Wednesday 13 December 2017

Foxes slap-down leaves Moyes facing conventional exit

Leicester City 2 Sunderland 0

Sunderland manager David Moyes applauds the fans after another defeat at the King Power Stadium. Photo: PA
Sunderland manager David Moyes applauds the fans after another defeat at the King Power Stadium. Photo: PA

Jonathan Liew

For long periods of this game, you would have struggled to pick out which team were bottom of the league and which were the champions. By full-time, the difference was starkly apparent.

Leicester effortlessly turned the screw in the second half to win their sixth consecutive game under Craig Shakespeare. They are safe. For Sunderland, and for their godforsaken manager David Moyes, oblivion beckons. Once more, Sunderland - without John O'Shea following the death of his father, Jim - competed gamely, only to crumble when the temperature rose.

Once Leicester took the lead, Sunderland began to look every inch a team who have scored in just one of their last 10 matches. No ideas, no inspiration, and with survival now eight points distant, no hope.

For Moyes, assailed by accusations of sexism, this was a strong case for being removed from his job by more conventional means. "You're getting slapped in the morning," the Leicester fans gleefully sang at him.

Having spent much of the week on the defensive, it was fitting that Moyes sent his team out to spoil. Four central midfielders clogged the centre like a hairball; one of them captain Lee Cattermole, returning after six months out injured and marking the occasion in unmistakably Cattermole fashion, booked after 35 minutes for a cynical challenge from behind.

Leicester had possession but not much punch. Width proved the only real source of chances on either side.

Leicester City's Islam Slimani fires his side into the lead. Photo: REUTERS
Leicester City's Islam Slimani fires his side into the lead. Photo: REUTERS

The cautious, concussive contest was neutering both teams' most dangerous weapons. While Riyad Mahrez struggled to get the ball in threatening areas, Jermain Defoe struggled to get the ball at all. Defoe is a fiercely clever striker, but Sunderland are not a team who are going to cut you open with a rapier through ball. They are the sort of team who would probably eat spaghetti with their hands. So Defoe - the only man with a fork - made plenty of smart runs, only to throw his hands up in frustration as the ball invariably went safely sideways.

The second half was better. Well, Leicester were. Shakepeare's half-time soliloquy had clearly had an effect: Leicester looked sharper, moving the ball quicker and taking more risks. With 20 minutes to go, Leicester finally eased the door off its hinges, courtesy of their two substitutes. Marc Albrighton darted down the left, cut inside and delivered a cross. Lamina Koné challenged for the ball with all the enthusiasm of the third shepherd in a child's nativity play and Islam Slimani's header thudded past Jordan Pickford.

Then, Billy Jones slipped in his own half and was devoured by Albrighton, who delivered a cross that Jamie Vardy slammed home. The camera zoomed in on Moyes, sucking his teeth, pondering the tactical hammer blow that would swing the contest.

After a moment's thought, he brought on Darron Gibson. It was a fitting epitaph to Sunderland's evening. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Leicester City's Jamie Vardy celebrates scoring his sides second goal with Marc Albrighton. Photo: PA
Leicester City's Jamie Vardy celebrates scoring his sides second goal with Marc Albrighton. Photo: PA
A shot from Sunderland's Jermain Defoe crashes into the side net. Photo: REUTERS
A shot from Sunderland's Jermain Defoe crashes into the side net. Photo: REUTERS
Riyad Mahrez skips over a challenge from Sunderland's Bryan Oviedo. Photo: REUTERS
Riyad Mahrez skips over a challenge from Sunderland's Bryan Oviedo. Photo: REUTERS

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