Friday 20 July 2018

Vardy strike resumes Foxes' normal service

Leicester City 2 - Swansea City 1, King Power Stadium

Leicester City's Jamie Vardy. Photo: Carl Recine
Leicester City's Jamie Vardy. Photo: Carl Recine
Leicester City's Jamie Vardy (left) and Swansea City's Jordi Amat battle for the ball during. Photo: Nigel French
Leicester City's Daniel Drinkwater and Swansea City's Ki Sung-yueng (left) battle for the ball. Photo: Nigel French
Leicester City's Daniel Amartey (left) and Swansea City's Modou Barrow throw up water as they challenge for the ball. Photo: Nigel French
Leicester City's Jamie Vardy celebrates scoring their first goal. Photo: Darren Staples

Stuart James

The thunder and lightning were relentless and so were Leicester City for the majority of the game, as the Premier League champions got their title defence up and running with a victory that was far more convincing than the scoreline suggests. Jamie Vardy registered his first goal of the season and Wes Morgan scored the second against a Swansea City side who seemed resigned to defeat until Leroy Fer's late header gave them a flicker of hope where there should have been none.

Leicester, who controlled this game for so long, ought to have been out of sight by the time Fer powerfully headed home in the 80th minute after a rare Swansea attack. Riyad Mahrez squandered a chance to put the game to bed shortly before the hour with a poor penalty kick that Lukasz Fabianski saved and it was a moment that Leicester were almost left to regret when Fer's goal encouraged Swansea to push for an unlikely equaliser.

It was a strange ending to a game that finished in farcical conditions, with the incessant rain causing the ball to get stuck in puddles of water on a surface that was close to unplayable in the final five minutes. Leicester, however, weathered the storm in more ways than one to hold on for Claudio Ranieri's 100th Premier League win and an important three points.

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With Leicester so dominant from the outset, the only surprise was that we had to wait until the 32nd minute for the opening goal. Playing at a high tempo and looking more like the Leicester of last season, the home team pinned Swansea back and kept probing for the breakthrough. Vardy's pace had troubled Swansea several times before the goal. Only a crude foul by Federico Fernandez, which earned the Swansea centre-half a yellow card, stopped Vardy from running clear early in the game. On another occasion Kyle Naughton was left for dead near the touchline.

From Leicester's point of view the only thing missing was the finishing touch but everything came together just after the half-hour in the most familiar fashion as Danny Drinkwater, who set up five goals for Vardy last season, linked with up the England striker once again.

The move started with some neat one-touch passing deep inside the Leicester half involving Drinkwater, Daniel Amartey and Mahrez. It was Mahrez's cushioned header that found Drinkwater and there was only one thing in the midfielder's mind when he looked up and saw the Swansea defence playing a high line. The through ball was executed perfectly and left the Swansea defence hopelessly exposed, with Fernandez appealing in vain for offside as Vardy outpaced Jordi Amat in the right channel. Vardy took a touch and hammered a right-footed shot in off the near upright.

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Normal service resumed seven minutes after the restart as Leicester doubled their lead. Marc Albrighton's corner was never dealt with by Swansea as Fer and Fernandez challenged Robert Huth and Morgan, who thumped home a volley from six yards after the ball fortunately rolled over his shoulder.

With Swansea in disarray, Mahrez should have made it 3-0 four minutes later when Amat, who has been tasked with replacing the departed Ashley Williams, brought down Shinji Okazaki in the area. Roger East had no option but to point to the spot but Mahrez telegraphed his intentions and saw a weak penalty saved by Fabianski low to the keeper's right.

It was a reprieve for Swansea and one that they took advantage of later in the game when Fer, climbing above Morgan, headed beyond Ron-Robert Zieler, a second-half replacement for Kasper Schmeichel, who had seemed to injure his groin when rushing from his line to make a clearance.

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