Tottenham Hotspur’s Hugo Lloris appears to be returning to form.
The France international enjoyed a superb display against Leicester City, repeatedly denying Harvey Barnes on the left flank and, of course, saving a penalty from Jamie Vardy.
The spot-kick save from the England striker was integral to the flow of the game. Leicester were just starting to assert their authority, with the scores at 1-0 after Davinson Sanchez’s opener.
A penalty awarded for a clumsy foul on James Maddison saw substitute Vardy given the chance to hit the back of the net with his first touch. He stepped up, shot, saw the penalty stopped and Christian Eriksen scored five minutes later.
Vardy would eventually redeem himself with a close-range tap-in but the damage was done, the momentum of the game altered. Son Heung-Min completed the scoring in injury time, releasing the nerves at Wembley and ensuring Spurs took all three points.
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And yet the day belonged to Lloris, finally the hero of the hour again.
His performances this season have been hit-and-miss, he has made mistakes and let in soft goals. His decision-making has been called into question – he hared out to collect a corner he had no chance of grabbing against Watford, allowing Craig Cathcart to head in, in a game that Spurs eventually won 2-1.
Yet, against Leicester, it felt as though the Spurs captain had found himself again. He has always been an excellent shot-stopper, but he has his weaknesses. His kicking is not what it could be – Spurs fans regularly cite this as the reasoning behind his failure to make a big-money move to an elite club – while he can make the wrong decision at vital moments.
Yet his sweeping is excellent, he is very good at organising his defence and he is prone to spectacular, highlight-reel saves.
Against Leicester, though, his performance was a study of quiet effectiveness. His penalty save from Vardy grabbed headlines and rightly so, but he marshalled the backline well and took the pressure off his defence at vital moments.
Per WhoScored, Lloris made nine saves in total, and was a key member of Spurs’ defence – he touched the ball 58 times, compared to Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel’s 27. Lloris is regularly trusted with the ball under a high press and he again proved a useful outlet at Wembley.
The heart of his performance, however, was in his vital penalty stop, in a game that was teetering on the edge of falling out of Spurs’ control.
If the Frenchman does not get his hands to Vardy’s effort, the score is 1-1 and Leicester are in the ascendancy to win the game.
Instead, Spurs remain in the title race, five points behind both Manchester City and Liverpool, and they suddenly have a captain who can win them games.
Previously Lloris has been seen as a risk in goal, but if he continues this form, Spurs will have a solid base on which to build their title challenge.
His next test, of course, comes against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League, and there can be few tougher assignments.
Repeat his Leicester display there and Spurs can start believing they have a World Cup-winning goalkeeper between the sticks.