Tottenham Hotspur hosted Leicester City in their last home match at Wembley Stadium on Championship Sunday. Spurs knew that a win would propel them into third place ahead of Champions League finalists Liverpool, something that seemed unattainable just a couple of weeks ago when top four was a doubt.
But instead of a dour match featuring two teams on the beach, we got an absolutely BONKERS final game. Tottenham edged the Foxes 5-4 behind braces by Erik Lamela and Harry Kane in a match that was as wildly entertaining as it was deeply stupid.
The name of the game was “rotation” and Mauricio Pochettino ended up handing starts to a number of players that haven’t usually gotten them. Toby Alderweireld started in central defense, originally alongside Jan Vertonghen, but Vertonghen pulled out of the match after warmups. Eric Dier moved into central defense with Victor Wanyama his replacement. Davinson Sanchez moved into the bench.
Fullback Kyle Walker-Peters bookended the season; he started on opening weekend at Newcastle and picked up Man of the Match for his performance. Lucas Moura also got a rare start.
The first half was an extremely open affair, and it didn’t take long for the visitors to get on the scoresheet. Walker-Peters had a disastrous sequence in the fourth minute -- he fouled Leicester player on the edge of the penalty area, and then lost his man on the ensuing free kick. Rihad Mahrez fired a left-footed free kick to the head of Jamie Vardy, who put it past Lloris. Just like that, Leicester led 1-0 at Wembley.
But Spurs came roaring back three minutes later. Lucas Moura won the ball high in midfield and played it to an onrushing Harry Kane, who fired low and across the face of goal and past Eldin Janupovic to level the score. It was a vintage Harry Kane goal, who finally looked like he was recovered from his ankle injury.
The excitement didn’t last long. In the 16th minute, Leicester took advantage of some awful defending from Spurs in the box to retake the lead. Adrien Silva dribbled into the box and tried to square to Jamie Vardy. Spurs poked the ball away but it fell to Mahrez, who put a rocket past Hugo and the Foxes were again up a goal.
Tottenham had a number of chances to level the score again in the first half but were undone either by finishing or by less-than-incisive passing. Christian Eriksen found the head of Eric Dier in the 23rd minute, but Janupovic got a hand to it. Lucas Moura’s long kick in the ensuing possession went high and wide.
Spurs had the edge in possession in the first half, but Leicester had the bulk of the chances. Midway through the half, Leicester nearly had a third after Vardy set up Demarai Gray, who forced a huge save from Lloris. The ensuing corner kick fell to a wide open Harry Maguire at the back post, but he bungled he volley and Spurs escaped.
Harry Kane nearly had a brace in the first half off of another gorgeous cross from Eriksen. Janpovic bobbled the ball as he tried to collect it and it fell to the feet of Kane in the box. Kane, however, couldn’t tap the ball over the line.
It was a hugely entertaining half for the neutral observer, but while Spurs had their chances they looked like they were lacking sharpness. The first half ended 2-1 to Leicester.
The first half of this match was entertaining. The second half was pure madness. Leicester came out firing in the second half and went up 3-1 just a minute into the half thanks to an amazing strike from Kelechi Iheanacho. Nacho dribbled around Victor Wanyama and fired a laser into the top corner that gave Hugo no chance, and the Foxes were up 3-1.
But Spurs immediately responded behind Erik Lamela in a great display of team passing. The sequence started with Danny Rose and included Lamela, Kane, Lucas Moura, and Walker-Peters, who got the assist back to Lamela. Erik looked to be just a shade offside, but it was close and went uncalled, and Spurs were back in the game.
Spurs then equalized the game at three each inside the tenth minute of the second half. Rose again started the play by finding Lucas Moura in the box. Lucas backheeled the ball to Lamela, who’s shot went off the knee of Leicester’s Christian Fuchs and past Janupovic. Lamela celebrated like he claimed the goal, but it was eventually credited as a Fuchs own goal.
Midway through the half, Lamela came through again to put Spurs up 4-3! Walker-Peters got his second assist of the game after a defensive miscue by Demarai Gray, finding a wide-open Lamela who easily slotted home. Lucas Moura started the play with an excellent long ball from deep.
But Leicester weren’t done. Iheanacho nearly got another one for the Foxes in the 65th minute forcing another strong save from Hugo Lloris, and Riyad Mahrez tested Hugo again five minutes later.
It was end-to-end the entire half with both teams producing lung-busting runs and counterattacks. Spurs had a penalty shout waved off by match official Craig Pawson after Rose was taken down by Harry Maguire by the end line in the 72nd minute.
One minute later, Leicester got their equalizer as Mahrez and Vardy combined for the Foxes for possibly the final time. Mahrez put a lovely through ball to a running Vardy, splitting Spurs’ defenders and allowing Vardy to even the match up at four goals each.
Of course, Harry Kane turned out to be the hero as he has done so many times for Spurs this season. In the 76th minute, Kane received the ball just outside the box, took a touch, dribbled a Leicester defender, and fired past Janupovic for the winner. Danny Rose provided the “Tom Carroll assist.”
Spurs eventually brought on Dele Alli for Lucas, Davinson Sanchez for Lamela, and Son Heung-Min for Moussa Sissoko to help see the game off. The match ended after an extra five minutes of extra time, with Spurs winning a 5-4 thriller.
- That match was on cocaine and I loved it. It was equal parts awesome and stupid, and ended up being quite enjoyable to watch. Kind of the perfect way to end the season, wasn’t it?
- Normally I would be upset that Spurs managed to concede four goals to Leicester in a single match but the whole experience was so entertaining (and Spurs won) that I don’t care one bit.
- Moussa Sissoko got his second consecutive start in the pivot today. His second half sequence where he made a great tackle and lung-busting run up the pitch only to completely screw up the ensuing pass is a perfect summary of his entire Tottenham career.
- Kane looked like he’s finally fully back from that injury. He was great today. The two goals puts him at 30 for the season, but it wasn’t enough to catch Mo Salah who takes the Golden Boot with 32.
- Lucas Moura was also wonderful to watch, looking direct and tricky. That backheel assist was lovely, and I want to see a lot more of him next season.
- Shoutout to Kyle Walker-Peters who had a terrible sequence on Leicester’s opening goal but was otherwise quite good. His crossing and passing was lovely, though his defensive positioning needs a little work. That said, he might be the new right back we need next season.
- Also very pleased with Erik Lamela who showed that, yes, he can produce some offensive output.
- Finally, a big thumbs-down to whatever G-list announcing team the league had on this match. Among other things they mispronounced Harry Maguire’s name, said Spurs needed to win to clinch their “third consecutive third place finish” (incorrect), criticized Erik Lamela for not using his right foot (have you SEEN him play?), and repeatedly referenced how Spurs would need a Champions League qualifier if they finish fourth. Terrible.
- Season’s over, folks, and Spurs end up in third place, four behind United. We can discuss how Spurs could’ve done better, but this is a great way to end.