Published 2 years ago
The Tottenham talisman scored twice to help cut the gap on Leicester to five points, while the Foxes frontman faces an extended ban after failing to keep a cool head.
When all is said and done at the end of this Premier League season, the 34th round of fixtures may yet prove to be the most pivotal. Leicester City's slip-up at home to West Ham could be the catalyst that carries Tottenham to the title rather than the Foxes. Should that come to pass, the performances of their respective talisman over the weekend will likely come under intense scrutiny.
On Sunday, Jamie Vardy's decision to try and force a penalty from Angelo Ogbonna came back to bite him and his team. The red card he received means he will miss Sunday's clash with Swansea City. The improper conduct charge for his aggressive appeal to referee Jon Moss could see him miss further crucial matches. Vardy's dive could become the 'Steven Gerrard slip' of the 2015-16 campaign.
Less than 30 hours later, Vardy's possible striking partner for England, Harry Kane, took to the field at the Britannia Stadium in the knowledge his own performance, whether brilliant or sub-par, would likely determine whether Tottenham would remain alive in the title race themselves. What followed was further proof of why Kane, not Vardy, is the outstanding striker heading to Euro 2016 in Roy Hodgson's squad this summer.
When an early opportunity came and went for Kane as he failed to bring the ball under control before shooting straight at Shay Given, you would have been forgiven for thinking there was a little doubt creeping into the player's mind. But Kane has overcome enough already in his short career to not dwell on missed chances.
Farmed out on loan throughout his formative years, it looked increasingly likely that the Walthamstow-born striker would become, at best, a bit-part player for his boyhood club. And while Tim Sherwood will incorrectly continue to take credit for giving a young Kane his debut in the first team, it is Mauricio Pochettino that has moulded the 22-year-old into one of Europe's finest marksmen.
Admittedly it took Pochettino a little while to come around to Kane. Opportunities in domestic football were largely limited to substitute appearances during the opening third of the 2014-15 campaign despite heroics in the Europa League, but it soon became apparent Spurs had stumbled on something special. Able to seemingly score from all angles and distances, only Sergio Aguero's 47 goals trumps Kane return of 45 in the English top flight over the last two seasons. The composure he showed with the opening goal was almost Aguero-esque in its brilliance.
Faced with three Stoke defenders closing in and Shay Given behind them, Kane showed superb composure to measure a curled finish into the top corner with unerring accuracy. It may not have been as stunning as his goal in the recent north London derby as he bent the ball past David Ospina from an acute angle, but it was equally as important. Settling any underlying nerves in the Tottenham ranks was key if Pochettino’s side were to close the gap on Leicester, and Kane stood up when his side needed him most.
A far easier second when the game was won took his tally for the season to 24 league goals, and with Vardy – who has 22 himself - set to miss at least one match, the Golden Boot is now moving into view for a player dubbed a 'one-season wonder' weeks into the current campaign. Aguero's hat-trick at Stamford Bridge on Saturday has ensured it will be a three-horse race for the prize as he netted his 21st effort, but Kane is certainly the favourite. Should Tottenham replicate their performance from Monday going forward he could yet surpass 30 goals in what would go down as one of the finest achievements by an English player at his age in recent memory.
In comparison to Kane's composure, the rush of blood shown by Vardy could not have been more different. His now infamous mantra of 'Chat Sh*t, Get Banged' might be humorous, but it has always been clear there is a sense of risk with everything Vardy does on a football pitch. Moss's decision to send him off rather than award a penalty pushed him over the edge, and his reaction was typical of a player not thinking straight in a pressure cooker environment.
Allegedly calling the official a "f***ing c***" has landed him in hot water with the Football Association and the prospect of a ban similar to Diego Costa's for his conduct when dismissed against Everton recently looks nailed on. While many Leicester fans breathed a sigh of relief that he would only miss the Swansea game for his original indiscretion, the prospect of him missing the visit to Manchester United and even the following week’s game against Everton is a far more daunting prospect.
It would be harsh to pin the blame solely on Vardy should Leicester implode in the coming weeks, but his recklessness has the potential to cost them hugely in the final reckoning. In comparison, Kane's ability to keep his head remains key to Tottenham's chances of overhauling them.
The Spurs striker admitted that he posted the image of a pack of lions on his Instagram account to illustrate how he and his team-mates were ready to pounce on any Leicester mistakes. If he can maintain his level of performance, those same lions could be feeding on the carcasses of foxes come May 16. On Monday's evidence, few would begrudge them the pleasure.