Leicester City bounce back from wobble as Jamie Vardy sees off ...

17 days ago

Jamie Vardy settled the match in Leicester's favour with a late goal - Getty Images)

Leicester City manager Enzo Maresca’s message was a clear one, as his side showed they are far from finished in the race for promotion.

Leicester City - Figure 1
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The Italian coach had seen Leicester’s 14 point gap between themselves and third place eroded over the past six weeks, to the point where they had dropped out of the top two. Friday’s 1-0 defeat at Bristol City, and the reaction of unhappy Leicester fans, did nothing to dispell a nagging sense of implosion.

Maresca had called for ‘collective unity’ from supporters in his programme notes, but afterwards, he made it clear he would not be changing his methods, even though victories are all that matters now.

But, after 20 minutes, it looked as though the recent malaise would be continuing as Leicester suffered a communication breakdown at a Norwich corner and Gabriel Sara was allowed to move at will among the markers and score from close range. That could easily have hit Leicester’s confidence; instead, the goal only served to galvanise them, and they dominated the rest of the game.

Goals from Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall and Stephy Mavididi – who both found the net in the Championship for the first time since January – put Maresca’s side ahead. Jamie Vardy, a second half substitute, made sure of the points in stoppage time.

The wild celebrations on the touchline summed up Maresca’s relief. But will he be changing his approach to the game in a pressurised run-in to the end of the season? Not a bit of it.

Maresca said: “I think the fans were there, we tried to make them happy by winning the game. I can understand that, for them, it’s the only thing that matters. But I know that sometimes they want us to attack, and be more direct, but it’s never going to happen while I’m here.”

Patson Daka could have been more alert for Sara’s goal, but the comeback began with Wilfred Ndidi’s superb deep cross after 33 minutes which was met by Mavididi who set up Dewsbury-Hall to head the equaliser.

Daka should have made more of a slip by Norwich full-back Jack Stacey – but Leicester took the lead in the 62nd minute when Dewsbury-Hall set up Mavididi who shrugged off Stacey before curling the ball into the far corner. Vardy settled it in the third minute of stoppage time when he pounced after Harry Winks’ shot was blocked.

Maresca explained the feeling of relief was clear and he said: “It was especially for the moment, because for different reasons, we didn’t win so many games.

“So this was important, because we are in the final part of the season. But then we started by conceding a goal, and 1-0 down from a corner, we needed to be mentally strong. But after that, the game was completely in our control, we dominated.

“Probably in the last six games, we won one game and it was the one we didn’t deserve - Sunderland. We lost four games, and not one of them we deserved to lose. At the end, we are human beings - we have emotions so when we scored the last one with Jamie, the game was finished, so we were all happy and we enjoyed the moment.”

Maresca knows Leicester are no longer coasting towards a return to the Premier League – but now it is up to them to put pressure on Leeds and Ipswich who have combined to close the gap in dramatic fashion. But the Leicester manager knows that only wins can secure a top-two finish.

He added: “We lost a game at home after Leeds had played earlier than us and dropped points, and we didn’t win. The important thing is that we won this game. Now we’ll see what happens.”

Norwich stayed in the top six ahead of Saturday’s East Anglia derby with Ipswich. But manager David Wagner conceded his side will need to improve after failing to build on the opening goal.

The German coach said: “We’re better than what we showed here. This is disappointing, but it can happen.

“I’ll quickly put this to bed because we’ll speak about the truth. I have so much trust and belief in the guys, I know they’ll have the biggest fire in their belly for the Ipswich game. The positives were that we scored a super set-piece goal, so credit to our set-piece department for that.

“But I felt we were well organised until their second goal. In ball possession though, we were below par. We’ve been better in recent weeks, but that doesn’t mean we should automatically have won the game. We were not good enough to get some points out of this game. So we’ll work on it and analyse it.

“It was very clear that too many individuals did not do what they are capable of doing. But they are humans and for us to make sure that everybody is on the same page and our demands are higher than what we showed here.”

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