Monday 16 September 2019

Vardy strike ignites Leicester while United's flame falters

Leicester City 1 Manchester United 1

Jamie Vardy’s goal for Leicester against Manchester United was a marvellous piece of work itself, never mind its historical significance
Jamie Vardy’s goal for Leicester against Manchester United was a marvellous piece of work itself, never mind its historical significance
Manchester United's Anthony Martial and Leicester City's Ngolo Kante
Manchester United's Matteo Darmian and Leicester's Jamie Vardy

Sam Wallace

The most mesmerising aspect of that record-breaking goal number 11 for Jamie Vardy was not so much the slice of Premier League history it represented, but the fact that from the moment he took the ball into his stride in the 25th minute you never once thought that he would miss.

There are strikers who score goals and then, above even them, there are the kind of strikers who simply look like they will never miss. Some good strikers, even some prolific goalscorers, have never had those periods in their careers when they look capable of burying every chance that comes their way, but that is the way it is these days for Vardy. One good chance, one great goal, one remarkable record.

The new Vardy record for goals in consecutive Premier League games now stands at 11, with the player having scored 13 on the way to surpassing the mark set by Ruud van Nistelrooy in 2003.

Players such as Vardy, late bloomers, often quick to fade, can be forgotten quickly but this is the Leicester man's piece of history and it will take a very good player to beat it.

Leicester were unlucky not to win, conceding an equaliser in first-half injury time when Bastian Schweinsteiger muscled his way through the home area to head a corner past Kasper Schmeichel. United had been outplayed in the first half and although they were more solid after the break it was hard to remember a decent chance for Louis van Gaal's team to win the game.

As for United captain Wayne Rooney, this was one of those afternoons when he must have looked at the Englishman at the other end of the pitch and thought about all the times he was the centre of attention. Rooney was centre-stage only once, his substitution on 68 minutes when he was replaced by Memphis Depay and a strange kind of derision rang out among the home support.

Rooney is struggling for the form that would put him anywhere near Vardy at the moment, although you can at least say he is trying. Why the Leicester support booed him was not clear, perhaps a bad tackle or a questionable fall to the ground when he brushed past Christian Fuchs, but it was pretty visceral. The wincing on the bench from Rooney suggested there might have been an injury, but either way he could not have argued with the decision.

In their current state, more than a little patched up, with Daley Blind at left-back and all the momentum of a stalled Mini Metro from the Champions League 0-0 draw in midweek, United walked into the Leicester Vardy-storm looking vulnerable. The home side are a hard-running bunch, direct and fast and no-one more so than their newly famous centre-forward.

Although Vardy's chances were restricted before that record-breaking goal, he makes his presence felt in the small details of what he does. He covered the ground with remarkable pace to shut down Matteo Darmian when the right-back dithered on the ball. Later he charged after a ball that ran through to De Gea and was unrepentant when the United goalkeeper looked at him accusingly.

Most of all, though, Leicester, in the first half, looked sharper and more dangerous. Riyad Mahrez drew Ashley Young into a foul that got the United man booked and then tricked Blind into something similar.

As for Vardy, there was one cross from the left from Marc Albrighton that looked like it might just drop for him, but the first proper sight of goal he got, he took it.

The goal was a marvellous piece of work itself, never mind its historical significance. It started when Schmeichel caught a United corner and fed the ball out to full-back Fuchs, who ran past the halfway point before he looked up and saw Vardy holding the line and pointing exactly where he wanted the ball.

The pass was excellent and Vardy was fortunate that the two United men tracking him were Darmian and Young, both of whom had left an inviting space for the forward to run into. He barely needed a glance up before he swept the ball past De Gea and the stadium rose up in delight to acknowledge the achievement.

They had come hoping to see it, and yet when it happened it felt like the most natural thing in the world.

The equaliser came in injury-time at the end of the half when Schweinsteiger met Blind's corner to head in from close range. In getting free, he had as good as tucked Shinji Okazaki's head under his arm but it was the Japanese striker who had started the tussle.

Leicester had the best chance of the second half when Mahrez broke on goal and had two to choose from to play in for the chance. He chose the wrong one and substitute Leonardo Ulloa had his shot saved while Vardy looked on in despair.

Claudio Ranieri's team are off the top of the Premier League, while United grind on in third place with very little exciting football to raise the spirits. But this was a day about one man alone, and the lifetime in football that it has taken Vardy to get there.

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