Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers insists his side “won’t get carried away” after they overcame top-four rivals Tottenham to climb to second in the Premier League.
In a hard-fought battle between the sides starting the day third and fourth in the table, Spurs one point above the visitors, it was the latter who established themselves as champions Liverpool’s closest challengers courtesy of Jamie Vardy’s penalty and a Toby Alderweireld own goal.
While Leicester sit four points behind the league leaders, former pacesetters Tottenham – removed from top spot in defeat by Liverpool on Wednesday – find themselves fifth after Sunday’s matches, six points adrift of the lead.
“The players have done great. A European campaign, lots of injuries, but they have kept the enthusiasm, spirit and quality, so it is a very pleasing opening third of the season,” said Rodgers.
On his side’s position, he added: “The ambition is to continue improving. We won’t get carried away, there is a lot of development to take place in our young players.
“We will see. It has been a really good start, I am satisfied with where we are at, knowing there are improvements to make.”
Vardy confidently dispatched his spot-kick in the fourth minute of first-half injury time, after referee Craig Pawson was advised to review Serge Aurier’s needless shove on Wesley Fofana via the pitchside monitor.
A VAR review for offside disallowed James Maddison’s well-taken finish three minutes after the restart, but Vardy’s header from Marc Albrighton’s excellent cross deflected in off Alderweireld to double Leicester’s advantage after 59 minutes.
Vardy’s opener arrived at the end of a closely contested opening 45 minutes, during which Spurs captain Harry Kane’s saved free-kick in the 34th minute and Foxes midfielder Maddison’s deflected shot from distance were the only other attempts on target.
Son Heung-min was denied at close range by Kasper Schmeichel as Jose Mourinho’s disappointing hosts were left frustrated in search of a response, while Leicester went close to a late third through Youri Tielemans.
Another Christmas in second for Leicester
The true importance of this result to Leicester’s season may only be revealed when the season concludes, but it is one which should serve to convince Rodgers’ side of their place among the Premier League’s current elite.
Securing a top-four spot after agonisingly falling short last season is the challenge for Rodgers, and this was the perfect response to Wednesday’s below-par defeat by Everton which prevented the Foxes widening the gap to the chasing pack.
As demonstrated in the past week, the need to deliver consistency is paramount going forward for Leicester, whose midweek defeat arrived between a devastating attacking display against Brighton and this impressive victory over a side threatening a title challenge.
Despite troubles with their home form, the Foxes have been ruthless on the road, this their sixth win in seven league away games despite facing a Tottenham defence with the joint-best record in the competition.
Vardy had a shot blocked at close range and Maddison fired over as Leicester were invited to ask the early questions of the Spurs backline, and they eventually got the breakthrough their positive play deserved as Vardy sent his penalty down the middle for his 11th goal of the campaign.
The returning Jonny Evans delivered an assured performance alongside Fofana in defence as the Foxes never appeared in danger of relinquishing their lead after Alderweireld’s own goal, earning Rodgers a first Premier League win over Mourinho in eight attempts.
It is the first time in the club’s history that Leicester have sat in the top two of the top flight at Christmas in consecutive seasons, and their Champions League credentials will be tested once more against Manchester United next.
Tottenham’s title challenge falters
Roberto Firmino’s last-minute winner for Liverpool was a painful way for Spurs to concede top spot in midweek, as Mourinho’s side spurned several good second-half chances to claim a statement win at the home of the champions.
Liverpool’s subsequent 7-0 thrashing of Crystal Palace on Saturday added even greater significance to Tottenham’s response to a first league defeat since the opening day, with anything other than victory set to hand the Reds an ominous first glimpse of daylight in the title race.
Mourinho’s tactics almost paid off at Anfield – despite just 24% of possession – but his subdued side were second best on Sunday.
In a rare off day for the Spurs forwards, Son unsuccessfully chose to square for Tanguy Ndombele instead of shooting in their first opening, while Kane went close with a header from a corner as the hosts increased their urgency before their costly setback before the interval.
Mourinho will have been left scratching his head at defender Aurier’s careless barge on Fofana to concede the penalty and responded with the introduction of Gareth Bale at half-time.
He was soon forced to replace the injured Giovani lo Celso with Lucas Moura, yet despite an array of offensive players Spurs failed to get going in attack to leave any title aspirations in a precarious state.
It is now one win in five Premier League games for Spurs after a tough run of fixtures including Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Leicester in their past six.
For now, the immediate focus on ending a long wait for silverware rests on reaching the Carabao Cup semi-finals, when they face Championship side Stoke City on Wednesday.
“It’s frustrating but I think it’s a strange game to describe. It’s a game that we lose with the penalty and the own goal. It’s a game where your goalkeeper doesn’t make a single save, but it’s a game that we didn’t play very well,” said Mourinho.
“I didn’t think either team played very, very well. We deserved to win the game at Liverpool and that would have made it an amazing week because nobody has done that for a long time. The team was phenomenal at Liverpool. Now, if you look at the table, everybody is there.”
Foxes’ first victory at Spurs since title – the stats
- Leicester won their first Premier League away game against Spurs since a 1-0 victory in 2015-16, the season they won the title.
- The Foxes have won 18 points in their past seven games on the road, the most in their first seven away games of a season in their history.
- Jamie Vardy has been directly involved in seven goals in seven Premier League away games against Spurs, more than against any other opponent.
- Vardy has scored 19 goals in his past 19 Premier League away games. He also became the first player to score an away goal against an opponent at three different venues in the competition – White Hart Lane, Wembley and Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
- Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers defeated a side managed by Jose Mourinho for the first time, at his eighth attempt.
- Tottenham have lost two of their past three Premier League games against Leicester – as many defeats as in their previous 12 against the Foxes.
- No player has scored more own goals for Spurs in the Premier League than Toby Alderweireld. His tally of three is level with Harry Kane.
- Since joining Spurs in August 2017, Serge Aurier has given away four penalties in the Premier League – second only to Arsenal’s David Luiz (five).
Tottenham face Stoke City in the League Cup quarter-finals on Wednesday (17:30 GMT), before travelling to face Wolves in the Premier League on Sunday (19:15).
Leicester host Manchester United on Saturday afternoon (12:30).
Player of the match
with an average of 8.32
Squad number1Player nameLloris
Squad number7Player nameSon Heung-Min
Squad number5Player nameHøjbjerg
Squad number3Player nameReguilón
Squad number10Player nameKane
Squad number15Player nameDier
Squad number9Player nameBale
Squad number4Player nameAlderweireld
Squad number17Player nameSissoko
Squad number18Player nameLo Celso
Squad number28Player nameNdombele
Squad number8Player nameWinks
Squad number27Player nameLucas Moura
Squad number24Player nameAurier
Squad number9Player nameVardy
Squad number10Player nameMaddison
Squad number25Player nameNdidi
Squad number2Player nameJustin
Squad number3Player nameFofana
Squad number1Player nameSchmeichel
Squad number15Player nameBarnes
Squad number11Player nameAlbrighton
Squad number6Player nameEvans
Squad number8Player nameTielemans
Squad number27Player nameCastagne
Squad number18Player nameAmartey
Squad number26Player namePraet
Squad number14Player nameIheanacho
- 24AurierSubstituted forWinksat 64′minutesBooked at 81mins
- 15DierBooked at 79mins
- 18Lo CelsoSubstituted forLucas Mouraat 49′minutes
- 28NdombeleSubstituted forBaleat 45′minutes
- 7Son Heung-Min
- 27Lucas Moura
- 45Alves Morais
- 27CastagneSubstituted forAmarteyat 60′minutes
- 25NdidiBooked at 72mins
- 11AlbrightonBooked at 32mins
- 15BarnesSubstituted forPraetat 84′minutes
- 9VardySubstituted forIheanachoat 88′minutes
Match ends, Tottenham Hotspur 0, Leicester City 2.
Second Half ends, Tottenham Hotspur 0, Leicester City 2.
Offside, Leicester City. Wesley Fofana tries a through ball, but Kelechi Iheanacho is caught offside.
Foul by Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (Tottenham Hotspur).
Youri Tielemans (Leicester City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Offside, Leicester City. Marc Albrighton tries a through ball, but James Maddison is caught offside.
Substitution, Leicester City. Kelechi Iheanacho replaces Jamie Vardy because of an injury.
Foul by Sergio Reguilón (Tottenham Hotspur).
Marc Albrighton (Leicester City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Dennis Praet (Leicester City).
Attempt missed. Youri Tielemans (Leicester City) right footed shot from the centre of the box is too high. Assisted by Jamie Vardy.
Substitution, Leicester City. Dennis Praet replaces Harvey Barnes.
Foul by Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur).
Jonny Evans (Leicester City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt saved. Jamie Vardy (Leicester City) right footed shot from the left side of the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by James Maddison.
Attempt blocked. Harvey Barnes (Leicester City) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Attempt blocked. Jamie Vardy (Leicester City) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by James Maddison.
Harry Winks (Tottenham Hotspur) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Harry Winks (Tottenham Hotspur).
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