Football: Leicester beaten by Baiano

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The Independent Online
Leicester City 1

Derby County 2

As the Premiership goes into recess ahead of Saturday's World Cup showdown in Rome, Leicester's bid to close to within a point of the leaders Arsenal was dashed by an Italian at Filbert Street last night, two goals from the former Fiorentina striker Francesco Baiano enabling Derby to attain supremacy over their East Midlands rivals.

The Leicester manager, Martin O'Neill, received the Carling manager of the month award before the match but his side showed signs that the huge commitment around which their game is based is beginning to take its toll. Derby, on a high-scoring roll, move into sixth place, their best position for eight years.

Derby's goal came under sustained spells of pressure as the home side dominated possession but Baiano, acquired for a relative bargain price of pounds 1.5m in the summer twice capitalised on defensive mistakes.

A free-kick swept diagonally to the right flank by Igor Stimac created the first opportunity, Ian Marshall's misjudgment allowing Paulo Wanchope to sidefoot the ball across goal. Baiano darted forward to drill it past Kasey Keller.

The goal was a tribute to Derby's adaptability, given that the loss of Baiano's fellow Italian, Stefano Eranio, injured in the opening two minutes, had required instant reorganisation. Leicester forced half a dozen corners in as many minutes at the start but their opponents weathered the storm.

After scoring 14 goals in three matches, Derby were confident enough to leave out Dean Sturridge, until recently the focal point of their attack, preferring Wanchope and Jamaica's Deon Burton up front, with Baiano in support. The combination combined well six minutes before Leicester fell behind when Burton's flick put Baiano through only for the Italian to be denied by a marginal offside decision.

Leicester produced a typical response to the threat to their unbeaten home record and the first half ended with Jacob Laursen executing a desperate clearance on the goal-line after Steve Guppy, clear on the left, tried to set up Tony Cottee.

Gambling on all-out attack in the second period, Leicester replaced Marshall with Graham Fenton and switched to a 4-3-3 formation. At first there was cause for optimism among the home supporters as Derby were pushed back, but Leicester undermined their cause by giving away a second goal in the 62nd minute, Keller and Robbie Savage misreading one another's intentions as Wanchope scuffed a shot, allowing Baiano to pounce.

Within four minutes Leicester gave themselves fresh hope when Heskey managed to turn a Neil Lennon free-kick into the path of Matt Elliott, who forced home his third goal of the season. But Derby, for whom Mart Poom was outstanding in goal, were not to be denied.

Leicester City (3-5-2): Keller; Prior, Elliott, Marshall (Fenton, h-t); Kamark, Izzet (Savage, 32), Parker (Campbell, 65), Lennon, Guppy; Heskey, Cottee. Substitutes not used: Watts, Arphexad (gk).

Derby County (3-4-1-2): Poom; Dailly, Stimac, Laursen; Rowett, Eranio (Trollope, 2), Carsley, Powell; Baiano (Van der Laan, 82); Wanchope, Burton (Sturridge, 60). Substitutes not used: Simpson, Hoult (gk).

Referee: G Ashby (Worcester).