Tottenham 3 City 0
Report by Colin Hall
Leicester City’s hopes of a place in next season’s Champions League now hang by a slender thread, following a 3-0 defeat by Tottenham in the final away game of the Premier League campaign.
While the Foxes played better on their first-ever visit to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium than the score line indicates, individual errors were ruthlessly punished by a strike force that would have troubled even a first-choice defence.
In addition, sections of the Blue Army had cause – and not for the first time during a highly disappointing second half of the season – to question tactical decisions taken by the management.
Although Brendan Rodgers could not be blamed for keeping faith with the same starting eleven that performed so impressively in the previous fixture, fears that the pace and power of the Spurs attack might overwhelm the makeshift City back line proved to be only too well-founded.
And while there have been times and places this season where a gung-ho approach has brought rich rewards for Rodgers and the team, this was never likely to be one of them.
The tone was set after only six minutes, when Son, a regular thorn in City’s side in past fixtures, sprang a particularly ill-judged offside trap. Although the defence was able to recover, the Korean’s shot was diverted past Kasper Schmeichel by the retreating James Justin.
Some referees in this league might have judged Kane, in an offside position directly in front of Schmeichel when Son shot, to have been interfering with play. However, this one allowed the goal to stand – not the last time the Mancunian official Taylor and his colleagues in the VAR studio would leave City aggrieved.
City made an instant response, with Jamie Vardy heading over from close range when he would usually have expected to find the target. With Youri Tielemans and young wing-back Luke Thomas playing prominent roles, the visitors created a string of chances during the next half-hour, only to be thwarted by fine goalkeeping and a resolute home defence.
However, the high pressing by City’s back three left them vulnerable to swift counter-attacks, and when Harvey Barnes was caught in possession deep inside the Spurs half, Moura immediately sent Kane clear to double the home side’s lead.
As City were still reeling by this hammer blow, the same combination struck again to put the game beyond their reach. Kane was allowed space on the right-hand side to curl home a shot which the defence might have done more to block.
With the destiny of the game settled, the only question that remained during the second half was whether City could find the scoresheet to repair, at least in part, further damage caused to their goal difference. Despite a number of further attempts on goal – the final tally of 24 was the most by any visiting Premier side in this venue’s short history – the answer proved negative, although Jonny Evans had a strong penalty claim denied when apparently flattened by home defender Sanchez at a corner.
The immediate withdrawal of Tielemans and Wilfred Ndidi after this incident suggested that the manager’s thoughts had already turned to next week’s crunch clash with Manchester United. But the manager’s dismal record against top-seven opponents this season – just ONE win to date in twelve attempts – gives little grounds for optimism, especially in view of the long list of players unavailable for the showdown.
While the City fanbase will welcome a return of European football to the King Power Stadium, for the team to finish outside the top 4 would be intensely regretted as an opportunity squandered, particularly given the number of months spent during the season inside the elite group.
This outcome would also have a severe adverse impact on the club’s ability to retain and recruit key players, and in such troubled economic times, could potentially also hinder its plans for future development.
It is therefore to be devoutly hoped that this manager and his squad can somehow conjure up a positive result next week.
Tottenham (4-2-3-1): Lloris (c); Aurier, Alderweireld, Sanchez, Davies; Sissoko, Winks (Skipp 90 + 2), Moura (Bergwijn 77), Lo Celso (Lamela 77), Son (Fernandes 89); Kane. Subs not used: Gazzaniga, Foyth, Vertonghen, Sessegnon, Tanganga.
Scorers: Justin (og) 6, Kane 37, 40
Booked: Sanchez, Moura
City (3-5-2 1st half, 4-4-2 2nd half): Schmeichel; Bennett (Gray 46), Morgan (c), Evans; Justin, Ndidi (Mendy 70), Tielemans (Praet 70), Barnes (Hirst 83), Thomas; Perez (Iheanacho 59), Vardy. Subs not used: Ward, Johnson, Choudhury, James.
Referee: Anthony Taylor Attendance (officially): 0
The views expressed in this report are the opinions of the Trust member nominated to file the report only and do not represent the views of the Foxes Trust organisation