Vardy stretches scoring run as Leicester return to second
Jamie Vardy continued to close in on his own Premier League goal scoring record as Leicester regained second spot in the table with a 2-0 victory over Watford at the King Power Stadium.
The striker’s second-half penalty saw him on the score sheet for the seventh match in a row as Brendan Rodgers’ team simultaneously equalled a club record of seven straight wins in the top flight dating back to March 1963.
During Leicester’s title-winning season of 2015/16, Vardy scored in 11 consecutive Premier League matches. Should he maintain his form, he would equal those figures in Boxing Day’s blockbuster clash at home to leaders Liverpool.
The Foxes toiled at times on Wednesday night against an unadventurous but organised Watford side who, after the sacking of Quique Sanchez Flores at the weekend, were under the guidance of under-23 coach Hayden Mullins.
The visitors stretched Leicester on the break a handful of times without ever troubling Kasper Schmeichel and Vardy’s 55th-minute penalty, along with James Maddison’s strike deep into injury time, was enough for Rodgers’ men to go back above Manchester City.
Watford started nervously and should have been behind early on. Ayoze Perez’s blushes were spared by an offside flag when he blazed an effort over the crossbar from 10 yards out after two minutes.
However, there was no such excuse shortly afterwards when, once more found unmarked by another Vardy cross from the left byline, he dragged his volley so wide off target he returned it to his team mate – who was then given offside.
The Hornets eventually settled, stemming the flow of chances despite allowing Leicester the majority of the possession. It took Rodgers’ side until midway through the first half to threaten the visitors’ goal again.
Neat build up play between Maddison and Harvey Barnes, which included a one-two on the edge of the penalty area, saw the latter get in behind the Watford defence but Barnes shot tamely into the side netting when attempting to beat Ben Foster at his near post.
Another mazy run into the penalty area from Barnes brought Foster’s first save of the match after 36 minutes as he rushed from his line to block the youngster’s shot.
Watford survived a VAR check a minute later after Vardy went to ground under a challenge by Adrian Mariappa, who appeared to catch the striker’s foot after Vardy got to the ball first.
Referee Craig Pawson’s initial decision to award Watford a free-kick stood, although issuing Vardy with a yellow card seemed harsh.
Foster was quick out of his goal again five minutes into the second half to block another effort from Barnes, before a second VAR decision this time awarded Leicester a penalty.
Watford defender Adam Masina shoved his hand in the face of Jonny Evans as a cross came into the area, with the home centre-half falling to the ground.
The check confirmed Pawson’s decision to point to the penalty spot and Vardy coolly steered his kick to Foster’s left as the goalkeeper anticipated an effort down the middle.
Masina went some way towards making amends just after the hour when a superb piece of defending denied Vardy a second goal.
Youri Tielemans played in Vardy down the left side of the area and the diminutive striker clipped the ball over the onrushing Foster, only for Masina to slide in front of the line – and the arriving Barnes – to hoist the ball over the crossbar.
Substitute Dennis Praet saw a goalbound effort blocked as Leicester looked for the goal that would give them some breathing space.
It did not come until after Domingos Quina provided a rare test for Schmeichel with a mildly heart-stopping moment in injury time, before Mariappa got the ball stuck under his feet allowing Maddison to run through on goal and beat Foster with virtually the last kick of the match.