Jamie Vardy

Dramatic West Brom Victory Sends Leicester Top

A performance of sheer determination to win at all costs saw Leicester City come out as 2-1 victors over West Bromwich Albion at King Power Stadium on Saturday to return to the top of the Sky Bet Championship.

Wilfred Ndidi’s close-range finish 22 minutes in put City ahead on Filbert Way before Jamie Vardy made amends for his missed penalty at the end of the first half with a 65th-minute header. The 37-year-old’s 17th goal of the season came after a barrage of Baggies chances – the visitors denied by heroic goal-line clearances and fantastic saves – before Jed Wallace’s breakaway finish created a climactic finish in LE2. Valiant defending was required to get Enzo Maresca’s men over the line – sparking scenes of real jubilation at full-time, with the Foxes nudging themselves closer to the finish line. Three huge matches await for Leicester, who next welcome Southampton to King Power Stadium on Tuesday night in what promises to be another significant night in the second tier. This nerve-shredding race continues to throw up twists and, despite a Baggies onslaught in each half, the Foxes emerged with a precious victory to take them to 91 points. That’s two more than second-placed Ipswich Town and four ahead of Leeds United in third – with the division’s top four all having three games left. Southampton, meanwhile, sit fourth on on 84 points after losing at Cardiff City later on Saturday. 

Before kick-off, Chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha called on the Blue Army to ‘be the force’ behind Leicester’s promotion push and the capacity Filbert Way crowd certainly did their bit from the start. Aware that prying eyes were on them in Ipswich, Leeds and Southampton, the Foxes know what needs to be done – irrespective of what their title rivals conjure up – and now is the time to do it. There were welcome returns to the XI for Vardy and Conor Coady after successive defeats on the road to Millwall and Plymouth Argyle – at a time when City can ill afford to drop any points, yet alone six. Vardy’s inclusion also saw the 37-year-old become the Club’s outright fourth all-time top appearance maker, overtaking Hughie Adcock and Mark Wallington. 

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Wilfred Ndidi

A fifth goal of the season for Wilfred Ndidi put City on course.

The pre-match optimism was almost punctured two minutes in, mind you, when a misplaced Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall pass at the back invited Turkish midfielder Okay Yokuşlu to thunder narrowly over the crossbar. It’s a risk of City’s measured playing style – which has earned them so many points this term – but they survived the scare. Maresca’s men were looking to the heavens in gratitude again moments later. A deft touch from Wallace took Jannik Vestergaard out of the equation on the right channel and the Baggies winger was closing in on goal. He crossed for the impressive Mikey Johnston in the box and only a crucial goal-line clearance from Hamza Choudhury prevented an Albion opener. That wouldn't be Choudhury's last imperative intervention of the day. Mads Hermansen had to be alert to another Johnston hit shortly afterwards while his third shot in quick succession later sailed over the Dane’s goal. It had undoubtedly been an uneasy start from Leicester.

It only takes a second to score a goal, though, and City were ahead in the 22nd minute. Stephy Mavididi was twisting and turning on the angle of the box, on the left wing. He slid it across to Wout Faes and the Belgian hooked it into the box. It was clipped on by Vardy’s head and West Brom ‘keeper Alex Palmer misjudged the bounce. Instead of scooping the ball up, he palmed it into the path of Ndidi, poised for scraps in the six-yard box. It wasn’t a simple finish for the Nigerian, but he executed it perfectly, lifting the ball up and over Palmer into the roof of the visitors’ net. Carlos Corberán’s men boast the third-best defensive record in the league, but Leicester had found a way through. It settled everyone down too, not only the 11 players on the pitch, but the thousands of home fans in the stands as well. The nerves were back just before the break when a loose Faes back-pass forced Hermansen to gallop off his line and boot it away. A panicked clearance of the ball turned into an excellent through-ball for Vardy, playing the No.9 in on goal, but with Yokuşlu for company.

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Jamie Vardy

Jamie Vardy's second-half header was ultimately the difference on Filbert Way.

The Baggies midfielder, trying to push Vardy away from goal, ultimately bundled the Leicester striker to the deck and referee Thomas Bramall pointed to the spot. Up stepped Vardy himself, the Club’s third all-time top goalscorer, with 186 strikes to his name. That incredible tally wouldn’t increase with this kick of the ball though, as the former Fleetwood Town striker slammed his penalty onto the base of Palmer’s right-hand post. Championship promotion races seldom come without drama and here was the latest chapter in what is becoming a classic instalment. Only in two previous seasons (2013/14 and 2020/21) have City matched this season’s total of 12 penalty goals but that was their first missed effort of this campaign. As Vardy and the Foxes fans bemoaned their misfortune, the large away following aimed fury at the referee, believing Yokuşlu’s challenge came outside the box. In any case, the gap between the sides remained at one heading into the interval.  

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Enzo Maresca

Enzo Maresca leads the celebrations at full-time.

Shooting at the Spion Kop from the restart, the Foxes tried to put the game to bed, but would soon lose their control of the contest, if not their lead. First Coady’s delivery was nodded by Vardy into the thigh of Yokuşlu and away for a corner. Mavididi then curled wide after a smart diagonal release by Abdul Fatawu on the counter. West Brom, though, have proven all season that they’re serious players in the promotion picture. They still need points to nail down a play-off spot and they had City rocking for a lengthy spell in the second half. A scarcely believable scramble in Leicester’s box – including incredible defending and goalkeeping – kept West Brom out on 51 minutes. The woodwork would be rattling seconds afterwards, too. It started with another goal-line clearance from Choudhury, frustrating Yann M’Vila. Hermansen then smothered Grady Diangana’s point-blank follow-up before Choudhury – now at the opposite post – headed over the bar to keep it out again. From the resulting corner Kyle Bartley got his head onto it, but his effort took a touch off Vestergaard’s shoulder and came back off the bar. Somehow, inexplicably, Leicester were still 1-0 up. That wasn’t the end of the Baggies’ bombardment. Diangana was furious with himself as the game approached the hour-mark, swinging his boot at Darnell Furlong’s low cross and sending his effort skidding wide of the far post. Faes then stuck a boot out to divert Furlong’s arrowed drive around the same post.

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Hamza Choudhury

Hamza Choudhury's performance was hailed by the Blue Army at full-time.

Just as they had in the first half, West Brom were ruing their luck soon after. They could have scored five but were conceding their second in the 65th minute. Fatawu was the creative spark, skipping past Conor Townsend and clipping a cross from the byline onto Vardy’s head. He’d have his 187th Foxes goal this time, nodding it into the bottom corner. The relief swelled around the ground but there was an understanding that the job wasn’t nearly complete. A stark reminder of that fact arrived 11 minutes later as the Baggies got one back. Cédric Kipré, a former member of Leicester’s Academy, played a cutting through-ball down the middle, sending Wallace on the hunt. The former Portsmouth, Wolves and Millwall man just needed a single touch to poke it past the on-rushing Hermansen. The peril was well and truly back for the Foxes. With a bouncing crowd behind them – and despite the intense anxiety around the place – they were able to limit the visitors to half chances. John Swift blazed over before being denied by Hermansen at the Dane’s near post. King Power Stadium exploded with joy at full-time – on an important day in the Championship promotion race – but more are needed. Three games to go.

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