Tom Everest reporting from the King Power Stadium
Leicester City 4-1 Derby County
Leicester City opened up a seven-point lead at the top of the Sky Bet Championship after demolishing promotion rivals Derby County 4-1 at the King Power Stadium on Friday night.
Nigel Pearson’s men showed their superiority throughout, with the insatiable front four of Lloyd Dyer, Anthony Knockaert, David Nugent and Jamie Vardy a constant threat.
The home side took the lead on the 22nd minute with a barn-storming run from De Laet who then had the composure to beat Lee Grant.
But Nigel Pearson had to wait to the beginning of the second half to see his side double their lead, and this time David Nugent found the net after seeing his strike ricochet off Craig Bryson and back on to the striker before nestling in the Derby goal.
Derby weathered a further storm and responded with a goal of their own , against the run of play, as Bryson fumbled the ball over the line following a scramble in the box from a wicked Will Hughes delivery.
However an action-packed five minutes soon paved the end to any Derby revival, as a foolish foul on Vardy from Forsyth in the box handed Nugent the chance to regain Leicester’s lead, just 50 seconds after Derby pulled themselves back in to the game.
Nugent dully dispatched the penalty to make it 3-1, before the victory was sealed when Vardy got his just rewards and found the net to propel Leicester to a spectacular 4-1 home win.
Both sides lived up the their billing, with the opening exchanges highlighting just why they both find themselves in the upper echelons of the Sky Bet Championship.
Although the visitors started brightest, with Hendrick and Hughes instigating the tempo of the play, it was the home side that drew first blood.
The in-form Lloyd Dyer lead out a trademark Leicester counter-attack before unleashing a fierce drive which was parried by Lee Grant and the rebound fell nicely to Matty James arriving late on the scene- but the Leicester midfielder could only steer wide from 10-yards out.
Ritchie De Laet emphasised his importance to the home side on the 24th minute, after his marauding run was rewarded with a goal to nudge the Foxes in front.
Although most of the home sides play had been worked from the left flank through the insatiable Dyer, it was the Belgian right-back who broke past Simon Dawkins before a neat exchange with David Nugent, released De Laet in to the heart of the Derby County box.
Andre Wisdom was summonsed over from right-back but stood off the full-flowing De Laet who expertly despatched his shot in to the bottom right-hand corner.
The home-side soon found top gear after the goal, with the Foxes running rampant in with Dyer and Nugent forcing Grant in to action on several occasions.
On the 35th minute Nigel Pearson was left wondering how his side hadn’t doubled their lead, as the woodwork twice prevented the flowing Foxes.
First the crossbar denied Jamie Vardy who saw his rebound cannon back off the frame of the goal following sumptuous interplay with strike partner Nugent, and from a set piece just moments later, Liam Moore towered above the Rams defence to power a header against the framework.
Despite their first half superiority, Leicester failed to double their lead as Derby regained some composure in their play as half-time approached to ease the nerves of the visiting team following a first half siege.
The second half started in the same vain, with the home team doubling their lead in the 47th minute through Nugent’s 13th goal of the season.
Hesitancy in the Derby back four allowed Vardy to find Nugent who fortuitously saw his shot cannon off Buxton and instantly back off Nugent and in to the bottom corner, squirming past the hapless Grant in the Rams goal.
But after the only lull in the game, came the visiting sides brightest moment, with unlikely scorer Jake Buxton firing his side back in to contention on the 59th minute.
The Derby skipper fumbled home from close range following a vicious corner from Will Hughes to bring the visitors right back in to contention.
However the visitors joy was short-lived as naïve defending from Forsyth handed the home side a penalty and an immediate chance to reinstate their two-goal lead.
The ever-reliable Nugent stepped up and coolly dispatched the penalty in to the side netting, to regain his sides two goal lead just moments after conceding.
To add further insult to injury, Derby conceded another goal just two minutes later, as Jamie Vardy slotted home to curtail a fanatic five minute spell.
Nugent turned provider and found his strike partner in space on the edge of the box with a beleaguered Derby defence berate of shape, Vardy expertly slotted home under the body of Grant to cement Leicester’s dominance in the game.
Leicester cruised through the final twenty minutes, with the only blot on the landscape for Nigel Pearson being an injury sustained to Paul Konchesky on the 70th minute.
However the Foxes did welcome back Chris Wood, to mark an end to his injury hit few months, and the New Zealand international almost marked his comeback with a goal, but he snatched at a first time strike which narrowly went wide of the post.
Deservedly, the dying embers of the game belonged to Leicester City, who coasted to victory with consummate ease.
The victory ensures Leicester City remain top, with Nigel Pearson’s men opening up a seven-point lead on the chasing pack. Meanwhile, defeat for Derby leaves them 4th in the Sky Bet Championship, ten points behind today’s victors Leicester City.
Speaking after the game Leicester City manager Nigel Pearson said: “It was a good performance as a team but there were also so very good individual performances.
“When you play ahead of the fixture programme you have to take advantage of that and I think we did that in style tonight.”
Derby County manager Steve McClaren said: “I am very disappointed but we cam up against a very good Leicester City side.
“You have to be at you’re best physically and mentally and we weren’t tonight.”
Leicester City: Schmeichel, Konchesky (Schlupp 70’), Moore, Morgan, De Laet, James, Drinkwater, Dyer, Knockaert, Nugent and Vardy (Wood 79’)
Subs: Logan, Wasilewski, Hammond, King, Schlupp, Taylor Fletcher and Wood
Derby County: Grant, Forsyth, Wisdom, Keane, Buxton, Hendrick, Bryson, Hughes, Dawkins (Bamford 54’), Ward (Bennett 54’) and Martin (Sammon 75’).
Subs: Legzdins, Freeman, Bailey, Eustace, Sammon, Bennett and Bamford
Attendance: 23,140 (Away: 1252)
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