Football: Sinclair gives game away

Leicester man scores for Chelsea, as he did for Arsenal last week. And they missed him yesterday; Leicester City 2 Chelsea 2 Heskey 10, Izzet pen 89 Wise 48, Sinclair og 90 Half-time: 1-0 Attendance: 21,068
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The Independent Online
FOR THE second Saturday in succession the Leicester defender Frank Sinclair put through his own goal in the dying seconds of injury time, and cost his team crucial points. "He will finish up as the opposition's leading scorer at this rate," quipped his manager, Martin O'Neill, who added that the poor chap was "despondent and bitterly disappointed".

With reason. Last Saturday Sinclair's header gave Arsenal victory; this time Leicester went in front with a hotly-disputed penalty in the last minute of normal time, only to gift Chelsea the equaliser deep into injury time. Leicester's manager, Martin O'Neill, complained that referee Steve Lodge indicated that one minute extra would be played "and they equalised after two minutes 34 seconds." However, there could be few complaints about the result, or the climax to a rousing match. There was truth in the Chelsea manager Luca Vialli's comment that his team, with their defence missing Marcel Desailly and Didier Deschamps following injury in midweek, took 20 minutes to come to terms with, and then dominated, the match.

Chelsea were further hampered in defence by the leg injury suffered by Graeme Le Saux in an innocuous challenge from Emile Heskey after a quarter of an hour. By then Leicester were ahead, thanks to Heskey's first goal since last December. It followed a fine run and shot by Muzzy Izzet which rebounded off Frank Leboeuf and fell invitingly for Heskey. He needed no urging to put it away.

The strangest thing about Chelsea's unusual line-up, with Danish veteran Jes Hogh partnering Leboeuf in defence, was the fact that Chris Sutton, the pounds 10m summer buy, was on the bench. Vialli explained that his key striker was tired after his pre-season exertions followed by two games in five days. Sutton did come on for the last 20 minutes to form a "twin towers" striking duo with Tore Andre Flo. But since this was at the expense of Gianfranco Zola, the strategy seemed questionable.

Only 90 seconds had been played when Dennis Wise was booked, to huge cheers from the home supporters, and bookings followed at a steady pace, seven in all. But it never became a roughhouse, despite Chelsea's snarling reaction to the way Robbie Savage put himself about in midfield.

Chelsea's control of the later stages of the first half was rewarded very early in the second half when, after 48 minutes, Wise atoned for his booking by scoring. A precise pass from Zola sent Albert Ferrer haring down the right to deliver a cross which Wise had space and time to head home.

Leicester were under siege for 15 minutes in the second half, as O'Neill prowled the touchline anxiously, until Andrew Impey got away to thunder a left-footer against an upright. Immediately, Le Saux's replacement, Bjarne Goldbaek, hit the bar at the other end and a 1-1 draw seemed inevitable, especially when Ed De Goey thrust up an arm to turn over substitute Ian Marshall's close range header with five minutes left.

Then came the penalty. Sinclair lofted the ball forward and as Heskey chased it, he fell under Ferrer's challenge. So hotly did Ferrer dispute the award that he was booked, after which Izzet tucked the kick away with normal time expired.

Then Goldbaek got over a cross, Poyet headed forward, Wise lunged at the ball and Sinclair, ever so neatly, stooped to head the ball over his own line. If it makes him feel any better, Vialli praised his former player for a marvellous game. "He didn't deserve that," said Vialli.