Tottenham vs. Leicester City score: Jamie Vardy inspires Foxes as they claim second place in Premier League

Leicester City will head into Christmas as Liverpool’s nearest rivals in the Premier League table after Jamie Vardy inspired them to a 2-0 win at Tottenham.

A cagey contest was brought to life by Serge Aurier just before the interval as his clumsy foul handed Vardy the chance to break the tie from the penalty spot, a chance he was never likely to waste. Aurier’s foul was to be the decisive moment in the game, forcing Spurs up the pitch and opening space for Leicester to do further damage on the counter.

The game swung further in the Foxes’ direction on the hour when Jamie Vardy’s header deflected off Toby Alderweireld as Tottenham, masters of the defensive arts so far this season, struggled to break down a disciplined Leicester backline. Read on for the key talking points from the game.

Aurier’s familiar moment of madness

It is hard to argue that Tottenham’s defense-led approach in recent weeks has been anything other than effective. After all they did begin this weekend in second position and had come within moments of earning a point at Anfield. They might have got more.

Jose Mourinho has drilled his side into a hugely effective unit. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Moussa Sissoko protect the centre, forcing opponents down the flanks from where they deliver crosses that Alderweireld and Eric Dier find it all too easy to deal with. When it works it is a great challenge for any team to find the net against Spurs, who began the weekend with the top flight’s best defensive record.

The problem with relying on your defense as the engine for success it has if any part misfires the consequences can be catastrophic; in a low scoring sport like football there are finer margins for error. And in Mourinho’s rearguard Serge Aurier has proven to be a component of questionable reliability.

That much was proven with an utterly unnecessary foul on Wesley Fofana, Aurier barging into the Leicester centre-back on the right corner of the area. Indeed the only question the needed answering when VAR flagged up the potential foul was whether the incident had happened inside the penalty area, which offers a sense of how pointless this rugby-style hit was.

This was the fourth Premier League penalty Aurier has conceded since moving to England in 2017 – only David Luiz has given away more – and there is no sign that his discipline is improving with age. He has conceded three of those spot-kicks over the last 14 months. Under Mourinho he has improved as a defender but there is only so much he can do. 

Mourinho, you suspect, knows that perfectly well. After all last season he gave Aurier a dressing room dressing down, warning him: “I’m afraid of you as a marker, you’re capable of giving away a s— penalty with VAR.” *Ron Howard narrator voice* He did.

Spurs play into Leicester’s hands

Credit to Aurier, however, his indiscretion did at least bring a catatonic contest back to life. Spurs suddenly had to set the tempo in a game that had previously been riven with fear. Both sides knew that their opponent was at their most dangerous on the counter so it was little wonder that attacking moves were cagey, defenses deep and space at a premium for top players.

When Harry Kane dropped deep Leicester’s center backs refused to follow him, knowing if they did it would create angles for Heung-min Son to attack. Better, they reasoned, to hand responsibility to Wilfred Ndidi. Similarly Spurs defenders simply refused to allow Vardy any space in behind, at least in the first half.

Beyond everything else, the problem with conceding first was that then Spurs would have to push up to take the game to Leicester. It was almost immediately apparent how that would only aid the Foxes’ cause. James Maddison was offside by a shoulder when he rolled in a disallowed second early after the interval. 

As Tottenham chased the equalizer they needed and committed more to their attacks – first introducing Gareth Bale and then Lucas Moura – spaces opened up in behind. Suddenly Spurs were defending on the back foot, chasing back to meet Leicester attacks rather than waiting for them to hit their backline. In such circumstances mistakes and confusion are inevitable and often costly, as Sissoko proved when he failed to challenge Vardy for a cross and saw the Leicester striker’s header deflect of Alderweireld.

Notable performances

Wilfried Ndidi: The game becomes so much easier when you have a player like Ndidi in your team. He shields his defense with aplomb and does the simple things hugely effectively. Alongside Youri Tielemans he does not look to push his side up the pitch – only seven of the first 41 passes he attempted were forward – but he keeps Leicester ticking over in possession and holds them together without the ball. RATING: 8

Gareth Bale: Certainly Bale was not the cause of Tottenham’s woes but it is fair to ask what his introduction at the interval brought to his side’s attacking play. His passing was wayward, he struggled to get into positions for efforts on goal and does not have the eye for a killer pass to slice up a low block. RATING: 4

Premier League outlook

Leicester’s win sees them claim the second place that had been Spurs at the start of the weekend whilst Tottenham find themselves six points off the lead amongst a gathering mass of clubs vying for a top four berth.

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