Foxes Knock on Prem’s door

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By James Tay­lor To com­ment on this match go to http://boards.footy­mad.net/

WHEN pro­mo­tion­chas­ing Le­ices­ter needed a bit of magic on Fri­day night against Sh­effield Wed­nes­day the man they turned to was Anthony Knock­aert – the Foxes mid­fielder who cost them a po­ten­tial Pre­mier League place last year.

Knock­aert – whose missed penalty de­nied Le­ices­ter in the play-off semi-fi­nal against Wat­ford last sea­son – set­tled the game with a stun­ning free-kick on the hour mark.

And once Satur­day’s re­sults were con­firmed, QPR los­ing 2-1 away at Bournemouth and Derby fall­ing 1-0 at Middlesbrough, it proved to be a fit­ting end to their quest for a re­turn to the top flight af­ter a ten-year ex­ile.

Knock­aert’s mo­ment of bril­liance came af­ter Riyad Mahrez’s third goal since join­ing from Le Havre in Jan­uary was can­celled out by Michail An­to­nio’s solo ef­fort in the first half.The re­sult took Le­ices­ter up to 89 points – two more than Cardiff won the di­vi­sion with last sea­son – and ex­tended their un­beaten run to 21 games. But cap­tain Wes Mor­gan says it was the vil­lain from last year who is now the hero.

“We needed a bit of magic at the time, and Anthony just floated it in,” said Mor­gan

“First half was all us and we were dis­ap­pointed to come in level at half-time, we thought we’d done enough to be ahead but un­for­tu­nately it wasn’t the case. “In the sec­ond half we didn’t play to our best but it just shows the qual­ity and re­sources that we’ve got that we can go on and win the game.”

Foxes boss Nigel Pear­son added:“We prob­a­bly showed that we’re hu­man. We didn’t quite hit the level of per­for­mance that we have done for all of the game, but I still think we played well and de­served to win.

“It took two tal­ented play­ers to win us the game in the sense that both goals were ex­cep­tion­ally good.

“We showed that we’re pre­pared to put our bod­ies on the line.”

The home side were in front when Mahrez cut in­side his marker and curled a fine ef­fort be­yond Chris Kirk­land.

But the Owls bat­tled back. Kasper Sch­me­ichel kept out a fierce 25-yard ef­fort from An­to­nio be­fore the for­mer Read­ing striker equalised on 37 min­utes.

How­ever, Le­ices­ter are made of stern stuff and were back in front on 61 min­utes when Knock­aert curled in from the edge of the box af­ter Mahrez had been fouled.

City’s goal came un­der siege in the clos­ing stages, as Sch­me­ichel lunged with his legs to block a close-range shot from Kieran Lee dur­ing six min­utes of stop­page time, but Mor­gan and co saw the game out.

For Wed­nes­day man­ager Stu­art Gray, whose side were thrashed 4-1 at home against Wat­ford last Satur­day, it was a much-im­proved per­for­mance.

“We got done on a qual­ity fin­ish and that's why Le­ices­ter will be cham­pi­ons,” he said. “They win more games and they score more goals and they've got qual­ity right through­out the team.

“We were a bit dis­ap­pointed to go a goal down but credit to my play­ers.They grew into the game and I thought at half-time we de­served to go in on level terms.”

KNOCK­AERT BLOW: Anthony Knock­aert cel­e­brates af­ter scor­ing the de­ci­sive sec­ond goal for Le­ices­ter on Fri­day night

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

OPENER: Riyad Mahrez

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