Just as in their previous home fixture, Leicester brought high-flying visitors from the South Coast down to earth. Three weeks ago they spoiled Southampton's 100 per cent record, and yesterday they inflicted a first defeat of the campaign on Brighton, Yuki Abe's 46th-minute header earning a narrow but deserved victory against opponents who finished a man short after the late dismissal of Marcos Painter.
It was a result that provided a welcome boost for the home manager, Sven-Goran Eriksson, after a week that brought newspaper speculation that he was already under pressure from Leicester's Thai owners after following up a £10 million summer spree on 12 new signings with an indifferent start to the season markedby tinkering with selectionand tactics.
Leicester managed to put their inconsistency behind themhere, however, with what Eriksson described as their first 90-minute display of the season. "I am happy that we performed for 90 minutes finally. Against Southampton we performed for maybe 60 minutes, then suffered. Today we suffered as well but not in the same way. We stood up to a very good team.
"The expectation on the club, the team, is very high because of the investment," added Eriksson, playing down the reported pressure. "We've never tried to hide that our goal is to try to go up, it is a big goal and when things go badly, it is always the same – you never talk about a director leaving a club or a player, it is always the manager."
Eriksson might have enjoyed an even better afternoon had Leicester not had a goal disallowed after 16 minutes when the referee, Graham Scott, rather hastily blew his whistle for a trip on Darius Vassell on the edge of the box, just moments before Lee Peltier drove a low shot past Casper Ankergren.
That perceived injustice brought the home players, and supporters, to life but Leicester, despite applying intermittent pressure, tested the Brighton goalkeeper only a couple of times in a tepid first period, the Dane saving low from Andy King, then tipping over a Sol Bamba header froma corner.
Ankergren was powerless, however, to stop Abe making the breakthrough within 60 seconds of the restart. The Japanese international timed his run into the Brighton box perfectly to meet Vassell's left-wing cross and power a header past the Danish custodian.
At that stage, Brighton's only goal threat had come in the opening minutes, when Craig Mackail-Smith directed a tame far-post header at Kasper Schmeichel. The same player spurned the opportunity of a near-immediate Brighton equaliser when scooping the ball over the crossbar from inside the six-yard box after Ashley Barnes had nodded on a Painter centre.
At the other end, Vassell and home debutant Jermaine Beckford troubled Brighton with their movement and work- rate, and the former could have eased Leicester nerves when freed by Beckford on the right of the box, only to shoot into the side-netting.
Gus Poyet accepted that Brighton "were not good enough" but they might still have equalised but for successive blocks by Peltier and Matt Mills to foil Ryan Harley after he was teed up by the substitute Will Buckley.
Instead Leicester got their first clean sheet since the opening day and Brighton's best start in 54 years came to an end. In the process Poyet's men lost their place at the Championship summit to Middlesbrough – not the ideal start to a week that brings live televised home games with Liverpool and Leeds.
If accepting of the defeat, Poyet did have a complaint about the dismissal of Painter who, already on a yellow, saw red after handling Abe's attempted through-ball.
"The ball hits his hand from two yards, he didn't try to handball it and now he is going to miss Liverpool at home," rued Poyet.
Leicester (4-4-2): Schmeichel; Peltier (Pantsil, 69), Mills, Bamba, Konchesky; Abe, Wellens, King, Fernandes; Vassell, Beckford (Schlupp, 90).
Brighton (4-1-3-2): Ankergren; Calderon, Greer, Dunk, Painter; Bridcutt; Noone (Buckley, 58), Dicker (Navarro, 68), Harley (LuaLua, 68); Barnes, Mackail-Smith.
Referee: Graham Scott
Man of the match: Vassell (Leicester)Reuse content