Daily Express

Late to the party, but Perez is full of praise for Vardy

- By Darren Lewis ALEX CROOK

IF TEAMS reflect their managers, Tottenham will become streetfigh­ters and West Ham will go down.

If you watched this match you will know 3-2 was a final score utterly unrepresen­tative of the gulf in class between the teams. And Spurs did not even play that well.

Jose Mourinho will almost certainly breathe new life and defensive stability back into his new team. His reputation as an elite manager for the current generation depends on it.

With their 11-month Premier League away drought over, Spurs can seal a place in the Champions League knockout stages with victory over Olympiakos on Tuesday night.

That should see the swagger start to come back to join the music after matches in the Spurs dressing room.

Then Mourinho can work on making his choirboys nasty, cynical and able to build on the foundation­s left by Mauricio Pochettino.

Midfielder Eric Dier could not hide his excitement at being touched by the stardust of the serial trophy hunter. “His record is unbelievab­le,” said Dier. “It would be great if he could transmit that to us. When he speaks to us, you can feel it.

“You just believe, you know. So I hope we can win a lot of games and do as well as possible. I think he is the perfect man to take over. We are really happy he is here and hopefully he can help us win trophies.

“We were trying to win them under Pochettino and will keep on trying to win them under Mourinho.”

Manuel Pellegrini, meanwhile, is toast. He might limp on for a few more games but he surely cannot last the season with West Ham – two places off the drop zone – playing like this.

His side would have been hammered had Spurs not taken their foot off the pedal at 3-0.

AYOZE PEREZ has confessed he did not realise how good Jamie Vardy was until the pair became Leicester team-mates.

Vardy, 32, continued his red-hot form by scoring his 12th Premier League goal of the season as Leicester clocked a fifth straight win at Brighton.

The former England frontman also selflessly laid on Leicester’s opener for the grateful Perez.

Spaniard Perez, a £30million summer buy from Newcastle, said: “Jamie Vardy is such a great striker.

“I used to play as a striker and now I realise how good he is, how fast he is and the movement he makes.

“He is able to score loads of goals and also give assists.

“He is a very complete striker. We are lucky to have him with us and we need to take advantage of that.

“Whatever age he is, he is still that fast, he is still that rapid and sharp.

“You have got the advantage sometimes of putting the ball in behind and you know he is going to make that run and win the race.

“He is crucial for us and we need to keep giving him some good balls to keep scoring goals.

“He is a goal machine. He is able to score a lot of goals and sometimes give the team a breather: when you are able to play counter-attack, go long, he is going to win it.

“He is always there and in the box he moves very well.

“Hopefully he can keep playing for as long as possible. He is probably the best striker I have ever played with.”

Perez’s ode to Vardy came after the Premier League’s top scorer set up his Foxes pal to put Leicester in front by unselfishl­y rolling the ball across goal when he was one-on-one with Mat Ryan.

Vardy was rewarded when he tucked away a penalty after Demarai Gray had been fouled by Adam Webster to seal another impressive victory for Brendan Rodgers’ men.

Manager Rodgers insists Vardy, below, is not too old to learn new tricks.

“We are trying to develop his game so it’s not just that one run in behind,” said Rodgers.

“You see his link-up play, he’s setting the game up.And when he spins on the outside and away from defenders he’s such a threat.

“You can never rest and he had the whole back four really worried. It’s great to have someone of that quality.”

Despite their impressive run of form, Rodgers is still refusing to discuss secondplac­ed Leicester’s title chances or even hopes of a top-four finish.

Rodgers added: “I’m not really thinking about that.We have consistent­ly been playing well now for a long time.

“At this moment the focus is on performanc­e.”

BRIGHTON (4-4-2): Ryan 7; Webster 6, Duffy 5, Burn 6, Montoya 6 (Schelotto 78); Mooy 6, Propper 6, Stephens 6 (Bissouma 77), March 5 (Murray 83); Trossard 5, Maupay 6.

LEICESTER (4-1-4-1): Schmeichel 6; Pereira 7, Evans 6 (Morgan 61, 6), Soyuncu 6, Chilwell 8; Ndidi 7; Perez 7 (Praet 70, 6), Tielemans 7, Maddison 8, Barnes 7 (Gray 78); Vardy 8. Goals: Perez 64, Vardy 82 pen.

 ?? Main picture: CRAIG MERCER ?? MOURA THE MERRIER: Lucas makes it 2-0
Main picture: CRAIG MERCER MOURA THE MERRIER: Lucas makes it 2-0
 ??  ?? MAT FINISHED: Perez beats Brighton’s Ryan to put Leicester 1-0 up
MAT FINISHED: Perez beats Brighton’s Ryan to put Leicester 1-0 up
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