Spurs outfox Leicester City in nine-goal thriller to claim third spot in the Premier League
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Premier League: Tottenham Hotspur 5 Leicester City 4
Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City produced a crazy nine-goal thriller at Wembley Stadium in the basking sun with Spurs triumphing 5-4 to seal third place in the Premier League.
Mauricio Pochettino and Claude Puel would have been far from impressed with the defending from their respective teams, but the supporters inside the ground were treated to a classic as a number of top-quality goals were scored.
Spurs made six changes to the team which saw off Newcastle United on Wednesday night to seal a top-four finish.
Ben Davies, Victor Wanyama, Dele Alli and Heung-min Son dropped to the bench with Danny Rose, Eric Dier, Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura replacing them.
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Meanwhile Davinson Sanchez and Kieran Trippier missed out completely so Toby Alderweireld was handed a start along with Kyle Walker-Peters.
It was a surprise to see both Rose and Alderweireld in the starting line-up, but a good opportunity for them to show their quality perhaps for one last time in Spurs colours.
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Tottenham had to make a change to their team though, 20 minutes before kick-off, as Jan Vertonghen was unable to play due to a calf injury and so Wanyama replaced him with Dier dropping into centre back and Sanchez taking up a spot on the bench.
Although Spurs had guaranteed a place in the top-four, they knew a victory would see them claim a third-placed finish and with this the last game at Wembley, supporters had turned out in numbers.
The sun was out too and it was Puel’s team who created the first opening of the match with four minutes on the clock.
Walker-Peters fouled Demarai Gray on the left and Riyad Mahrez swung the free kick in and Vardy was unmarked and nodded past Hugo Lloris with four minutes played.
It was far from an ideal start for Pochettino’s team, but they quickly regrouped and equalised three minutes later.
Moura pressured Danny Simpson impressively and blocked his intended pass and it put Kane through on goal.
The England forward, fresh from his goal against Newcastle, carried the ball forward and slotted past Eldin Jakupovic confidently to equalise and move onto 40 goals for the season and 29 in the Premier League – two behind Liverpool’s Mo Salah.
Both teams continued to create chances with Alderweireld testing Jakupovic in the 13th minute before Leicester broke and Moussa Sissoko looked to have won the ball back, but he lost it again and yet Gray, fortunately for Spurs, miscued wide.
It was a warning sign for Tottenham not to dally on the ball near their own penalty area, but it wasn’t taken on board as in the 16th minute Leicester retook the lead.
Spurs looked to be in control with Moura picking up possession on the left and he passed inside to Wanyama.
The Kenyan tried to dribble past a Leicester opponent through, but Gray tackled him and brought the ball forward.
Gray slipped in Adrien Silva and although Alderweireld slide in to put him off, the ball rolled to Vardy.
Walker-Peters tackled the England forward, but he was now out of position and the ball rolled free to Mahrez and he curled past Lloris to punish the hosts’ sloppiness.
Again it was a poor goal for Spurs to concede, but they looked to get back on level terms and threatened in the 23rd minute when Dier met Christian Eriksen’s corner, but Leicester’s goalkeeper saved well.
Tottenham kept the ball and moved it around to create another chance, but Moura fired wide from range, although his shot appeared to take a deflection, which referee Craig Pawson missed.
Opportunities were being created frequently and Leicester attacked next and should have gone 3-1 up three minutes later.
Puel’s side passed the ball around impressively and Kelechi Iheanacho chipped into the path of Vardy and he set up Gray with a one-touch pass, but the winger was denied by a wonderful save from Lloris.
From the resulting corner, City went close again as Vardy flicked on Mahrez’s cross, but Harry Maguire couldn’t get a solid connection at the back post and the chance went begging.
The early goals had boosted Leicester’s confidence and they were playing some fine free-flowing football at Wembley.
Dier and Alderweireld were struggling to handle Vardy while Gray and Mahrez were both causing Walker-Peters and Rose various problems.
Elsewhere, news had filtered through Liverpool had taken the lead against Brighton & Hove Albion and Salah was the goalscorer.
The Reds were now ahead of Spurs in the table and Kane was trailing the Egyptian by three in the Premier League Golden Boot race.
On Wednesday night Tottenham had been boosted by news Chelsea were behind at home to Huddersfield Town and the score at Anfield seemed to kick them into gear this time.
Eriksen almost inadvertently equalised when his cross evaded Lamela and forced the City custodian Jakupivic to save.
He could only parry into Kane’s path, but Maguire came sliding in to stop the chance and knock the ball behind for a corner.
The set-piece came to nothing, but Tottenham threatened again four minutes before the break when Eriksen played Sissoko in on goal, but just as he was about to pull the trigger, Maguire came across to block his effort and clear the loose ball.
Everything promising for Spurs was going through Eriksen, but they were lacking the required quality from other areas of the attack with Lamela and Moura failing to make the most of several good positions.
Two minutes of stoppage time were added on at the end of the first 45, but they went by with little to note and there were a few boos as the half time whistle was blown.
Everyone inside the stadium began to applause during the interval when Spurs brought out Paul Gascoigne.
The ex-Tottenham midfielder looked touched by the reception and finished his couple of minutes talking with a big ‘come on you Spurs!’ and the floss dance from Fortnite.
It didn’t inspire a good start from the hosts, however, as Leicester extended their lead with their first shot of the half.
Iheanacho controlled Alderweireld’s header around 40-yards-out and brought the ball forward, shrugged off the challenge of Wanyama and drilled in from 22-yards to make it 3-1.
Leicester had again showed real quality, but Spurs would have been cursing a poor start to the second period.
Just as it seemed the game was going away from them though, they responded with a second in the 49th minute.
Lamela, Kane and Moura were involved and the Brazilian played Walker-Peters in on the right and his cross allowed Lamela to tap in from close range.
It was game on now and four minutes later Tottenham were amazingly level, although in bizarre fashion.
Danny Rose got in down the left and his cross found Moura, who turned the ball on to Lamela, but Maguire tackled him and yet the ball ricocheted off the Argentinean and hit Christian Fuchs and ended up in the back of the net.
Lamela claimed the goal, but it looked to be an own-goal off the Leicester defender and yet it was all to play for again at Wembley.
The game was end-to-end now and Puel’s team created the next opportunity when Vardy knocked the ball into the area and it fell for Maguire at the back post, but the centre back fired wide.
Leicester made a change moments later as Hamza Choudhury replaced Simpson, who looked to be injured, but it failed to halt the frantic flow to the game.
It was Sunday League defending at times and that is exactly what happened for the seventh goal of the match which went to Tottenham.
Moura had the chance to play in either Kane or Lamela, but appeared to hold onto the ball for too long and his attempted chip into Walker-Peters wasn’t going to reach the full-back, but Gray accidently chest the ball perfectly into the youngsters’ path.
Walker-Peters now had the simple task of squaring to Lamela and he duly delivered, which allowed the Argentinean to find the net again.
Given Tottenham’s third goal was almost certainly an own-goal, it wasn’t his hat-trick strike, but nevertheless it had put the Lilywhites in front for the first time.
Puel surprisingly hauled Gray off after his mistake and brought on Fousseni Diabate and with 61 on the clock, we had seen seven goals already at Wembley.
The action wasn’t finish with there as Alderweireld fired wide in the 68th minute before Lloris produced a brilliant save to deny Mahrez after good work from Diabate.
Spurs’ goalkeeper was beaten five minutes later and it took a fantastic strike from Vardy to beat him.
Tottenham wanted a penalty after Kane and Wes Morgan had tangled inside the Foxes area, but referee Pawson waved play on and the visitors broke with Mahrez and he put Vardy through and he smashed high into the roof of the net.
It was a wonderful finish and run from the England forward and Wanyama had been the man to play him onside.
Pochettino made his first change soon after when Alli replaced Moura, who had been a livewire during his 74 minutes on the pitch.
It didn’t take Alli long to get involved as he flicked the ball into Kane’s path in the 76th minute and the England forward exchanged a one-two with Rose before he took on Choudhury and sold the substitute a dummy and curled home from 20-yards.
Kane had broken the 30-goal mark in the Premier League and moved onto 41 for the season in all competitions.
Choudhury was finding life difficult and made another mistake in the 83rd minute as he fouled Rose just outside the area following Alderweireld’s fine cross-field pass.
Minutes before that Lamela had left the field to huge applause with Sanchez taking his place in the 79th minute.
Another substitution occurred after Rose had been fouled as Son replaced Sissoko and like Lamela, he got a big cheer for his efforts against Leicester.
Eventually Tottenham took their free kick opportunity, but Kane fluffed his lines and blazed over so a hat-trick eluded him.
As the clock struck 90, the fourth official signalled for five minutes of stoppage time and it resulted in a number of groans from the home faithful.
There was a hairy moment for Walker-Peters late on as he knocked the ball back to Lloris under pressure from Diabate and the Frenchman had to parry the ball away to keep the score 5-4.
The young full-back then needed treatment moments later after colliding with the same Leicester player.
It helped a few more seconds tic away at Wembley, but Leicester did create one last opportunity at the national stadium.
Jakupovic’s long kick was flicked on and put Vardy through, but he blazed over with Alderweireld putting him under pressure.
It was the final chance in Brent and the full time whistle followed soon after to confirm Spurs had finished third.
Considering Tottenham had spent the whole season at Wembley, it was a superb feat to finish above Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal.
Pochettino and his staff and players will now relax for a short amount of time before a lot will head off to the World Cup.
More importantly, the next time Spurs play a home game will be at the new White Hart Lane and Tottenham will head back there with Champions League football and an excellent team which appears to be improving with every passing campaign.
It has not been all plain-sailing during the 2017/18 term, but the Lilywhites can be proud of their achievements and will look to build on it next season in N17.
Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris; Walker-Peters, Alderweireld, Dier, Rose; Wanyama, Sissoko (Son 84); Lamela (Sanchez 79), Eriksen, Moura (Alli 74); Kane.
Unused substitutes: Vorm, Llorente, Foyth, Davies.
Leicester City: Jakupovic; Simpson (Choudhury 56), Morgan, Maguire, Fuchs; Mahrez, Silva, Iborra, Gray (Diabate 61); Iheanacho (Barnes 85), Vardy.
Unused substitutes: Hamer, Benalouane, Ndukwu, Hughes.