
As the match wound down, Madders came off and Ricardo Pereira made his debut to see the match out. Harry Kane finally wriggled out of Souttar’s pocket to get a shot off, but Ward saved it easily. Six minutes of time were added on, but it might as well have been sixty from Spurs’ standpoint. The visitors were never going to get a goal, let alone three.
After a deeply unfortunate start, that was remarkably comfortable. There were more great performances than I have room to call out. Wait...this is all online, I have all the room I need. Let’s do this!
Kristiansen looks absolutely at home at this level. His energy level and workrate are spectacular. He and Castagne kept Tottenham’s wingers in check all afternoon. Faes and Souttar were so very calm facing Spurs’ all-time top scorer. Barnes is back to being the good Barnes, and Madders remains Madders.
I have, perhaps literally, been Mendy’s harshest critic. He was brilliant today. Even without the goal, he was everywhere and rewarded Rodgers’ faith in him. Papy, you did well. But, in the end, it was all about Iheanacho. He now has two goals and three assists in two starts. He’s pulling the strings and making the game look very, very simple.
The win gives us 24 points from 22 matches and brings us up to 13th on the table. That’s 5 points from the relegation zone which, while hardly comfortable, is more of a cushion than we’ve had in a while. We take on Manchester United next Sunday at Old Trafford. After that, we host top of the table Arsenal on the 25th.