Danny Drinkwater, Jamie Vardy and Sunderland’s lack of spirit were among the talking points after Leicester’s 2-0 win at the Stadium of Light.
Another DD-Day for Leicester
Drinkwater has earned England honours after his superb season in the Leicester engine room, but the midfielder still hasn’t received the credit he has deserves.
The exploits of Riyad Mahrez and Vardy have understandably hogged the headlines, while N’Golo Kante’s emergence has put Drinkwater’s contribution in the shade somewhat.
But the former Manchester United youth-teamer deserves every bit as much praise as any of his team-mates.
He and Kante has disproved the myth that the modern midfielder must have a specialist quality. These days, apparently, you cannot simply be a midfielder; you must be a holder or a creator.
The Leicester pair prove it is still possible to cover every blade of grass and make a decisive contribution in every area. It was Drinkwater who laid on Vardy’s strike, following up a neat nutmeg in his own half with a beautiful ball that carried the perfect amount of back spin so that the striker did not have to break his stride as he paced further away from Younes Kaboul.
It is a link-up that has proved fruitful for the Foxes. All five of Drinkwater’s assists this season have been for Vardy, all from open play.
Kante took the Man of the Match award at the Stadium of Light and may well earn himself a glamorous move in the summer, with Juventus said to be interested, but the Frenchman’s midfield mate deserves every bit as much recognition.
Vardy’s party never stopped
Claudio Ranieri was right to scoff at concerns over his lead striker’s perceived goal drought. Vardy had failed to score in six games prior to the trip to Sunderland, though during that period, the former non-leaguer notched his first England goal – and what a goal it was – so confidence was never going to be a problem.
Vardy was well shackled during a first-half in which Sunderland carried out Allardyce’s instructions to the letter. But the Black Cats were never going to remain flawless. When the hosts’ concentration lapsed and the opportunity arrived, Vardy displayed supreme coolness and confidence to beat Vito Mannone.
The forward’s second goal late on showed how little his confidence had been affected. Vardy demonstrated his now-customary directness, pace, strength and composure to make mugs of Patrick van Aanholt and Mannone and make the game safe for the leaders.
No Black Cats backbone
Sam Allardyce said last week that his Sunderland side had to beat Leicester to survive. Perhaps the desperation was not as great given the Black Cats’ relegation rivals both lost on Saturday, but the pressure still told after giving away the opening goal.
Up until the hour, Sunderland matched the title-chasers, finding a balance between sitting deep enough to deny the Foxes counter-attacking opportunities, while also testing the visitors’ back four.
Allardyce’s side went closest in the first half and Fabio Borini wasn’t far off before the hour. But after going behind, the hosts visibly shrank, much like Mannone seemed to upon facing Vardy when the striker easily found the far corner.
The mood at the Stadium of Light was summed up eight minutes from time when Jack Rodwell wasted a stunning opportunity to drag the hosts level. The reaction was one of resignation rather than exasperation.
Today may not have been the decisive clash that Allardyce billed it last week, but still four points adrift, next week’s visit of Norwich is absolutely must-win. A week, though, is not enough time for the manager to turn some of his shirkers into leaders.
Foxes don’t need ref justice
There has been plenty of talk this week about Leicester getting the benefit of the doubt from officials, with some critics claiming perhaps some whistleblowers are buying into the Leicester fairytale. Perhaps that was at the back of Lee Mason’s mind in the first half, when DeAndre Yedlin kicked Shinji Okazaki in the chest, stopping the Leicester attacker reaching a ball he had just pulled out of the air.
It seemed a blatant offence, with no obvious reason for why the Foxes were denied a spot-kick. Jamie Carragher said it was “100 per cent” a penalty, and the former Liverpool defender should know.
TEAMtalk’s Ref Review demonstrates that Leicester have enjoyed the rub of the green around controversial refereeing decisions, but only the most joyless individual would hold that against the Foxes and point to it as a factor in their title triumph, should they complete the job.