Watford vs Leicester match report: Foxes open up five-point gap after Riyad Mahrez's super-strike

Watford 0 Leicester City 1

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The Independent Football

There are nine steps to heaven and a first English League title in their history. Leicester City, five points clear, look increasingly confident of taking them. Given a bonus earlier in the day by the draw at White Hart Lane, they extracted further advantage with a second-half goal by Riyad Mahrez, who together with Jamie Vardy has now supplied 34 of them in the Premier League alone this astonishing season. 

There was even a chant from their followers of “We’re gonna win the League”, albeit it sotto voce. The one about going on a European tour was performed far more confidently.

In contrast, Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney have temporarily lost their way, and as a result Watford have not scored in five of their last six games. Ighalo’s weak header late on summed them up. 

Deeney, Watford’s captain,  believes Bournemouth to be the hardest-working team in the League, but Leicester cannot be far behind in anybody’s estimation. As usual they chased everything and hounded the opposition when out of possession. 

They could also have scored three times in the opening quarter of the game through Vardy. First he hared after Marc Albrighton’s pass down the left and stayed upright after rounding Heurelho Gomes, but his first touch was just too heavy and took the ball out of play. 

From the same move the England striker hooked a shot across goal, and then he fed Mahrez on the right and met the return pass at the near post, but jabbed it wide under heavy pressure from Sebastian Prödl. 

In between times Gomes had to save from full-back Christian Fuchs, Nathan Aké arriving just in time to prevent a follow-up. 

The home side had lost their impressive Uruguayan centre-back Miguel Britos to a hamstring injury in the warm-up, which meant moving the Chelsea loanee Aké into the middle, sacrificing a little height, with Jose Holebas at left-back.

Aké quickly became a central figure in every sense, following his saving tackle with a fine leap at the other end to head Ben Watson’s free-kick on to the top of the crossbar.

Pushed back early on, Watford recovered well. Ighalo drifted out to the right and although Nordin Amrabat could not turn in his cross, the ball fell for Deeney, whose shot was straight at Kasper Schmeichel. Deeney was then denied by Schmeichel rushing 30 yards from goal to head away after Wes Morgan’s miscued header.

The only jarring moment was Amrabat’s blatant dive, not in the spirit of the match and rightly drawing a yellow card from Jon Moss.

Two half-time substitutions, bringing in Jeffrey Schlupp and Andy King, reinvigorated Leicester, who scored within 10 minutes. Fuchs crossed from the left and a poor defensive header from Holebas fell to Mahrez, who shifted the ball to his left before striking it fiercely  past Gomes. 

Only a couple of minutes later Robert Huth’s header after a clever free-kick worked by Mahrez and N’Golo Kantée was barely kept out by the goalkeeper.

Watford: (4-3-2-1) Gomes; Nyom (Anya, 82), Aké, Prödl, Holebas; Suarez (Abdi, 64), Capoue (Oulare, 87), Watson; Amrabat, Deeney; Ighalo. 

Leicester: (4-2-3-1) Schmeichel; Simpson, Morgan, Huth, Fuchs; Kanté, Drinkwater; Mahrez (Amartey, 85), Okazaki (King, 46), Albrighton (Schlupp, 46); Vardy.

Referee: Jon Moss.

Man of the match: Mahrez (Leicester)

Match rating: 7/10