STOKE, ENGLAND – Harry Kane and Dele Alli both scored twice Monday as Tottenham crushed Stoke 4-0 with a devastating attacking display to close the gap on Premier League leader Leicester to five points.
Tottenham’s fearless performance was an emphatic response to Leicester dropping points in Sunday’s draw with West Ham with four games remaining.
Either team winning the league would shake up the established order. Leicester has never won the top flight in its 132-year history and Tottenham’s only titles came in 1951 and 1961.
“We’re not going anywhere — we are on their tails,” Kane said of Leicester after taking his league-leading tally to 24 goals.
The England striker curled in the opener in the ninth minute at Stoke, but Tottenham only burst into life in the second half.
The 20-year-old Alli dinked the ball over 39-year-old goalkeeper Shay Given to double Tottenham’s lead in the 67th but then missed an open goal.
Kane did succeed in putting the ball into an unguarded net in the 71st and Alli arrowed a powerful volley into the net to complete the heaviest loss of the season for ninth-place Stoke.
This is an end to the season that could not have been anticipated in August, when Tottenham opened its campaign by failing to win any of its first four games.
Back then, Spurs were nine points behind early leader Manchester City, which is now eight behind them in third — albeit having played a game less. One thing that hasn’t changed is that Leicester remains five points in front of Spurs.
But Tottenham’s young team has steadily grown in confidence under Mauricio Pochettino during the manager’s second season.
“We show hunger and passion,” Pochettino said. “They are fantastic to work with every day.”
No team has scored more than Tottenham and no team has conceded fewer goals.
This was another quiet day in the Tottenham goal for Hugo Lloris who could watch another complete performance from a team that pounces on the counterattack with speed and precession.
That was illustrated with the opening goal. Mousa Dembele surged through the defense before releasing Kane, who curled his shot inside the far post.
Tottenham should have been further in front in the first half, with a succession of chances missed, including Christian Eriksen crashing a shot against the crossbar after being set up by Alli’s flick-on.
It was a similar story initially after the break, with Erik Lamela frustrated to see a shot deflected wide.
But Stoke capitulated when a lightening break led to Tottenham’s second. Eriksen spotted a gap through the heart of the defense and pinged the ball from near the halfway line to Alli. The midfielder, who was playing in the third tier last season, coolly lifted his shot over Given.
However, Alli soon had Pochettino pounding the ground in frustration when he missed the net from a tight angle after rounding Given.
Goal No. 3 did quickly arrive, though, from Kane.
The move was started again by Eriksen, who carried the ball out from close to his own penalty area before releasing Alli on the right flank. Lamela received the pass deep in Stoke territory and, rather than trying to beat Given, selflessly squared to the unmarked Kane to sweep the ball into the unprotected net.
And Alli put the embarrassment of his earlier miss behind him by latching onto a cross from Eriksen by powering a volley into the net.
“I’m just enjoying playing and there is nothing to be scared of at the moment,” Alli said. “We are going to keep fighting.”
Tottenham also has to play its next two matches after Leicester, with West Bromwich Albion and Chelsea up next on successive Mondays.
F.A. charges Vardy
London — Jamie Vardy faces having his mandatory one-match ban lengthened, potentially ruling the striker out of more of Leicester’s title run-in, after he was charged Monday by the English Football Association over his angry reaction to a red card.
Leicester might now have to cope in the games against Swansea and Manchester United without Vardy, who is the league’s second-highest scorer behind Tottenham forward Harry Kane.
Vardy was sent off during Sunday’s draw with West Ham after being booked twice, the second time for diving in the penalty area after tangling with Angelo Ogbonna.
Vardy confronted referee Jon Moss, jabbing a finger at the match official while appearing to express his anger at receiving his first red card of the season.
The F.A.’s improper conduct charge means Vardy is likely to miss at least two of Leicester’s last four league games if he is found guilty.