Abdul Fatawu, Ricardo Pereira & Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall

Foxes Battle To Three Points In Watford

Leicester City preserved their double-digit lead at the top of the Sky Bet Championship with a hard-earned 2-1 victory at Watford on Saturday.
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Patson Daka’s ninth-minute penalty and a brilliant team goal finished by Ricardo Pereira 10 minutes into the second half gave Manager Enzo Maresca a birthday to remember in Hertfordshire. The Hornets rallied late on, with Emmanuel Dennis halving the deficit just after the hour, but the Foxes dug deep to confirm a 24th league win this term. It sees Maresca’s men boost their points tally up to 75 – 11 clear of second-placed Southampton and 12 ahead of Leeds United in third – with 15 games to play. A home double-header is now on the horizon for Leicester, with Sheffield Wednesday due at King Power Stadium on Tuesday, before Middlesbrough make the long trip south in seven days. 

Academy graduate Ben Nelson’s full league debut was the standout talking point from the three changes made to City’s XI. The 19-year-old centre-back came in for the injured Jannik Vestergaard. James Justin and Dennis Praet, meanwhile, also returned to the line-up after last weekend’s 5-0 rout at Stoke City, replacing Callum Doyle and Stephy Mavididi respectively. While last weekend's trip to bet365 Stadium was Leicester at their swashbuckling best, their latest second-tier away day required grit and determination to get over the line. Jamie Vardy would also emerge from the bench to make his 450th appearance for the Club, overtaking legendary former Captain Steve Walsh in his 12th season with the Foxes. Only five players have ever featured more times for Leicester City since its foundation in 1884. 

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Patson Daka

Patson Daka continues his excellent form to put City ahead from the spot.

It was a stop-start game early on, with Giorgi Chakvetadze’s low-hanging socks forcing a delayed kick-off. Vakoun Bayo, Watford’s six-goal striker, was then forced off inside three minutes after pulling up inside City’s area. Maresca’s table-toppers wrestled control of the game quickly, though. In the ninth minute, Daka sprayed the ball out to the right flank. Looming down on goal, Praet’s excellent drag-back then forced Chakvetadze into a clumsy challenge inside the 18-yard box – penalty. Referee Oliver Langford, who Leicester had to thank for playing advantage in the build-up, pointed immediately to the spot. The man in form, Daka, was the figure in blue to put the ball under his arm, later riffling it low and hard to former Fox Ben Hamer’s right. That was the Zambian's seventh league goal in 10 matches after returning to contention over the winter months.

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Ricardo Pereira

The winner was netted by Ricardo Pereira in front of the away fans.

City were the aggressors in the first half. The lively Daka was particularly problematic for Valérien Ismaël’s hosts, first hitting a long-range strike over, before teeing up Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall in the box. One of three Academy graduates in the XI, the Club’s joint top goalscorer this term flashed his effort wide. Daka was also chipping in elsewhere, breaking up the play in his own half, striving to kick-start the counter-attack engines. It took the Hornets until the 33rd minute to properly test visiting goalkeeper Mads Hermansen, although Wesley Hoedt’s curler from 30 yards was easily stopped by the impressive Dane. In reality, that was the final moment of any note at the end of an uneventful yet competitive first half. Leicester, although not testing Hamer as much as their Manager would have liked, had a degree of control nevertheless.

They found a higher gear after the restart at Vicarage Road, a place Foxes fans may still associate with the pain of May 2013. Those demons, though, were banished long ago and this present-day City side are in imperious form this season. A deserved second arrived on 55 minutes. Leicester played football the Enzo way to unlock a congested midfield and pierce through. Dewsbury-Hall released it in a hurry to Harry Winks, who offloaded to Ricardo. The Portuguese wasn’t going to refuse the invitation to drive forwards, eventually giving it to Abdul Fatawu on the right channel. In front of a 2,090-strong away end, the winger squared it back to Ricardo, who calmly swept it past Hamer. Two goals to the good, but not for long.

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Leicester City

Relief and joy for City's players at full-time.

Ismaël’s Hornets had struggled to break through. They needed a stroke of luck to get back into it. It almost arrived when Ken Sema’s cross deflected off Wout Faes and bounced behind. An uncharacteristic Winks error was the opening they craved, with 63 minutes on the clock. The former Tottenham man's pass at the back was miscalculated and Dennis was able to capitalise, converting into an empty net with Hermansen off his line on the far side. The home side were suddenly on the offensive and there was work to be done. Hermansen, untroubled for the most part beforehand, made a crucial, smothering stop to halt Dennis’ bid for a second with 18 minutes to play. Second-half substitute Tom Ince also blazed over as City held on. 

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Enzo Maresca

Enzo Maresca toasts the victory with the Foxes faithful.

Faes was grateful to see another deflection fly wide at the start of the final five minutes of normal time, off Yáser Asprilla’s drive. Hermansen also galloped off his line to deny Hoedt at the far post seconds later. Seven minutes of added time were often fraught for the Foxes, but they simply didn’t let Watford through. In fact, the only chance of those additional minutes landed at the feet of Mavididi, brought on late by Maresca. The talented winger, however, skidded a low attempt a yard wide of the post. In the end, Leicester got the job done, again, with relief the overriding emotion at full-time. Maresca, on the other hand, led the celebrations, whipping the travelling Blue Army up, before taking the three points home. 

Leicester City Crest





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