Condemned Akinbiyi handed lifeline by charitable Sunderland

Leicester 1 Sunderland 0
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The Independent Online

Leicester City's first home win of the season coincided with Ade Akinbiyi's first premiership goal in six months. Both achievements flew in the face of a match that was part farce, part comedy and a condemnation of standards in the lower Premiership. Akinbiyi, a £5m record signing from Wolves, where rumour has it he could soon return, has become something of a cult figure at Leicester, whose fans have treated his inability to score goals with a sardonic mixture of cruelty and sympathy.

He said: "Lots of people have written off my career, but I never lost my confidence.''

The Leicester manager, Dave Bassett, added: "He's been called all sorts of names, but has come through. It takes some guts to go out there where so many people had slaughtered him.''

In truth, had Akinbiyi not managed to convert one of a host of chances yesterday, he would probably have been "slaughtered'' all over again. For this was a match in which he was not alone in reducing everything that came his way to absurdity. Not one attacker showed a glimmer of control, not simply in tight situations but also when there was time and space.

It had been a sobering reflection of Leicester's situation this season that earlier in the week they interpreted a goalless draw at Blackburn as irrefutable cause for optimism. Certainly Bassett's men offered a semblance of teamwork, but much of his own work now concerns a search for affordable new players.

There is some urgency since Muzzy Izzet, who has the ability to restore the midfield tenacity on which the club based its previous success, is determined to move on. If, apart from the result, there was a positive aspect of Leicester's performance yesterday, it was a small revival in that area.

Leicester's prolonged inability to find the opposition's net was comprehensive- ly summarised when, in only the fourth minute, Stanislav Varga virtually gifted them a goal. His cumbersome turn allowed Trevor Benjamin to snatch the ball away, but inadequate control when faced with a goal despairingly defended by Thomas Sorensen saw him twice lose possession – along with the opportunity.

Neither Benjamin nor Akinbiyi can properly befriend a football, and indeed Akinbiyi seemed determined to treat it like an enemy as he, too, made a couple of almost comic attempts to beat Sorensen from eight yards.

Not that Sunderland were competent in their finishing. A promising pass from Michael Gray low into the penalty area came too quick for Kevin Phillips, who failed to bring it down, but that was forgivable by the continuing abuse of opportunities seen from Akinbiyi, Benjamin and Andrew Impey. All three managed to avoid contact with a cross from Savage as if it were a hot coal.

The farce was relentless, with Sunderland taking more than a supporting role. Six minutes into the second half, Bernt Haas skimmed a centre that the excellent Ian Walker stretched to push higher. It dropped to Julio Arca who had half of the goal at which to aim yet retained the theme of the match by missing. The irony of Leicester's goal after an hour was not lost. Akinbiyi was yet again lurking without menace when Lee Marshall headed down and Matt Elliott pushed the ball in his direction.

His first stab at it typically hit Emerson Thome, but this time he knocked in the rebound with an accuracy that had eluded him not merely for this game but since 14 April. Whether that can kick-start his own career and Leicester's climb away from the bottom remains open to scepticism.

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