Sensing that the occasion might be too raw-edged for his Italians, Francesco Baiano and Stefano Eranio, who remained on the bench, Smith primed his side for a high-octane battle and was gratified by their response as they met muscle with muscle. Leicester felt aggrieved, with justification, over a penalty they should have had in the 11th minute but, on balance, the points went to the right team.
When these sides met last season, Leicester stunned Derby by scoring four times in the opening 15 minutes on a nightmare Sunday afternoon that has haunted Smith's side ever since. But Derby defended with such concentrated passion this time, subduing the threat of Leicester's powerhouse striker, Emile Heskey, that there was never any real possibility of a repeat.
None the less, had Leicester's penalty claims been upheld, the match might have evolved along different lines. There appeared to be a clear push by Schnoor on Robbie Savage but the referee, Graham Poll, told the Leicester manager, Martin O'Neill, afterwards that he had not seen the incident, which also escaped his assistant's notice.
"That's not a lot of good to us," O'Neill said. "It is too easy to say you didn't see it. Referees still won't see things if they turn professional, although I suppose it might make them more accountable."
Before they went ahead, however, Derby were carving out more opportunities. Spencer Prior and Darryl Powell both went close, then Jacob Laursen wobbled the crossbar with a deflected shot from a free-kick.
The balance of play pointed to a Derby breakthrough and it came after 34 minutes. The home crowd screamed for a penalty again when Dean Sturridge, wide on the left, went down under Frank Sinclair's tackle but the Derby forward scrambled to his feet and saw Schnoor arriving unmarked in support. The German wing-back, perfectly balanced, swept home his first goal for the club.
Derby had to adjust to the loss of Igor Stimac through injury early in the second half but before Leicester could capitalise they were 2-0 in front. Schnoor used his pace to reach the byline to the left and his high, deep cross was driven back into the six-yard box by Rory Delap. The ball struck Sturridge and when it bounced loose, Wanchope, whose touches had been a delight throughout, athletically hooked it past Kasey Keller.
Desperate to salvage something, Leicester made a double substitution and switched to all-out attack, with four up front. But Derby were able to absorb everything thrown at them.Reuse content