- Leicester City suffer narrow 2-1 defeat to Sunderland in the Premier League on Saturday at the Stadium of Light
- Shinji Okazaki's 80th minute strike proved to be a consolation after Robert Huth's own goal and a Jermain Defoe effort
- Nampalys Mendy was an unused substitute for the Foxes as he continues his return from an ankle injury
- City face FC Porto in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday ahead of Manchester City at home on Saturday
Shinji Okazaki's fine late strike off the bench was not enough to prevent Leicester City from falling to a slender 2-1 defeat by Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on Saturday afternoon.
The North East has been fertile ground for the Foxes in recent seasons but an unfortunate own goal by Robert Huth and Jermain Defoe's 77th minute effort proved to be enough for the Black Cats to collect a third victory in four Premier League matches.
With top-flight survival and UEFA Champions League qualification being the spoils of previous trips via the Wear, Claudio Ranieri made just the one change from the starting line-up who battled for a 2-2 draw with Middlesbrough at King Power Stadium last weekend.
Late goal hero Islam Slimani replaced Okazaki alongside Jamie Vardy up front while midfielder Nampalys Mendy, preferred to the now fully fit Matty James on the bench, returned to first-team contention after a stretch on the side-lines with a recurrent ankle injury.
City goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler was forced into action inside the opening 60 seconds when Duncan Watmore found a pocket of space inside the area. The young striker corkscrewed his body to evade Christian Fuchs before arrowing a low drive straight at Zieler but it wouldn't be the last the Foxes would hear of him.
The early Sunderland pressure continued in earnest with Patrick van Aanholt galloping down the left flank and finding Victor Anichebe free in the 18-yard box – inviting the former Everton man to try and test Zieler from point-blank range. Wes Morgan, however, stepped in to bravely throw his body in its path and the threat on City’s goal eventually subsided.
With 14 minutes on the clock, Leicester broke free of the shackles imposed on them during the opening exchanges and could have opened the scoring on the counter-attack through Riyad Mahrez.
The eclectic Algerian winger profited from some neat link-up play with international colleague Slimani on the half-way line, later picking it up on the right flank, before cutting inside van Aanholt and forcing Jason Denayer into a last-ditch intervention.
It was the hosts’ turn to bemoan their luck moments later when Anichebe ghosted down the left before teeing-up Defoe for a guilt-edged opportunity from just 10 yards out. To the relief of all in blue, the industrious striker failed to get the required contact on the ball.
Mahrez, meanwhile, was marauding through the Sunderland midfield with menace and he forced a corner when his deflected effort from distance was seen out of play by Slimani. Marc Albrighton’s in-swinging cross, in front of the travelling supporters perched high in the North Stand, found Vardy’s head but his glancing effort skidded inches wide of Jordan Pickford’s near post.
The England striker, nominated for the FIFA FIFPro World11 2016 in the week, was getting closer and closer with each passing opportunity and he was there again on the half-hour to head wide from a smart Fuchs cross from deep.
With 13 minutes to go until the interval, Pickford was caught on the spot as Albrighton curled an ambitious effort towards his top corner but the Black Cats ‘keeper was able to readjust his feet at a moment’s notice and punch it away from danger.
City cut a more composed unit as the half continued and they could have gone in at the break with the advantage when Fuchs’ over-hit cross evaded Pickford and bobbled behind off the Sunderland crossbar. Ranieri’s side emerged with their tails up with Mahrez and Albrighton proving to be profitable outlets on either flank.
The latter carved out a wonderful opportunity 10 minutes into the half, dragging it back across goal from the left channel, only for Slimani to be denied by a fortuitous Papy Djilobodji block as he closed in on Pickford’s goal.
Sunderland manager David Moyes had brought defender Jan Kirchhoff on at half-time to nullify City’s threat but he was proving useful for the hosts at the other end too, especially from set-plays.
Fellow substitute Sebastian Larsson whipped in an inviting cross for the German centre-back with his resulting header deflecting off Huth and into Zieler’s net in the 64th minute.
13 minutes later, Anichebe slid it across to Watmore on the periphery of City’s penalty area before his shot ricocheted off Huth’s left knee and straight into Defoe’s path to double the hosts’ advantage.
City rallied, however, and hauled themselves back into the match with 10 minutes remaining when sub Demarai Gray fizzed it across goal for Okazaki, another second-half replacement, to drill it into the Sunderland net.
Ranieri's boys were buoyed by the announcement that there would be six minutes of added time to be played with Morgan and his defensive colleagues pouring up-field in an attempt to cancel the arrears late on.
The City captain had two chances to do just that when the ball landed at his feet in the Sunderland area but Pickford was there to save well and the ball was eventually cleared.
For Leicester, an exciting trip to face FC Porto in the UEFA Champions League awaits on Wednesday ahead of the visit of Manchester City to King Power Stadium next weekend.
SUNDERLAND: Pickford, Jones, Koné, Van Aanholt, Djilobodji, Ndong, Denayer (Kirchhoff 45), Pienaar (Larsson 45), Watmore (Manquillo 85), Defoe, Anichebe.
GOALS: Huth OG 64, Defoe 77
SUBS NOT USED: Januzaj, O'Shea, Mannone, Khazri.
CITY: Zieler, Simpson, Huth, Morgan, Fuchs, Mahrez (Musa 73), Amartey, King, Albrighton (Gray 73), Slimani (Okazaki 68), Vardy.
GOAL: Okazaki 80
SUBS NOT USED: Hernandez, Hamer, Schlupp, Mendy.
REFEREE: A. Marriner