Leicester City spoil Claudio Ranieri's return to King Power by dispatching unpredictable Watford

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  • Leicester City
    Leicester City
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Claudio Ranieri
    Italian footballer and manager
  • Jamie Vardy
    Jamie Vardy
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
Leicester City's Boubakary Soumare shakes hands with manager Brendan Rodgers after the Premier League match at the King Power Stadium, Watford. Picture date: Sunday November 28, 2021 - Leicester City spoil Claudio Ranieri's return to King Power by dispatching Watford - PA
Leicester City's Boubakary Soumare shakes hands with manager Brendan Rodgers after the Premier League match at the King Power Stadium, Watford. Picture date: Sunday November 28, 2021 - Leicester City spoil Claudio Ranieri's return to King Power by dispatching Watford - PA

Six years to the day after becoming the first player to score in 11 consecutive Premier League matches, Jamie Vardy showed Claudio Ranieri that his predatory instincts remain deadly.

Ranieri’s emotional return to Leicester was disrupted by his former striker, who played such a crucial role in that title-winning season.

Vardy will turn 35 in January but is still indispensable for Leicester, underlining his enduring quality on the anniversary of that evening when he shattered Ruud van Nistelrooy’s record. His two goals enabled Brendan Rodgers to continue his upward momentum, after a recent wobble, as Watford’s inconsistencies returned in a chaotic match affected by snow.

Ranieri was given a warm reception in freezing temperatures, but the goodwill did not extend to the pitch.

He once famously rewarded Leicester’s players with pizza for a clean sheet but Watford have now conceded in their past 23 matches, a club record. He said: “I am positive about Watford because we created more chances than Leicester, but conceding four goals is not good and we can do much better. It was Christmas Day conditions but we fought until the end. We lost because we made mistakes and didn’t score our chances.”

NOVEMBER 28: Watford Manager Claudio Ranieri during the Premier League match between Leicester City and Watford at King Power Stadium on November 28, 2021 in Leicester, England. - GETTY IMAGES
NOVEMBER 28: Watford Manager Claudio Ranieri during the Premier League match between Leicester City and Watford at King Power Stadium on November 28, 2021 in Leicester, England. - GETTY IMAGES

Under the Italian, Leicester lost just three games in their title-winning 2015-16 season, finishing ahead of Arsenal by 10 points, and no revisionism can destroy the achievements of Ranieri and the team he called his band of brothers. A week after the 4-1 thrashing of Manchester United, Watford showed their unpredictability.

Leicester had already threatened before James Maddison gave them the lead in the 16th minute.

It was an inexplicable lack of concentration by Watford centre-half William Troost-Ekong, ducking to avoid Jonny Evans’s lofted pass and allowing Maddison, who was unmarked, to beat Daniel Bachmann with a half-volley.

Going forward, however, Watford did present Leicester with some nervy moments. They had already come close to an equaliser when a Cucho Hernandez shot struck a post, after a deflection.

Yet under a minute later, Watford were awarded a penalty after Wilfred Ndidi upended Emmanuel Dennis in the area, and Josh King’s strike from 12 yards was clinical.

Just when it appeared Watford were in the ascendancy, Leicester regained the lead after a brilliantly instinctive finish from Vardy.

Maddison’s pass over the Watford defence left Vardy with much to do but, as Bachmann raced off his line, the striker dinked the ball over the goalkeeper into the unguarded net.

Vardy claimed a simpler goal two minutes before half-time, glancing Maddison’s corner into the net.

Snow hammered down in the second half and the game became increasingly farcical, with Vardy claiming afterwards that Bachmann wanted referee Andrew Madley to call it off.

Watford responded in the 61st minute. Timothy Castagne stumbled in the conditions and was dispossessed by Dennis, who chipped the ball over Kasper Schmeichel. Leicester claimed a foul on Castagne, but the goal was allowed after a Var check.

Ademola Lookman extended Leicester’s lead from close range after Harvey Barnes lured Bachmann away from goal.

Though the snow subsided, Watford could not establish a foothold and Rodgers has recovered from a sticky spell to win two games in a row.

“Claudio got a great and deserved ovation and it really warmed the heart when you saw that,” Rodgers said. “We were a real threat going forward and it was an important three points for us.”

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