Scott Davies brings us the view from the stands as Leicester picked up 3 more points away at Watford and our dream lives on… here is Scott’s View from the Stand…..
Whenever City play Watford, I sure I’m not alone in casting my mind back to that Anthony Knockaert missed penalty followed by the Troy Deeney goal just 20 seconds later in the fateful play off semi final. However, on this occasion, the sour taste of that defeat has well and truly gone, because that pain and heartache was the springboard to where we are today.
The Spurs v Arsenal draw earlier in the day was possibly the best outcome from that fixture and gave City the opportunity to again go 5 points clear and more notably 8 clear of Arsenal, further cementing our claim to at least Champions League place.
N’golo Kante returned to the starting line up which had many pundits asking the question if he was 100% fit after a hamstring problem, however I just cannot see why we’d have risked him if he wasn’t, particularly as King had a decent game v The Baggies. The remainder of the line up had a familiar feel to it, but again Gokhan Inler was omitted from the bench.
Watford is always a tricky place to visit and they had been unbeaten in their last 3 fixtures at home, although two of those were goalless draws with the Watford front line somewhat firing blanks of late. Leicester, however prior to this game have 28 points on their travels, 3 more than any other team this campaign.
Watford started brightly and a nice passage of 1 touch football allowed them into City’s penalty box in the first minute, late comer to the Watford line up Jose Holebas fired a shot goalwards which deflected up off a City boot, but Schmeichel was alert to the danger and gathered with ease. Watford defender Nathan Ake also went close on 11 as his looping header dropped onto the top of the crossbar and out for a goal kick.
The Foxes had their first real sight of goal on 14 as Albrighton played in Vardy with a weighted through ball. Vardy shaped up on the left side of the box and flashed a left foot volley across goal, but harmlessly wide. Vardy went close again on 23 after he won the ball in the final third and played in Riyad Mahrez, there was a hint of offside but play continued. Vardy extended his run into the box and Mahrez returned the pass to the England man, however the Watford rearguard did enough to force him to fire wide. Ranieri thought it was in, but his celebrations were cut short.
Deeney had a great chance on 27 to put the Hornets ahead, but he fired his shot straight at Schmeichel who got his body behind the ball to nullify danger. 2 minutes later, Nordin Amrabat worked his way into the penalty box and went down under a challenge, but the ref gave him a yellow card for simulation and a free kick was awarded to the Foxes much to the disgust of the Watford winger.
It was a tactical affair in the first period and both teams were struggling to carve either defence open, Danny Drinkwater was superb in the middle and was pulling all the strings, whilst Kante was showing no signs of the injury that forced him off against Norwich last weekend. Leicester probably edged it on chances but the spoils were shared at the break. Ranieri clearly felt the system needed changing and as we’ve seen before, he isn’t afraid to mix it up at half time. He’s been dubbed the thinkerman as a result and has shaken off the tinkerman tag previous attributed to him.
King and Schlupp came on for Okazaki and Albrighton with Riyad Mahrez moving into a more central role.
The tactical change paid off on 56 minutes. Christian Fuchs delivered a cross into the Watford box which was headed out only as far as Mahrez, the Algerian controlled the ball when many others may have tried to whip it first time, this bought him an extra yard and he curled a peach of a goal into the top corner leaving Gomes with no chance. Ironically, Mahrez hadn’t really been in the game, but it is his moments of magic like this that give the Foxes the edge over most opposition.
Watford rarely threatened the Foxes back line, however City were giving away some soft free kicks which is where Watford were most threatening. City were resolute in their defending and Watford simply could not find a way through a stubborn wall of blue shirts.
Mahrez pulled up late in the game and was eventually taken off making way for Daniel Amartey who added an extra level of defensive cover and did well in the last 5 minutes of the match to help City see out the game for 3 vital points extending their lead at the top of the table.
It was a professional performance from the Foxes in a tight game, we won ugly against Norwich and won ugly again in this game which over the years has been key to teams winning the Premier League. With 9 games to go, I am sure every Foxes fan will be happy to win every game in this manner if it means lifting the title come May 15th. What has been impressive is that in both those games mentioned, Ranieri has changed it tactically and it has paid off handsomely, tactical risks can really change the game.
The players now have a 9 day break before we play struggling Newcastle. I just hope they don’t sack McClaren before we play them!
Man of the Match – Danny Drinkwater – Outstanding