Football: Elliott lifts Leicester

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Leicester City yesterday confirmed that mistakes by referees do not necessarily mean the end of life as footballers know it. Despite the hysterical reaction to the wrongly awarded penalty which cost them the FA Cup tie against Chelsea last Wednesday, they emerged at Selhurst Park yesterday as though it was the first day of the season and there was everything to play for.

Considering the mood they must have been in, which can only have darkened as the sympathy for them has mounted, this was an admirable approach. It received its due reward with three goals in the first 33 minutes.

These proved enough - though only just - to repel a Wimbledon revival in the second half and they may also have done for their title challenge. Leicester survived an early scare when they were forced to clear off their line but thereafter swiftly took advantage of a side seemingly being worn down by their weight of matches. The last person with whom Wimbledon might have wished to be confronted was the 19-year-old forward Emile Heskey, who merely enhanced a burgeoning reputation with his power and willingness.

Both the opening goals came from corners which resulted from Heskey's determination, both were taken by Muzzy Izzet and converted to the far post by the unmarked central defender Matt Elliott. Heskey was involved in the third goal when he struggled for and won the ball at the byline and pulled it back for Mark Robins to produce a neat overhead kick which swept past Neil Sullivan.

Three up and surely safe, Leicester might have had a chance to make it four, five minutes from the break, when Andy Clarke went unpunished after he appeared to handle in the area. Still, maybe Leicester could do without penalties at either end for the moment.

They were forced to demonstrate their defensive resilience throughout the second half. Sometimes they were in control, often they were not, as Kenny Cunningham posed a constant threat down the right flank and Dean Holdsworth looked as though he meant business in the area.

Leicester kept their distance and only Holdsworth's spectacular volley went past them. Kevin Poole was safe in goal, everything else went wide. Their manager, Martin O'Neill, was not alone in exalting in Leicester's victory. All neutrals were pretty pleased as well.

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