Spurs get revenge for last term's title heartbreak with emphatic win at Foxes
LEICESTER, England -- Some quick conclusions from Tottenham's 6-1 Premier League win over Leicester City at the King Power Stadium on Thursday night.
1. Spurs get revenge in grudge match
It is amazing to think that this time last year Leicester City had already beaten Tottenham to the Premier League title. Twelve months on, Spurs delivered a glittering performance at the King Power Stadium, winning 6-1 after four goals from Harry Kane, to show just how far apart these two teams are now.
In the end, it was a shame there was next to nothing riding on this match, but perhaps that was why it was so entertaining. The events of last season have created a rivalry -- full of heat and schadenfreude -- between Leicester City and Tottenham, and they served up an evening of unexpected and unfettered entertainment.
Revenge is a dish best served cold, and more than a year after Leicester beat them to the Premier League title, Spurs got revenge of sorts with a display full of energy and desire. Son Heung-Min and Harry Kane had given Spurs a commanding two-goal lead, only for Ben Chilwell to halve the deficit. But Kane scored a second-half hat trick and Son added another to move Spurs onto 83 points and dent the Foxes' hopes of finishing in the top 10.
The King Power used the occasion to remind the away end of exactly what happened last season. "Who came third in a two-horse race?" and "Tottenham Hotspur, we're waiting for you," were part of the home fans' repertoire. The Spurs supporters responded with, "Champions League, never again," and on the pitch their team was showing why they were involved in another title challenge, while Leicester have slipped into midtable.
Son scuffed three good openings inside 10 minutes before a lucky ricochet left him one-on-one with Kasper Schmeichel and he wildly blazed over. Dele Alli and Mauricio Pochettino hopped in frustration.
This game meant something to Tottenham, marooned in second place, and their desire was personified when Kane wrestled Yohan Benalouane off the ball and nearly opened the scoring with a curling shot. Minutes later, he had his goal. Leicester's high line was proving susceptible, and Son raced behind, collecting Eric Dier's superb raking pass, driving to the touchline and squaring for the striker to finish neatly from close range.
The home fans were unrelenting, but so were Tottenham, and any fears they would lack finesse without Christian Eriksen, given a rare night off, were put to bed by a sublime second goal. Alli's delicious scoop left the entire Leicester defence stranded, and Son volleyed gratefully into the corner. The pair celebrated with an elaborate handshake routine, but before it was finished the Leicester fans had started up again, reminding Tottenham of how much this team has won. Son's hand gesture reminded them of the score.
Leicester rallied at the start of the second half after Islam Slimani replaced the ineffective Shinji Okazaki. Marc Alrbighton was denied a certain goal by Dier's sliding challenge, and Riyad Mahrez, who had started brightly but faded, tested Hugo Lloris. Leicester's goal, when it came, was a combination of the scrappy and skillful. Lloris raced out of his box to tackle Jamie Vardy, and the ball eventually found its way to Chilwell. The left-back showed impressive composure to drive into the box and finish coolly into the corner, with the goalkeeper still scrambling.
Leicester and their fans need no reminding that this Tottenham team has squandered two-goal half-time leads in the past -- Spurs' draw in such circumstances at Chelsea last May confirmed Leicester as champions -- but this year's iteration are made of sterner stuff. More evidence of that came with their second-half goals.
First Victor Wanyama headed Toby Alderweireld's cross back across the face of goal for Kane to gratefully nod home, before Son's second, a sublime touch and curling shot into the far corner. The South Korean is rarely mentioned among Tottenham's most important players, but the double took him to 21 goals for the season across all competitions, and he was replaced to a standing ovation from the away end, his early misses long forgotten.
The night, though, belonged to Kane again. Twice in the final five minutes the striker drove at Leicester's exhausted defence, cut inside and fired low into the net.
Long before the sixth goal, the Leicester fans had subsided, allowing the away end to dominate. "You've got your Leicester back," sang the Spurs supporters.
2. Spurs show they have reached another level
Are this Tottenham team the best team not to win the Premier League?
Last season it was Leicester's one-in-a-million run that denied Pochettino's swashbuckling Spurs the title (and a late collapse that saw Arsenal overtake their North London rivals) and this time around a ruthless Chelsea team were, by the Spurs manager's own admission, just better. Watching this dismantling of Leicester, it was hard to believe there is a better team in the country than Spurs.
This was, after all, a team with nothing left to play for. They moved on to 83 points, and if they win at relegated Hull City, they will be the second best runners-up in the history of the Premier League.
Pochettino was without right-backs Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier, and he even rested the supporters' player of the season Eriksen. It did not matter though, and Spurs were so comfortable in the final 10 minutes that the manager was able to give 21-year-old Filip Lesniak a debut.
Last season Spurs were full of energy, creativity and spark, spurred on by the goals of Kane and Alli, but this year they have reached new levels and this result was another resounding answer to their biggest criticism. The collapse last season after Leicester had won the league led to suggestions that Spurs lack a winning mentality and that Pochettino's high-octane style is susceptible when his players have nothing to play for.
But this performance came at the end of an arduous campaign from a team with nothing to play for except points and pride. The big question now for Tottenham is can they keep this team together and finally go one better next season.
3. Kane set to retain the Golden Boot
It is difficult to say much more about Kane, so let this statistic do the talking: the Spurs forward now has as many Premier League hat tricks as Cristiano Ronaldo and Dennis Bergkamp. It cannot be much longer before he is mentioned in the same breath as the former Manchester United and Arsenal forwards.
Kane's four goals at the King Power moved him on to 26 for the season, two ahead of Everton's Romelu Lukaku in the race for the Golden Boot and one better than he managed last season on his way to claiming the award. It was his fourth hat trick of the season -- the first Spurs player to do that since Jimmy Greaves, who this week saw Ronaldo break his 45-year-old European goal-scoring record. That is despite missing 11 weeks of the season with two ankle injuries and another slow start to the campaign.
In many ways, Kane shares characteristics with both legendary goal scorers. Like Greaves, he is a deadeye and composed finisher, deceptively strong and quick, and like Ronaldo he craves personal glory. Once he sensed hesitation in Leicester's defence, he was ruthless, dispatching his last two goals with cold and calculated precision.
Kane has said he wants to break Alan Shearer's Premier League goal-scoring record and, at this rate, that might be the next apt comparison to make.
Dan is ESPN FC's Tottenham correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Dan_KP.