Son’s rapid treble lifts Tottenham and exposes Leicester’s fragility

Son Heung-min was last to leave the pitch, match-ball tucked under his arm, goal drought well and truly over.

An afternoon that had begun with last season’s joint Golden Boot winner almost inevitably demoted to the bench – Antonio Conte had little choice after eight goalless outings – concluded with a 13-minute hat-trick.

By the time Son curled a spectacular first past Danny Ward, Tottenham had already come from behind to lead a fascinating, if defensively unsound, clash 3-2.

The majority of the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium leapt about with the kind of pure, unadulterated joy reserved only for football grounds; there are few more popular goalscorers in these parts.

It was only the start. A left-footed strike of similar quality quickly followed and then a third that was initially ruled out by the offside flag. Praise be for VAR.

Harry Kane, Eric Dier and Rodrigo Bentancur had already netted in a victory that, temporarily at least, took Tottenham above neighbourhood rivals Arsenal and level with Manchester City at the Premier League summit. A performance overflowing with character, if not the defensive soundness that makes Conte purr.

Leicester’s rot continues. Winless; rooted to the bottom; six straight defeats. Brendan Rodgers is perhaps hanging on by a thread. Leicester’s inability to hold on to a lead – given to them by Youri Tielemans’ retaken penalty – will be particularly galling.

Even having fallen behind James Maddison equalised before the first half was done. But thereafter they capitulated. This season alone they have dropped 11 points from winning positions.

Ward has conceded 22 in just seven matches, while the delayed debut of Wout Faes, the club’s only outfield summer signing, could hardly have gone worse.

Pre-match both Ledley King and Emile Heskey laid wreaths on the pitch, but sadly the minute’s silence that followed was not quite impeccably observed. Then came a rousing rendition of God Save the King, and after that a frenetic match.

Davinson Sánchez – alongside Clement Lenglet freshly reinstalled to flank Eric Dier as part of four changes made by Conte from the midweek European misadventure – set the tone by fluffing an initial clearance.

The recycled ball saw James Justin skip down the Tottenham left and, as he reached the penalty area, Sánchez clipped him. The challenge was equal parts needless and mindless.

Tielemans’ initial penalty was reached by Hugo Lloris, but VAR checked the Frenchman’s footwork; he had moved early. Tielemans and Lloris both went the same way again, but this time the strike was elevated and Leicester led.

It was, though, short-lived. A training ground corner routine saw Dejan Kulusevski and Ivan Perisic exchange passes before the former stood the ball up at the back post. Meeting it there was Harry Kane; 18 in 15 league games against Leicester for him now.

Soon Tottenham had reversed the score-line. Again, it came from a corner; this time Perisic’s inswinger was glanced from front post to back by Dier. Familiar failings for Leicester; just like at the Amex a fortnight back they squandered an early advantage to trail within quarter of an hour.

Tottenham were denied a third corner success when Sánchez nudged goalkeeper Ward. But their openness meant their lead never felt secure, with Leicester – for all their faults this season, and there are many – capable on the break.

And indeed, they levelled before the interval, two of Rodgers’ three returning starters – Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall and Timothy Castagne – combining. The former’s cross-field pass was won by the latter; Ryan Sessegnon was, frankly, weak; and Castagne retrieved his own header to cross for Maddison. His hooked finish was sublime, the match pulsating.

Any dressing room suggestions of a little calm failed to reach the pitch.

Wilfred Ndidi has spent recent weeks as a makeshift centre-back but Faes’ inclusion allowed him to return to his preferred spot at the base of midfield. It was from there Ndidi dallied, allowing Bentancur to nip in and regain possession.

Now Bentancur rarely strays forward, but owing to Leicester’s error he was the most advanced and drove to the edge of the area. His placed finish was his first for Tottenham; Ndidi’s hands covered his face.

Leicester might have levelled again, Patson Daka bringing the best out of Lloris, who produced a leaping save to deny a towering header. Daka then comically saw yellow for a ‘Hand of God’ attempt that was more home movie than Hollywood.

Enter stage left Son, who had his own script to write. Next up? The north London derby.