Adam Redfern reporting from the King Power Stadium

Leicester City 1-2 Watford


Watford hammered the ultimate blow to Leicester City’s play-off hopes on Friday evening after Gianfranco Zola’s outfit outclassed a deflated Foxes side.

A wonder goal from Chelsea loanee Nathaniel Chalobah was the highlight of the night, which Zola admitted to being a sweeter strike to anything the former Chelsea striker had ever scored in his career.

The youngster’s mesmerising effort from 30 yards which stunned the Foxes came minutes after hotshot Troy Deeney gave the visitors a somewhat undeserved lead. Harry Kane got a goal back for the home side, but the visitors took all three points with a 2-1 victory.

Impressive free-flowing football early on from both sides created an intense atmosphere as the crucial fixture hung in the balance, with both sides searching for the three points which would make rather than break their season.

With Leicester in desperate need of a victory to keep their play-off ambitions alive the result leaves them relying on those around them to seal their fate. Whatever that may be their recent form has not helped matters. Despite beating Bolton Wanderers at home and taking a valuable point away from high-flyers Crystal Palace last weekend, the four points gained in the last two came off the back of a 10 game winless streak.

The early stages of Friday’s fixture saw both sides providing entertaining football, with Watford in particular looking increasingly threatening on the break. Leicester’s players were evidentially aware of the form of visitor’s starman Matej Vydra who didn’t get a look in from the ever present centre back pairing of Wes Morgan and Michael Keane.

The first chance of the night fell to the towering centre half Morgan, who rose highest to Matty James’ corner, but his header cleared Manuel Almunia’s crossbar and to little avail. Minutes later Ritchie De Laet tried his luck from the edge of the area but Watford’s defenders got out quickly to close him down.

When Watford did get their opportunity, the defiance of shot stopper’ Kasper Schmeichel inadvertently prevented his side from falling behind, with a world-class save after spilling the initial effort of Chalobah. The visitor’s presence in the game began to grow and on 39 minutes took the lead. The solid defence of Leicester suffered a minor lapse in concentration, leaving Deeney with the simple task of slotting a close range volley past Schmeichel.

The blow added to Nigel Pearson’s frustration who had just seen Andy King fire agonisingly wide from the edge of the area, and Lloyd Dyer’s marauding run and cross narrowly avoiding Chris Wood in the box who failed to connect.

Then with Leicester nursing their recent setback, Chalobah hammered another nail in their coffin, literally. Falling to the midfielder 35 yards out, unexpectedly he let fly with a thunderous effort which hit the net within a split second via the crossbar, leaving Schmeichel completely helpless to his brilliancy.

The second-half started with Leicester searching for an early goal to get themselves back into the game and they almost got what they were looking for: David Nugent with time and space in the box but he fired his volley wide.

On the 60th minute substitute and Tottenham Hotspur loanee Harry Kane made sure it was game on, when he diverted Paul Knochesky’s drilled cross past Almunia with his head.

With Leicester in the ascendancy, an equaliser looked increasingly likely but with time running out a goal had to come fast. With chances passing time eventually did run out on the Foxes and potentially on their chances of a play-off place, with a second shot at promotion.

For Watford the result keeps their automatic promotion hopes alive, with the promised land of the Premier League almost in sight.

Speaking after the game Leicester City manager Nigel Pearson said: “It’s been another frustrating night for us and unfortunately conceding two goals in quick succession just before half-time, psychologically hit us for six.

“In the last two or three months we’ve not won enough games. We’ve had the opportunity to win the games but unfortunately we’ve not delivered enough wins in this period and it’s put our season from being very very promising to be a very frustrating one.”

Watford manager Gianfranco Zola said: “It is important that we maintain the pressure on Hull and if we have to go to the play-offs then at least we prepare in the best possible way if we have to go there.

“Nathaniel’s (Chalobah) goal was special, to go and score a goal like that there is no plan, you have to go there and just let it happen, its instinct.”

“I think that both sides played Premiership quality football today in large spell particularly in the first-half. “


Leicester City: Schmeichel; De Laet; Konchesky; Morgan; King; Dyer (Kane 58’); Keane; James; Schlupp (Nugent 45’); Knockaert (Marshall 64’); Wood. Unused substitutes: Drinkwater; Whitbread; Logan; Moore.

Watford: Almunia; Hogg; Deeney; Doyley; Pudil; Vydra; Anya (Briggs 71’); Abdi (Battocchio 82’); Cassetti; Chalobah (78’); Ekstrand. Unused substitutes: Murray; Bond; Geijo; Forestieri.

Attendance: 25,091


Gianfranco Zola consoles Leicester manager Nigel Pearson.

Gianfranco Zola consoles Leicester manager Nigel Pearson.