Demarai Gray

City Seal European Football With Blades Win

Leicester City secured European football next season, as well as their second-highest Premier League finish, thanks to a 2-0 victory over Sheffield United at King Power Stadium on Thursday evening.
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Goals in each half from Ayoze Pérez and Demarai Gray all but guaranteed the dominant Foxes a top-five berth, barring a 20-goal swing between Leicester and sixth-placed Wolverhampton Wanderers.

With Ben Chilwell and Christian Fuchs both unavailable, Academy graduate and England youth international Luke Thomas – having been at the Football Club since 2008 – made his professional debut at left-back.

Meanwhile, skipper Wes Morgan returned to the starting XI to make his 300th start for the Foxes in all competitions, Marc Albrighton and James Maddison were unable to recover from their injury complaints, and Çağlar Söyüncü served the first of his three-game suspension.

An important challenge from James Justin two minutes in prevented David McGoldrick from getting a clear chance on goal, while at the other end, Youri Tielemans’ strike from 25 yards deflected wide as both sides searched for an early opener.

A superb cross from debutant Thomas came on nine minutes, but Spaniard Pérez was unable to hit the target with a header while under pressure in the Blades area.

City’s push for a goal continued three minutes later. Ryan Bennett drove out of defence and slipped in Justin, whose first-time pass into the box fell to Jamie Vardy before the Premier League’s leading goalscorer forced Dean Henderson into a good stop with his legs.

Further pressure followed, with Harvey Barnes having a strike fly just wide with 18 minutes gone, while Henderson pulled off a double save shortly after to deny Pérez and Tielemans in quick succession.

City’s pressure finally told just before the half-hour mark, when Pérez collected Thomas’ neat pass inside before driving low into the bottom corner beyond Henderson for his eighth Premier League goal for the Football Club.

After the interval, an opportunity for Vardy to double Leicester’s lead came on 51 minutes, only for his left-footed effort to cannon off the outside of the post with Henderson seemingly beaten.

The hosts looked firmly in control of the encounter in the second half’s opening stages, with Barnes twice testing Henderson, who on both occasions again saved with his legs to thwart the Foxes’ front line.

It was Sheffield United’s turn to threaten next, though, with Denmark international Kasper Schmeichel denying Jack O’Connell from point-blank range after a flick-on from fellow defender John Egan.

Wayward efforts from goalscorer Pérez and Blades substitute John Lundstram followed, while a good block from Egan stopped Belgium midfielder Tielemans’ low strike after some smart play from Vardy.

However, it was another substitute, Gray, that would settle the clash. Vardy raced down the left flank and held up play before picking out the City No.7, who took a touch before firing past Henderson.

Major moment

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Ayoze Pérez
Ayoze Pérez

The Spaniard celebrates opening the scoring for the Foxes.

Well aware of the talents of Chris Wilder’s Blades heading into the clash, a breakthrough goal would be crucial for City were they to collect all three points on Filbert Way.

That strike came amidst a commanding opening period from the Foxes, who went ahead on 29 minutes thanks to a neat finish from Ayoze Pérez.

A second goal, meanwhile, came with 11 minutes to play via Demarai Gray, who latched onto Jamie Vardy’s pass before finding the back of the net.

Who impressed?

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Wilfred Ndidi
Wilfred Ndidi

Matt Elliott selected Wilfred Ndidi as his Man of the Match on Thursday.

Matt Elliott told LCFC Radio at full-time: “It’s always a good sign when there’s a few to choose from. Jamie Vardy was impressive, and Luke Thomas had an amazing debut.

“For me, Wilfred Ndidi was a catalyst for everything, and if you asked any Sheffield United player, they’d say the same thing.”

Where do we stand?

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Demarai Gray
Demarai Gray

Substitute Demarai Gray settled the clash with a strike 11 minutes from play.

City move three points clear of fifth-placed Manchester United, who later in the evening face Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, and now sit one point behind Chelsea in third.

They have now all but guaranteed a top-five finish in the Premier League this term, and will be playing European football in 2020/21.

Coming up…

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Jamie Vardy & Demarai Gray
Jamie Vardy & Demarai Gray

Jamie Vardy set up Demarai Gray for Leicester City's second of the night.

City’s final away fixture of the 2019/20 Premier League campaign sees them head to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday (4pm kick-off) for a clash with José Mourinho’s outfit, before taking on Manchester United a week later at King Power Stadium (4pm kick-off).

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