Leicester City saw off Watford by a score of 4-2 in an exceedingly strange match at the King Power on Sunday. James Maddison’s opener was cancelled by a Josh King penalty, but a Jamie Vardy first-half brace gave the Foxes a 3-1 lead at the break. Ademola Lookman and Emmanuel Dennis scored in a snowy second half to provide the final margin.
If you’ve followed Brendan Rodgers for a bit, you’ll know this about him: If something works once, he’ll keep doing it until it stops working. This is a long-ish way of saying that the gaffer made only two changes to the lineup that saw off Legia Warsaw on Thursday and retained the same shape: Kasper Schmeichel (C), Timothy Castagne, Jonny Evans, Çağlar Söyüncü, Luke Thomas, Boubakary Soumare, Wilfred Ndidi, James Maddison, Ademola Lookman, Harvey Barnes, and Jamie Vardy.
Former Leicester manager and current Watford boss Claudio Ranieri came out of the tunnel to a standing ovation from the City supporters and he returned the favour by applauding the home fans. It was a lovely moment of mutual respect and a fitting welcome for a legend.
It was the visitors who started the match on the front foot as the Foxes struggled to get the ball out of defence. However, it was the Foxes who took the early lead with one of the most farcical goals you’ll see all season. A long free-kick was lofted into the Watford box and, with Vardy pulling up short, William Troost-Ekong let it go over his head to run to the keeper. However, he’d completely missed Maddison ghosting in behind him. The ball fell to the midfielder unmarked ten yards out. He turned and tucked it inside the far post to give City an early lead.
It took only ten minutes for the Hornets to equalise and it was no more than they deserved. Moments after making a brilliant tackle in his own box to snuff out a chance, Ndidi was somewhat less brilliant in leaving a leg out and tripping Emmanuel Dennis in the area. It was as clear a penalty as you’ll ever see. Schmeichel guessed the right direction but couldn’t do anything to keep Josh King’s well-place effort out.
No matter, though, as the Foxes restored their advantage almost immediately. Maddison spotted Vardy’s run into the left channel and played a perfect ball into his path. The Rochester Rhinos co-owner still had a lot to do, but that’s when he’s at his best. He flicked the ball over the keeper from the tightest of angles and into the back of the net.
The former Stocksbridge Park Steels striker got doubled the lead right before the half with Madders again providing the ammunition. Barnes made a good run on the left and won a corner for the Foxes. Maddison whipped in a flat ball in front of the near post and Vardy met it unmarked. His glanced header left the keeper flat-footed as it nestled inside the net.
The first half wasn’t quite as impressive as the one against Legia, but the scoreline was the same: The Foxes went into the tunnel with a 3-1 lead.
The snow had gone all blizzardy right before the half and it was downright ridiculous at the start of the second. It turns out that even a yellow ball is pretty well camouflaged on a snow-covered pitch. It was, frankly, facial to watch. By 55’, it was difficult to see how much snow was falling due to how much of it was already on the pitch.
It IS pretty though (says the guy in Texas who almost never gets to see snow).
There was, presumably, football still happening although it was a little difficult to be certain as the orange balls had yet to be deployed. Madders took a shot from distance apparently and it looked as though Joao Pedro hit one that went just wide.
Watford got one back in an appropriately ridiculous fashion just after the hour mark. Dennis stood on Castagne’s foot to dispossess the defender and go through on goal. Schmeichel did all he could to put the striker off, but that wasn’t much beyond dancing and waving his arms. The Nigeria striker just waited patiently and lifted the ball over the keeper.
Dennis injured himself trying to foul Luke Thomas— _ (@LCFCshitposting) November 28, 2021
The “I” and “S” in the D.E.N.N.I.S. system stand for “injure self.”
No matter though, as City restored their two-goal cushion in a disastrous run of play for the visitors. After two of their players had injured themselves in poor challenges, the Hornets let Barnes get behind the defence on the left. We’ll charitably assume that his flick was a pass and not an attempt to emulate Vardy’s earlier effort. Either way, the ball travelled across the face of the goal to Lookman, who had the simplest of tap-ins to give the Foxes four for the day.
The snow lightened up a little allowing for a little football to be played as the match entered the seven minutes of injury time. A ball over the top from substitute Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall set Vardy on his way, but Watford keeper Daniel Bachmann did brilliantly to keep his low drive out at the far post. The whistle blew at exactly 97’ and the Foxes ran out winners in the Premier League for the first time in more than a month.
As you may have gathered, this was not the sort of match where the form book offers much in the way of guidance. Facing our legendary former manager in heavy snow, anything could have happened. It wasn’t tidy, but City ruthlessly took their chances in the first half and did a professional job of getting through what could have been a very difficult second period.
With two assists and a goal, Madders looks like he’s back to something very much like his best. With form comes joy, and no one expresses joy on the pitch like Maddison. It’s a welcome change of pace from the frustration we’ve been seeing in the body language of some of the players of late. Also, while I know that both Daka and Iheanacho deserve to start, there’s no dislodging Vardy at this time. Today’s brace takes him past Nicolas Anelka and Robbie Keane and level with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink with 127 Premier League goals.
The victory brings the Foxes to 9th on the table with 18 points from 13 matches. It’s off to the coast on Wednesday to face Southampton at the St. Mary’s. Next Sunday, we travel to Birmingham to face Aston Villa at Villa Park.