Just like Tottenham Hotspur did midweek in Greece, Spurs conceded two second-half goals, this time costing vital points in a the 2-1 loss at Leicester City.
Tottenham Hotspur used to be a machine on the road under Mauricio Pochettino, but since the start of the 2019 calendar year, they have been horrific. Outside of two Champions League miracles, Spurs have been abject and quite beatable, and it cost Spurs today in the League against Leicester City. So, how did Spurs fall 2-1 after having the 1-0 half-time lead?
VAR Giveth and Taketh
Not for the first time this season VAR was the turning point in a match, and in this game it happened twice. The first time, at about 15 minutes played, VAR came to the fore. Although Tottenham had a few early chances – with Son going wide and Kane blasting right at Schmeichel – the early play saw Leicester on the front foot. James Maddison popped up from midfield and had one wide shot attempt and another saved by Paulo Gazzaniga in the first quarter-hour of the match.
It was this second effort, where Gazzaniga’s save led to a corner, where the first twist occurred. The corner bounced through the middle of the penalty area to Youri Tielemans at the back post, who blasted at Gazzaniga. The reserve keeper failed to secure the ball, putting it on the turf. Leicester was first to the rebound and apparently scored the opener. But wait, VAR checked the goal – as they do every single time – and several Leicester City players, including the first to the rebound, were offside. The game remained scoreless until Harry Kane scored for Spurs a few minutes later. VAR was critical in making the right call to help Spurs into the first half lead.
Fast forward about 40 minutes into the last third of the match and VAR again pops up to disallow a goal. Heung-Min Son was played in only to lose the ball on a tackle – which happened a lot on the day – but Kane was Johnny on the spot, picking up the loose ball and playing a cross that Serge Aurier controlled and blasted past Schmeichel for an apparent 2-0 Spurs lead. But VAR judged Son as offside so the goal did not stand.
Son wasn’t clearly offside, so I believe the goal should have stood. The first disallowed goal was obviously offside, but this one was marginal at best. Spurs didn’t deserver to win but could have at least held on to a draw had VAR not overturned this one.
As a Tottenham fan we have seen this show before – not the blown lead – but the dynamic midfielder popping up and grabbing the game by the horns to lead his team to victory. We used to see it from Christian Eriksen and, at times, Dele Alli. In 2019 more often than not – aside from two Champions League miracles – that inspirational play has come from the other side, and today it was Maddison doing the trick for Leicester.
Outside of an Erik Lamela’s 54th minute effort and Kane’s wishful shot from 30 yards two minutes in, Tottenham didn’t take any other shots from outside the box on the day. Maddison took three himself – Leicester took six total – and it was the third that found the back of the net. Give a midfield attacker like Maddison that many chances and he’ll make you pay.
What else went wrong for Spurs?
In many respects Leicester today reminded me of Spurs from a year or two ago: young, hungry, and working relentlessly for everything. Today we see a squad that hardly celebrates their goals and is giving up too many opportunities.
Harry Winks was sloppy and several times got caught with no one to pass the ball to after dwelling on possession. Danny Rose misplayed three passes – in extra time alone – giving the ball away. Our wonder boy Tanguy Ndombele looked a step slow and didn’t have his usual touch today. Victor Wanyama picked up a yellow just minutes after coming on for Moussa Sissoko, who had his own yellow, almost defeating entirely the point of his introduction.
Something is wrong at Spurs which needs to be solved soon. Instead of at least temporarily going second in league, Spurs are already three points outside of the top four. With injuries continuing to pile up and some players clearly not playing at their best, the inquisition into what’s going on behind the scenes is sure to commence.