Tottenham Hotspur went to the King Power Stadium on Saturday to play Leicester City, but with one eye looking at Barcelona. Spurs made some risks with rotation, but Mauricio Pochettino’s team came through in a big way — Tottenham got goals from Son Heung-Min and Dele Alli and rolled to a comfortable 2-0 win over the Foxes.
Amazingly, change was in the air for Tottenham as both Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen started the match on the bench. Mauricio Pochettino was obviously looking ahead to Tuesday’s must-win Champions League match. Spurs started out in a midfield diamond with Dele Alli at the 10 in front of Eric Dier, Moussa Sissoko, and Harry Winks, and behind Son Heung-Min and Lucas Moura. Janby Alderweirtonghen, Ben Davies, and Serge Aurier formed the back line.
The first half started with Leicester predictably trying to counter at Spurs’ defense with pace, pushing up the flanks through Demarai Gray and Ben Chilwell and trying to find Kelechi Iheanacho in the box.
Spurs’ defense was up to the task, though Tottenham’s offense took longer to get going in the absence of Kane and Eriksen. That wasn’t helped when Eric Dier picked up a harsh yellow card in the 9th minute for a clumsy tackle in midfield.
The opening 20 minutes of the match were fairly even — possession was about equal, though you might give the edge to Leicester with their pacy counterattacks that stretched Spurs’ back line.
Late in the half Spurs started knocking on the door, but weren’t able to fully open it. Dele Alli started taking a leadership role in the offense, directing traffic and trying to bring others into the box. Spurs forced a couple of corners in the last 20 minutes of the first half, and just before halftime Dele Alli was able to slalom into the box, but Spurs weren’t able to force Kaspar Schmeichel into a save.
It sure looked like the half would end in a dour 0-0 draw, but Son Heung-Min had other ideas. One minute into injury time, Sonny received the ball at the top of the box, took a dribble, and fired a cracker of a shot with his left foot into the top corner past a diving Schmeichel. It was an outstanding goal, and Spurs took that enthusiasm, and the 1-0 lead, into the break.
With Mauricio Pochettino opting to not make any halftime substitutions, the second half started with Spurs on the front foot. Spurs nearly nicked a second two minutes into the half after Dele Alli tried to poke a close range effort past Schmeichel, and Sonny tried to duplicate his goal from the same position (but much less successfully).
Hugo Lloris was finally forced into his first save at the 53 minute mark when Demarai Gray fired a low ball at goal, but it was a comfortable one for Lloris who was not troubled by the effort.
Trying to shake things up a bit, Claude Puel opted for a double substitution in the 56th minute, subbing off Iheanacho and Iborra for Rachid Ghezzal and Marc Albrighton.
Tottenham responded to the change of personnel immediately through Sonny and Dele. On a break, Lucas Moura passed the ball wide to Son. With a bit of space in front of him, Sonny instead lofted a lovely ball to the back post, and Dele did well to head the ball past Schmeichel to up Spurs’ lead to 2-0.
Tottenham made their first sub in the 67th minute, with Pochettino opting to take out Lucas for Christian Eriksen.
It was pretty much all Spurs as the match headed into its final 20 minutes. In the 70th minute, Serge Aurier had a decent look at goal but fluffed his header into the ground, and Schmeichel was able to make a straightforward save, but that was as close as they came for the middle part of the half.
Match hero Sonny made way in the 74th minute as Harry Kane came in as the world’s best human victory cigar. Kyle Walker-Peters came on three minutes later for Serge Aurier, who appeared to have picked up a knock. Nampalys Mendy made way for Shinji Okazaki as Leicester also made their final sub in the last 15 minutes.
Ghezzal had Leicester’s best chance of the match four minutes from time, forcing Lloris into a fine save with a curling effort. Leicester kept up the pressure trying to earn a goal back, but Hugo and Spurs’ defense kept the lid on most of their attacks. Spurs seemed quite comfortable with a two goal lead and were content to see of the match late.
The final score was 0-2 to the good guys.
- Sonny had another fantastic match today. One goal, one assist, and a whole lot of love going forward, he was probably Spurs’ best player.
- But low-key MOTM might just have been Dele Alli. In the absence of Kane and Eriksen, Dele was all over the place, taking a clear leadership role and making the offense tick. His header for Spurs’ second goal was very nice as well. It was great to see.
- It’s hard to underestimate how much better Spurs’ defense is when Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld are playing together. They were immaculate all match.
- Moussa Sissoko was very good defensively in this match, especially in the second half when he was tasked to mark James Maddison. He did very well, taking Maddison completely off his game, and Leicester weren’t really able to get anything going offensively.
- Subbing in Kane and Eriksen in the second half is fine. Those kind of sub minutes aren’t going to tire them out ahead of Barcelona, and both of them ensured that Spurs’ performance didn’t drop late in the match.
- This was a good win. Leicester are no slouches, especially at home, though they looked a bit toothless without Vardy. It keeps Spurs in third place and actually closes the gap with Manchester City to five points.
- Bring on Barcelona!