Red-hot Vardy puts Bag­gies to the sword

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - SOCCER - BOB GIB­SON

WBA Le­ices­ter

JCity AMIE Vardy con­tin­ued his red-hot run in front of goal as Le­ices­ter eased any lin­ger­ing rel­e­ga­tion fears. Vardy made no mis­take two min­utes be­fore half-time as Le­ices­ter won away in the league for only the sec­ond time this sea­son.

His strike was his 17 th of the sea­son, his third in the last four games and his eighth in 12 matches un­der man­ager Craig Shake­speare. It was also the third suc­ces­sive game that he had scored at The Hawthorns.

While Vardy has hit form at just the right time, Albion have hit a los­ing habit. Tony Pulis’s team have lost their last four games — and failed to score in five. They have won only once in eight games.

Pulis made a sur­prise change to his side when he left cap­tain Dar­ren Fletcher out of the start­ing line-up for the first time since his ar­rival from Manch­ester United in 2015 — end­ing a run of 86 suc­ces­sive top-flight starts for the Scot­tish mid­fielder. His for­mer United team-mate Jonny Evans took over as skip­per.

Le­ices­ter were with­out cen­tral de­fender Wes Mor­gan after he failed to shake off a ham­string prob­lem.

After a fran­tic open­ing spell, when Le­ices­ter’s Danny Drinkwa­ter was booked for a lunge on Nacer Chadli, Albion were de­nied the break­through by the hero­ics of Foxes goal­keeper Kasper Sch­me­ichel. Evans lifted a long cross into the Le­ices­ter area after 18 min­utes and Chris Brunt met it with an an­gled header that Sch­me­ichel spec­tac­u­larly tipped over the bar with his right hand.

The feisty feel to the game con­tin­ued when Albion mid­fielder Clau­dio Ya­cob, who had ear­lier sent Vardy tum­bling, was booked for his 22nd minute chal­lenge on Shinji Okazaki.

In a game where clear chances had been at a pre­mium it was per­haps no sur­prise that when the dead­lock was bro­ken it was down to a mis­take. Albion striker Salomon Ron­don played the ball back to­wards his own goal but he had not spot­ted the lurk­ing Okazaki.

Okazaki col­lected Ron­don’s back pass and fed a pass into the path of Vardy, who clin­i­cally lifted the ball over the ad­vanc­ing goal­keeper Ben Fos­ter.

Ron­don did his best to try and make amends for his er­ror, flash­ing a header nar­rowly wide on the stroke of half­time be­fore Sch­me­ichel got down low to smother his shot three min­utes into the sec­ond pe­riod.

Craig Daw­son then saw his close range header de­flected over the Le­ices­ter bar by his own team-mate, Gareth McAu­ley, be­fore Le­ices­ter could have made the game safe only for Riyad Mahrez to flash his close range shot into the side net­ting after 61 min­utes.

Mahrez then curled an­other shot wide 10 min­utes from time after Fletcher, who had been in­tro­duced in the 69th minute, lost posses­sion to Vardy.

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