Stephy Mavididi

Mavididi Sends City Back Top

Leicester City are back at the summit of the Sky Bet Championship after Stephy Mavididi’s 87th-minute header clinched a huge 2-1 victory over Birmingham City at King Power Stadium.

With both Ipswich Town and Leeds United losing away on Saturday, City capitalised on their opportunity to reclaim the top spot in what Enzo Maresca’s men now hope will prove to be a defining weekend in their quest for promotion. Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall’s first-time hit just before the half-hour seemed to have the Foxes on course for a comfortable success in the April sunshine, but Jay Stansfield’s equaliser late in the first half complicated matters. The home side had to expend all their energy to do it, but Mavididi finally broke through a stubborn Blues rearguard with three minutes of normal time to play. The euphoric celebrations which rocked Filbert Way were a marker of what it means and what’s at stake. Starting the day third, City are now a point clear with a game in hand – and while there’s a long way to go – this was a good day for the Blue Army.

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Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall

Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall's opener eased the nerves around Filbert Way.

City started on the offensive, trapping the relegation-battling Blues into their defensive third. The home side’s first real opening came on 10 minutes, with Dewsbury-Hall’s cross from the left behind diverted towards his own goal by Emanuel Aiwu. Visiting goalkeeper John Ruddy, though, was alert to the threat and parried well. Mads Hermansen’s first piece of work of the day was around the corner, scooping up Kōji Miyoshi’s low hit after the Japanese midfielder cut inside from the right channel. Birmingham had been withstanding the pressure but it proved too much by the half-hour mark. City, camped on the edge of the box, worked an opening through Abdul Fatawu on the right. At the second attempt, and now on the deck, the Ghanian squeezed the ball through to Patson Daka, on the shoulder of a rigid backline. With his back to goal, Daka sent it to Dewsbury-Hall, who with a single touch, bulleted it into the bottom corner. Recently nominated for the EFL Championship Player of the Year prize, that was the Academy graduate’s 12th goal of the campaign so far.

Willed on by Maresca on the sidelines, the Blue Army were in fine voice, but there were moments of concern. Former Fox Gary Rowett – standing in as Birmingham manager for Tony Mowbray – is hoping to stir a late dash away from relegation danger and their win over Preston North End on Monday was a welcome tonic. There was more cause for Blues celebration before the break after an uncharacteristic error from Hermansen. Wout Faes was chosen to take a goal-kick, rolling the ball back to the Danish ‘keeper. In a flash, Stansfield closed him down. As Hermansen attempted to clear, the ball cannoned off the Blues forwards’ legs and into the back of the net. Conceding before half-time can prove problematic for any team, but at least it offered the chance for Maresca to impart some words of guidance before another 45-minute assault on the away goal.

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King Power Stadium

It was a day to remember in the end for the Foxes faithful.

It was nearly a short wait for a second Leicester strike when, five minutes into the second period, Mavididi’s cross was headed towards goal from point-black range by Wilfred Ndidi. Ruddy, however, made a strong instinct stop – he was there again to parry Fatawu’s curler from the right wing. There were calls for a City penalty on 54 minutes too as James Justin, off the bench at the break, appeared to be pulled to the ground by Miyoshi. In any event, the former Luton Town full-back couldn’t reach Ndidi’s cross. Jannik Vestergaard could, although Ruddy was in the way again. The 60th-minute introduction of Jamie Vardy – replacing Daka – was widely applauded on Filbert Way. Leicester’s top goalscorer was left waiting for a pass, though, when Ndidi burst away on the counter attack shortly afterwards. The nerves jangled with 20 minutes to play as Ethan Laird’s effort from the edge of the box trickled wide of Hermansen’s far post. The arrivals of Yunus Akgün and Dennis Praet offered fresh attacking options as well. 

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Leicester City

Wild celebrations greet Stephy Mavididi's winner.

Birmingham were holding back the storm, aware a loss would send them into the bottom three. It was becoming desperate at the back for the visitors. When Mavididi’s shot was parried by Ruddy, the ball bounced up and was asking to be tucked away. Lee Buchanan, though, did just enough to shelter it from Vardy and Praet. It simply would not go in – until it did. King Power Stadium erupted in the 87th minute when an Akgün cross flew over Birmingham’s penalty area, too high for anyone in the middle. Mavididi, though, was bursting his lungs to get to the back post and his header was too precise for Ruddy. Finally Leicester had pierced through. Another eight minutes of nerve-shredding football had to be navigated, but City stood tall. This could well be the weekend which defined Leicester's season, but the outcomes of their next six matches will decide that. It's Millwall away next up on Tuesday. 

Leicester City Crest





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