Foxes Knock on Prem’s door
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
OPENER: Riyad Mahrez