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Premier League round-up: Leicester secure vital win in top four race as Aston Villa miss chance at Everton


Leicester City's Ayoze Perez celebrates scoring the opening goal in the 2-0 win over Sheffield United. Catherine Ivill/NMC Pool/PA Wire.

Leicester City's Ayoze Perez celebrates scoring the opening goal in the 2-0 win over Sheffield United. Catherine Ivill/NMC Pool/PA Wire.


Leicester City's Ayoze Perez celebrates scoring the opening goal in the 2-0 win over Sheffield United. Catherine Ivill/NMC Pool/PA Wire.

Ayoze Perez and Demarai Gray inched Leicester closer to a Champions League return after a deserved 2-0 win over Sheffield United.

The pair clinched a 2-0 victory to ensure the Foxes will remain fourth heading into the final two Premier League games.

Leicester are certain not to finish lower than sixth, meaning they have booked a Europa League spot next season at the very least.

It also continued to point to a potential winner-takes-all showdown with fifth-placed Manchester United at the King Power Stadium on the final day.

Jamie Vardy hit the post and Harvey Barnes wasted two glorious second-half chances but the Foxes were worthy winners.

Defeat, though, was a costly blow to Sheffield United's dreams of a shock European spot.

It left them two points behind sixth-placed Wolves with two games left.

It could have been different had David McGoldrick not ballooned George Baldock's cross over in the opening two minutes.

After Sunday's second-half capitulation at Bournemouth Leicester needed an instant response and Perez almost provided it only to head debutant Luke Thomas' cross over.

It gave them encouragement though and Vardy was next to threaten when his low strike was turned away by Dean Henderson's outstretched leg.

The Blades' defending was frantic and Henderson beat Perez's volley away but Leicester had taken control.

In their best half since the restart the Foxes rediscovered their fluency and they went ahead after 29 minutes.

England Under-19 international Thomas impressed throughout and he found the unmarked Perez for the striker to fire a low effort beyond Henderson from 15 yards.

It ended a 12-game goal drought and settled the Foxes who held off the Blades in the first half with relative ease.

United's win over Chelsea on Saturday is their only victory against a top-four side this season and boss Chris Wilder's triple change of John Lundstram, Lys Mousset and John Fleck at the break failed.

Indeed one, Lundstram, presented the Foxes with a fine chance for a second after 51 minutes when they latched onto his misplaced header and Vardy rattled the outside of the post from Youri Tielemans' pass.

Five minutes later Barnes was thwarted by Henderson as Leicester found more gaps.

The Blades were doing their best to be masters of their downfall and they were lucky to survive again soon after.

The dawdling Oliver Norwood was robbed by Wilfred Ndidi who set Vardy scampering clear, he squared to Barnes but the winger shot too close to Henderson.

United had offered no threat since McGoldrick's early miss but Kasper Schmeichel needed to be alert after 63 minutes when he tipped the ball wide after Jack O'Connell deflected John Egan's header goalwards.

It was only a brief rally and the Foxes sealed the win with 11 minutes left.

Gray had been on the pitch for just three minutes after replacing Barnes but struck when Vardy broke clear to find the winger who drilled low into the corner.

Meanwhile, Aston Villa's Premier League future hangs by a thread after Theo Walcott's 87th-minute header meant Dean Smith's struggling side had to settle for a 1-1 draw at Goodison Park.

The visitors looked like they had given themselves a lifeline through Ezri Konsa's first top-flight goal 18 minutes from time but the centre-back's desperate overhead kick failed to keep out the Toffees substitute's late effort to dash their hopes.

As a result Villa, with an inferior goal difference, remain three points from safety which means they realistically have to get something out of next week's visit of Arsenal if they are to take it to a potential last-day decider at West Ham.

They were left to rue Anwar El Ghazi's miss-of-the-season contender 10 minutes from time when he ballooned over from close range.

It was a missed opportunity for the visitors in a generally dire game in which the goals were the only shots on target, which spoke volumes about the current malaise in which both clubs currently find themselves.

Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti made five changes after labelling Sunday's defeat at Wolves "unacceptable" and initially it had the desired effect as his side started brightly.

But that quickly faded and within 15 minutes the momentum had changed with only a mis-hit cross onto the top of the crossbar from Bernard, one of those recalled, to show for that early effort.

Central defender Mason Holgate's comeback after a two-match absence with a shin injury lasted about as long before he was forced off and replaced by 18-year-old Jarrad Branthwaite, who despite making only his second Premier League appearance slotted in fairly comfortably.

The real issue for Everton lay further forward with them losing the midfield battleground once again, struggling to handle Jack Grealish's free role coming in off the left.

Villa's captain was at the heart of the most incisive passing moves and had the best chance of the first half, robbing Andre Gomes before having a shot deflected over, while dragging wide early in the second.

Ancelotti's temper was gradually bubbling to the surface and he bawled at goalkeeper Jordan Pickford after he kicked quickly trying to find Bernard and sent the ball straight out of play

The England goalkeeper did not help himself when he was almost caught in possession by Samatta moments later as Ancelotti's frustrations grew not just with him but the whole team.

With 18 minutes to go the Italian's fears were realised as Konsa touched home Conor Hourihane's cross for only this third club goal.

El Ghazi's glaring miss from barely a couple of yards could have settled the nerves, which were jangling when Dominic Calvert-Lewin stabbed wide and Villa hearts were broken when Walcott nodded home to extend an 11-match unbeaten home league record.

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