Jamie Vardy

Leicester Maintain The Gap At The Top With Sunderland Win

Jamie Vardy's early header was enough for Sky Bet Championship leaders Leicester City to return to winning ways with a 1-0 success over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on Tuesday night.

Vardy pounced in the 13th minute to net the only goal of the game and secure City's 26th league victory of the season, enough to maintain their three-point advantage at the top of the table. Leicester are on 81 points and Ipswich Town have 78, two more than Leeds United. Southampton, with a game in hand, sit on 70. Conor Coady, Callum Doyle, Yunus Akgün and Vardy were the four players to come into the XI after Saturday’s 2-1 home reverse to Queens Park Rangers. There was encouragement on the bench, too, with Wilfred Ndidi back from injury after over two months on the sidelines. The Nigerian would eventually emerge in the second half to make his first outing since the 2-0 victory at Cardiff City on 29 December last year. Naturally, after three consecutive losses in the league, there was some anxiety among the Blue Army ahead of kick-off, but the message from Enzo Maresca has been one of calm determination to protect and extend their lead at the summit. 

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Jamie Vardy

Jamie Vardy's 13th goal of 2023/24 was enough for the Foxes in Sunderland.

The eighth minute brought City’s first big chance of the night. Stephy Mavididi broke away down the left channel and, before he knew it, the former Juventus man was in the box. He elected to square it across goal, with Abdul Fatawu barrelling into the area, but the pass was too far behind the Ghanaian and the moment was lost for the visitors. Soon after, they had an even better opening. Doyle – against his former club – cut Sunderland open with a superb through-ball, putting Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall in behind the backline. The Academy graduate also decided to drag it back across goal, where first Vardy and then Yunus found Black Cats goalkeeper Anthony Patterson in their way. It was an impressive double stop from the ‘keeper but Vardy and Yunus will have been frustrated not to have beaten him from around 10 yards out. Maresca has called on Leicester to seize on these openings to repair their uncharacteristic form and they did so in the 13th minute.

Dewsbury-Hall’s free-kick, from practically the left corner quadrant, landed on Wout Faes’ head. Again, the Belgian centre-back was denied by Patterson – making an excellent leaping save, clawing it out from under the crossbar. His parry, though, looped straight to Vardy, inviting the iconic No.9 to have a second bite at the cherry, nodding into an open net. That was the 37-year-old’s 13th goal of the season for the Foxes. It had been coming, but having paid a price for profligacy in previous games, it will have been especially satisfying for Maresca. It took the home side until the 22nd minute to muster a shot at goal, with Luís Semedo blazing high and wide of Mads Hermansen’s net. The Dane was called into action 10 minutes later when Jobe Bellingham met Luke O’Nien’s cross with a glancing header towards the bottom corner. It was a routine save, however. Leicester will have been content with the controlled nature of their start in the North East. Conscious of the need for more goals, Hamza Choudhury had a hit on target later on, although it was straight at Patterson. Faes had another headed attempt before the break too, but it lacked any real power. 

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Wilfred Ndidi

A return to the pitch for Wilfred Ndidi was welcome news for the Foxes faithful.

Chances were becoming few and far between into the second half. It took until nearly the hour-mark for City to next go close, when Fatawu’s cross bounced across the box and out for a goal-kick. Sunderland issued a warning on 64 minutes. Trai Hume unleashed a powerful drive from 30 yards out, just off centre, and Hermansen dived across his goal to tip it onto the crossbar. The Blacks Cats hadn't created many chances until that point but were nearly level in a heartbeat. Yunus then decided to have his own go at a long-range screamer from Leicester’s next advance, belting an ambitious half-volley over from around 20 yards. The game was being reduced to a succession of efforts from distance and, with a quarter of an hour to go, Chris Rigg’s shot from the edge of the box bounced up into Hermansen’s grasp. Hume’s next sighter needed to be palmed away by City’s No.32 as well before Adil Aouchiche curled a free-kick over for Mike Dodds’ men. Aouchiche's next free-kick needed diverting behind for a corner by Hermansen, as added time began. Jenson Seelt's header also needed to be saved, before an almighty appeal from the Sunderland crowd for a penalty. Aouchiche slipped Dan Ballard behind and he hit the deck under pressure from Choudhury. There was no penalty given, though, and Maresca's leaders did just enough to hang on for a precious victory to protect their the lead at the top. They go again at an in-form Hull City on Saturday.

Leicester City Crest





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