Leicester City overcame a lethargic first half and a terrible defensive mistake to beat Watford by a score of 2-1 at Vicarage Road on Saturday afternoon. Dennis Praet won a penalty that was dispatched by Patson Daka to give the Foxes the lead at the break. Ricardo Pereira finished a brilliant team move to extend the lead before a Harry Winks error gave Emmanuel Dennis a tap-in to pull one back for the hosts.
If you count “big chances,” this may have been the lowest total we’ve achieved this season. With Justin and McAteer on the left, the Foxes weren’t able to generate anything on that side of the pitch today. The attack just wasn’t really working except for the two shining moments where it worked perfectly. Fortunately, that was enough.
Let’s take a moment to appreciate Abdul Fatawu’s defensive work. He’s so quick with the ball and so good with both feet that it’s easy to overlook the fact that he is always tracking back to help out his fullback. Along with Ricardo, his four successful tackles were the most in the match. He’s a flashy player, but the things that will keep him in his manager’s good graces are his work rate and his ability to contribute even when he’s not doing a lot of attacking. £17m is going to look like a bargain assuming we sign him on our return to the Premier League.
Fatawu is one of the few things that Maresca will be happy about today (the other, presumably, is his birthday). With only 6 shots and 52% of the possession, this was not the sort of match he favours regardless of the result. One suspects that some of this is down to keeping some of his squad fresh for Tuesday’s match, but one suspects even more strongly that he is a man of very high standards and no patience when those standards aren’t kept.
Speaking of such things, the win gives us 75 points from 31 matches. That keeps us top of the table, but with both Southampton and Leeds winning as well, our advantages of 11 and 12 points respectively remain the same. Two-thirds of the season has been played, so we’re not yet in the home stretch, but we’d deep into the clubhouse turn. We play host to Sheffield Wednesday this Tuesday, and then one we from today, we face Middlesbrough at the King Power.
#LCFC | Enzo Maresca has just told me that that was one of the biggest wins of the season, hence his celebration at the end.— Owynn Palmer-Atkin (@OwynnPA) February 10, 2024
He said that took them a big step closer to their goal…
Let me clarify: I doubt he was happy with how the match was played, I suspect he is thrilled with the result.
Leicester City: Mads Hermansen, Ricardo Pereira (C), Wout Faes, Ben Nelson, James Justin, Dennis Praet, Harry Winks, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, Abdul Fatawu, Stephy Mavididi, Patson Daka
Watford: Ben Hamer, Wesley Hoedt, Ryan Porteous, Jamal Lewis, Tom Dele-Bashiru, Jake Livermore, Giorgi Chakvetadze, Ismaël Koné, Bayo Youssouf, Ken Sema, Matheus Martins
Not to mention, they’re stealing my signature move.
Key Moments and Notes
1’- Well, that’s a way to start a match. Chakvetadze has to go back to the touchline to get some tape over his pads as he seems to have forgotten to wear socks. Watford are right into the attack from the opening kick, getting the ball into the Leicester box three or four times. Nelson clears it and the hosts get a throw that goes straight back to Hermansen. Bayo jogs forward to chase and pulls up. His hamstring’s gone so Watford are forced to make a substitution in the first minute. Phew.
9’- GOAL! Fatawu starts the move for the Foxes and gets taken out halfway into the Watford half. Nothing is called, so Daka picks it up and picks out Praet’s run into the box. The Belgium man flicks the ball with his heel and Chakvetadze takes him out. It’s a silly challenge and a clear penalty. Daka takes it and blasts it past Hamer to give the Foxes an early lead.
10’- What are Watford doing? They pass back to the keeper from the restart and it’s a very lazy ball. Daka is a whisker away from getting there ahead of Hamer, but the former Leicester stopper is alert and just about clears it.
17’- Has any player gone in and out of favour more times than Dennis Praet? I know injuries have played a big part in his inability to claim a regular spot in the starting XI, but even with that caveat, he’s gone from “not in our plans, send him on loan” to “starter” several times.
22’- Oof. Daka is absolutely wiped out by a two-footed sliding challenge by Porteous. The defender wins the ball but his studs are up and he goes right through the Zambian’s ankle. It takes them a while, but the Hornets do finally put it out of play.
32’- Watford win several corners and do absolutely nothing with them. This has been a remarkably even half in terms of possession and chances. It’s been interesting, but it hasn’t been good.
45’- I doubt Maresca is a happy man despite leading 1-0. The Foxes have not imposed themselves on Watford. The most entertaining man on the pitch has been referee Oliver Langford who seems content to let crunching challenges go but blows his whistle for some of the most innocuous stuff. He’s been consistent, so I have no complaints, but it’s been a very disjointed half.
HALF TIME: Watford 0 - 1 Leicester City
46’- No changes at the half. Winks and Nelson are on yellows for the Foxes so they’ll need to be a little careful.
55’- GOAL! What a team move! After a very indifferent opening to the half, the Foxes carve up the hosts like a very sharp thing through a very yielding substance. Hermansen finds KDH in midfield. He taps it to Winks, who gets it forward to Ricardo on the halfway line. The captain charges forward before finding Fatawu coming in from the right. The winger returns the ball to Ricardo, who continued his run into the box, and the fullback-cum-midfielder finishes it first-time.
60’- Maresca makes his first change, withdrawing Nelson in favour of Callum Doyle.
62’- GOAL! Oh Harry Winks, what are you doing? Hermansen plays the ball to the former Spurs man on the edge of the area. He tries to flick it to Faes but gets the ball caught in his studs, sending the ball directly to substitute Emmanuel Dennis on the penalty spot. He turns and rolls the ball into the net.
70’- Jamie Vardy is on for his 450th appearance in a Leicester shirt. It’s Patson Daka who comes off.
72’- Close! Dennis gets behind Doyle and tries his luck from a very tight angle. It’s on target, but Hermansen saves smartly.
75’- Doyle charges towards the Watford box before he’s clattered by Porteous. Justin somehow gets the free kick up and over the wall and on-target even though the wall is only 8 yards from where the kick is taken, but it’s an easy take for Hamer.
81’- Hamza Choudhury and Stephy Mavididi come on for Fatawu and Praet. Choudhury gets a nice round of applause from the Watford supporters, having spent last season on loan at Vicarage Road.
86’- Close! An in-swinging cross is flicked to Hoedt at the far post. He thinks he has a tap in, but Hermansen gets a leg to it to keep it out. The defender was offside, but it was still a fantastic save from the keeper.
88’- The names “Ince” and “Asprilla” would have filled opponents with fear 25 years ago. Tom and Yaser are decent players, but they’re not Paul and Faustino.
90+5’- Hoedt takes exception to some pesky attention from Vardy and squares up to the GOAT, which is hilarious. The defender has a massive size advantage, but there’s no question who you’d back in a scrap and it ain’t the Watford man. They both see well-deserved yellows.
FULL TIME: Watford 1 - 2 Leicester City