Richard Buxton: The better team won, Mourinho
Tottenham's counter-attacking style not good enough against ruthless Foxes
The better team won at Anfield last week. They won at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium yesterday, too.
Last night's 2-0 victory for Leicester City confirmed that the unholy alliance between the Lilywhites and Jose Mourinho is still little more than an illusion over a year on.
Fans reluctantly accepted Mourinho succeeding Mauricio Pochettino because of what he represented.
|TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR||LEICESTER CITY|
|(Jamie Vardy 45+4-pen, Toby Alderweireld 59-og)|
A solid track record of success meant the Portuguese's pragmatism was embraced following his predecessor's enticing yet ultimately fruitless body of work.
But the only real winner from Spurs' festive malaise is a bearded man wearing red.
Juergen Klopp's best possible Christmas present cannot be found sitting prettily atop the English Premier League tree, but on the sagging branches directly beneath it.
The Liverpool manager will wake up on Dec 25 safe in the knowledge that his previously most formidable challengers no longer reside at the old White Hart Lane.
Both the champions and Tottenham took on Crystal Palace in the past week, with one of them hitting Roy Hodgson's side for seven while the other conspired to come up short.
A fast-moving landscape on coronavirus restrictions saw the Reds swagger against a backdrop of silence at Selhurst Park last Saturday, while Spurs toiled to a 1-1 draw before a 2,000-strong crowd last week.
Even playing in front of a reduced capacity at home would have provided Mourinho with a verbal rocket for trying to play the waiting game against Brendan Rodgers' charges.
He had clearly misread Danny Blanchflower's famous speech that became Spurs' modern mission statement and set up waiting for his opponents "to die of boredom".
Mourinho approached this game like a heavyweight boxer; willing to let the visitors tire themselves out early on through a succession of seemingly inconsequential body shots.
Lying in wait, however, works only with a plan of action which is not simply punting the ball towards Harry Kane at the earliest opportunity.
His sole chance arrived just five minutes from the interval in glancing a Son Heung-min corner over the crossbar.
The Foxes refused to let up in a first half where they routinely pinned back their hosts and took a late first-half lead through Serge Aurier's act of complete absent-mindedness.
A shove by the Ivory Coast international on Wesley Fofana in the penalty area allowed Jamie Vardy to score from the spot, extending his tally of away EPL goals to nine in seven outings.
Within three minutes of the restart, Leicester carved open Tottenham again as James Justin's lofted ball found James Maddison for a bustling finish past Hugo Lloris.
Only the adjudication of the video assistant referee (VAR) prevented Mourinho's humiliation from being writ large so soon.
Insult was added to injury just before the hour mark as Vardy glanced a far-post cross from Harvey Barnes against Toby Alderweireld's knee to turn the ball into his own net.
Rodgers clearly learnt his lesson from seven previous winless matches against his former Chelsea superior.
For a time, the Northern Irishman was guilty of making their feuds personal, walking into carefully laid traps on each occasion without fail.
While the Leicester boss has fashioned a team who are both ruthless and efficient, Mourinho is still clinging to a predictable mindset which is at least a decade out of date.
Tottenham, similarly, are harking back to the past with hopes that a stale Special One and an ageing Gareth Bale will soon restore them back to glory.
Football has evolved - it's time Mourinho finally followed suit.
LAST NIGHT'S OTHER RESULT:
Brighton 1 Sheffield United 1