Tottenham and Leicester end season with nine-goal thriller
Braces for Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy as Spurs come from 3-1 down at Wembley
Harry Kane scores Tottenham’s winner against Leicester. Photograph: Henry Browne/Getty
Tottenham Hotspur 5 Leicester City 4
The Tottenham Hotspur support chanted that they were going home and there is certainly excitement among their number at the prospect of returning to the rebuilt White Hart Lane next season. Yet what a send-off they gave to Wembley.
The merits of the club’s temporary accommodation at the national stadium have been a talking point throughout a season that has seen them secure third place in the Premier League and a third consecutive Champions League qualification.
Tottenham started badly at Wembley but they grew into the famous old place and they can look back upon a clutch of outstanding performances in the victories over Liverpool, Real Madrid, Manchester United and Arsenal. This win over a spirited Leicester City was rather more madcap and of less significance but it provided a richly entertaining finale.
On an afternoon when defending was clearly not a part of either team’s plans, Tottenham trailed 3-1 before storming back into a 4-3 lead. Jamie Vardy found an equaliser for Leicester – with his second goal of the game – before Harry Kane – who else? - won it for Tottenham with his second.
Tottenham had invited a host of their former players and one of them, Paul Gascoigne, who had been presented on the pitch at half-time, could be seen performing The Floss dance up in the stands when Kane’s winner went in. Around him, Gary Mabbutt smiled, Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa applauded and Dimitar Berbatov, well, just looked cool.
Kane finished with 30 league goals for the season but it was not enough to overhaul Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah in the race for the Golden Boot. Kane had won the award in the previous two seasons with 25 and 29 goals.
Leicester played a full part in a see-saw spectacle and they will wonder how they went home with nothing but a fifth defeat in seven league games. The focus will now turn to the future of the manager, Claude Puel, but it is fair to say that his players performed for him here.
The game had the trappings of a meaningless end-of-season rubber and yet there were thrills and spills from the first whistle. Vardy was in the mood, his jet-heeled pace stretching a patched-up Tottenham backline while some of his touches boasted finesse of the highest order.
He put Leicester in front with a flicked header from Riyad Mahrez’s free-kick, which had been awarded for a Kyle Walker-Peters nibble on Demarai Gray. Walker-Peters was the nearest marker to Vardy when Mahrez whipped the ball in but he was nowhere near close enough.
Tottenham came back straight away and the equaliser was a moment to forget for Danny Simpson. The Leicester defender tried to work a pass out from the back but he hit Lucas Moura with it and the ball broke for Kane, who could see only green grass between himself and Eldin Jakupovic. He motored into it and beat the goalkeeper with a low shot inside the near post. At that point, it felt as though they might still be a race for the Golden Boot.
Tottenham had lost Jan Vertonghen to a calf problem in the warm-up and so Mauricio Pochettino had to reshuffle, bringing Victor Wanyama into the starting line-up in midfield and dropping Eric Dier back into central defence, where he partnered Toby Alderweireld. Walker-Peters enjoyed a rare opportunity at right-back in the injury-enforced absences of Kieran Trippier and Serge Aurier. Tottenham’s defenders looked like strangers, at times.
Leicester were back in charge with only 16 minutes on the clock. Adrien Silva won the ball off Wanyama and when Kelechi Iheanacho surged inside the area, the alarm bells sounded for Tottenham. Alderweireld jumped into a tackle on him and missed and when Walker-Peters and Vardy challenged for the loose ball, it broke for Mahrez, who banged a low shot past Hugo Lloris.
Leicester ought to have been further in front on 26 minutes. It was Vardy’s cushioned pass that set up Gray for a one-on-one with Lloris but his shot was too close to the goalkeeper. Tottenham were booed off by some of their supporters at the interval.
It was open, entertaining and the goals continued to flow in the second-half. Iheanacho’s was the pick of the afternoon. Dier’s clearing header was weak and the Leicester forward held off Wanyama – no mean feat – before unfurling a precision left-footed drive that picked out the top corner.
Game over? Not at all. Remarkably, Tottenham were in front 13 minutes later. Erik Lamela scored two of the three goals that transformed the afternoon and he was central to the other one. The Argentinian’s first followed a slick move and a low Walker-Peters cross. Amid the suspicion of offside, he turned home.
Lamela knew rather less about his role in the equaliser. Lucas flicked towards him and when Harry Maguire jumped into a challenge, the ball ricocheted off Lamela and flew home off Christian Fuchs for an own goal.
Leicester were all over the place at the back, the spaces suddenly pronounced and when Lucas tried to play in Walker-Peters, it looked as though Gray would cut it out. But he got himself into a mess and Walker-Peters was in. When he crossed, Lamela was all alone again to finish.
Back came Leicester and after Lloris had saved brilliantly to keep out Iheanacho, Mahrez ushered in Vardy, who finished explosively into the near top corner. Kane created the winner for himself with a move that sent the Leicester substitute, Hamza Choudhury, off towards Brent Cross. His shot was curled into the far corner beyond Jakupovic. Vardy fired high when well-placed in stoppage-time but there would be no further twist.