This game may not have won Tottenham the Premier League just yet but, as Antonio Conte celebrated his side’s never-say-die attitude, it was also the latest a team has been trailing in this division only to end up winning since Martin Tyler screamed ‘Agüero’ in May 2012 and Manchester City beat QPR 3-2 at the death to clinch the Premier League title. The first of Steven Bergwijn’s two goals came – after Leicester had led courtesy of James Maddison– with the clock on 94 minutes and 52 seconds and momentum is with Spurs now as they moved to within one point of the top four.
In the most incredible finish imaginable, Bergwijn, on as a 79th-minute substitute, could even count himself fortunate to still be on the field after he had been booked for shoving Caglar Soyuncu in playing for a penalty as this topsy-turvy game entered stoppage time.
The Dutch winger, for whom Ajax have had a £15million bid rejected, was an unlikely hero as Conte extended his unbeaten league start as Tottenham manger to nine games.
The scenes at the away end of the ground were remarkable as Harry Kane, who had equalised Patson Daka’s opener in the first half, led the celebrations with a pumping of fists that could make you believe he will stay and lead his beloved team back into the Champions League, and Bergwijn had to be restrained by Pierre-Emile Højbjerg from jumping in among the euphoric visiting fans and earning a second yellow card.
Conte was his usual emotional self as he celebrated a win that, before Sunday’s visit to his former club Chelsea, seemed to be worth more than only three points.
“It was an amazing game which we didn’t deserve to lose because we created many chances and we were unlucky,” Conte said. “When we were losing 2-1 it was a great disappointment. At the end my players showed great resilience, great desire and they didn’t give up.
This must be our philosophy, don’t give up and fight to the end. They showed grit and desire to win. It was great to see this attitude from my players.”
Bergwijn was José Mourinho’s first signing for Tottenham when he arrived from Ajax for £27m two years ago and his future still appears in the balance, though Conte is keen to keep him. “For me he is an important player," hy het gesê. “He has characteristics which in my squad [I need] as there are not many creative players and he is very good at beating a man.
“We want to improve and become stronger, we don’t want to lose a player. Steven is happy here, is in good condition and he can start the game or come in and change the game. I hope he continues to play with Tottenham.”
The Spurs fans will surely concur after this denouement. Yet the winger’s frustration had seemed to boil over as, having fallen easily to the ground seeking an unlikely penalty, he reacted angrily to Soyuncu telling him to get up.
Instead Bergwijn sent Tottenham fans into delirium as he equalised to gain what seemed a good point. Højbjerg clipped a great pass for substitute Matt Doherty to run in behind and when the ball fell from the full-back into Soyuncu, it rebounded for the other substitute to slot home from eight yards out.
Toe, when Youri Tielemans sloppily gave the ball away from kick-off, Kane sent Bergwijn through the middle to round Kasper Schmeichel and shoot past Soyuncu on the line and in off the far post. Brendan Rodgers was not happy with the “naive” Tielemans. “He knows that,” the Leicester manager said. “We have to settle for a point at that stage.”
Neither team had kicked a Premierliga ball since New Year’s Day or before but amid all the Covid cases, cup games and cacophony over postponements, Tottenham burst out of the traps with all the zest usually accompanying a new season.
Despite Leicester somehow taking the lead through Daka midway through the first half, Kane’s equaliser seven minutes before the break against his favourite opponents was among his seven attempts on goal in a wacky first 45 minute.
Kane now has 18 doelwitte in 17 games against Leicester, the team for whom he played on loan in 2012-13. But it was the spring in his step, the lack of rust, that was most gratifying for Spurs fans, en, in front of Gareth Southgate last night in this World Cup year, those of England.
Kane had already thudded a header from Harry Winks’ corner against the crossbar in the 18th minute before Leicester, still missing seven first-choice players on the night James Justin came on after 11 months out with an ACL injury, went ahead.
Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall passed inside to Ademola Lookman and the ball ricocheted off Sergio Reguilón for Daka to shoot in off the near post for his eighth goal in all competitions.
Tottenham equalised when Jannik Vestergaard’s loose pass was intercepted by Oliver Skipp and Harry Winks intelligently played the ball into the vacant inside-right channel for Kane to cut back inside Soyuncu and slot in off the far post.
Leicester looked to have won it on 76 minute. Within a minute of coming on, Harvey Barnes assisted Maddison to score via a deflection off Japhet Tanganga. But this crazy game still had a crazier finish to come.