Gianfranco Zola said he will ‘relax with a bottle of wine’ while monitoring Hull City’s progress at Barnsley after his Watford team clinically dismantled Leicester to move within a point of second place in the Championship.
A win will still secure Hull promotion at Oakwell but, after Nathaniel Chalobah added to his growing list of admirers with the thunderous volley just before the break that decided this contest, they know a slip could let Zola’s energetic loan rangers pip them.
Leicester’s fledgling play-off hopes now rest solely in the hands of others and they were breached first by Troy Deeney, with Harry Kane’s second-half header sparking an ultimately fruitless effort to rescue a point.
“We are delighted with the way we played, both teams displayed Premier League football tonight,” said Zola. “If we have to go through the play-offs then we will but the players will not be down.”
“Tomorrow I will relax with a bottle of wine which I have promised to do. I will be [watching for Hull’s result] but I am pleased we displayed another quality tonight. We showed resilience to hold on.”
After a bright start, Leicester were indebted to Kasper Schmeichel – making his 250 English league appearance – for an agile double save from Ikechi Anya and then Matej Vydra from point-blank range.
Almen Abdi forced Schmeichel into a third notable stop but the resultant corner was nodded across goal to Deeney who tapped in.
Leicester’s defence were blameless for the second. Zola, who has divided opinion in recruiting 14 loan players, will be lauded for borrowing Chalobah from Chelsea, and his fierce volley two minutes after Deeney’s opener stunned the home team.
“His [Chalobah’s] career can be what he wants it to be,” said Zola, before admitting that, even in his esteemed career, he had never struck a ball with such power and precision.
Nigel Pearson threw on David Nugent at half-time but it was his second change that reaped reward, Kane heading in Paul Konchesky’s cross.
The 25,000-strong crowd rediscovered its voice but Watford’s defence repeatedly scrambled the ball clear late on to delay celebrations on Humberside by at least 24 hours.
Remarking on Chalobah’s goal, Leicester keeper Schmeichel, fittingly given his side’s frustration at their faltering promotion challenge, said: “I didn’t even see it.”
Leicester City (4-4-2) Schmeichel; De Laet, Morgan, Keane, Konchesky; Dyer (Kane, 58), King, James, Knockaert (Marshall, 65); Wood, Schlupp (Nugent, 46).
Watford (4-4-2) Almunia; Doyley, Pudil, Cassetti, Ekstrand; Anya, Chalobah, Hogg, Abdi; Deeney, Vydra. Subs not used Yeates, Murray, Briggs, Bond, Geijo, Battocchio, Forestieri.
Referee Craig Pawson (S Yorks)