Irrepressible Jamie Vardy stretched his goalscoring streak to within one match of the Premier League record after Watford goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes suffered a nightmare return to his calamitous Tottenham days as Leicester City’s remarkable run took them level on points with Arsenal and Manchester City at the top of the table.
In a week in which England manager Roy Hodgson had warned him not to have ideas above his station, Vardy responded by scoring for the ninth consecutive game – one away from equalling Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s sequence of 10 in a row, achieved 12 years ago.
Yet none of it might have happened had Gomes not endured a horror afternoon that started when he allowed a tame toe-poke by N’Golo Kanté to slip through his hands to give Leicester a 52nd-minute lead, and which he compounded by giving away the penalty from which Vardy kept himself in the running to equal the Manchester United forward’s 2003 record.
Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri found himself lost for new superlatives to apply to his striker. “What more can I say about Jamie Vardy? I would like to talk more about Riyad Mahrez,” he said, referring to the Leicester winger’s unselfishness in giving the ball to Vardy to take the penalty when in other circumstances the kick would have been his responsibility.
Vardy would prefer to have a central role for England, as he does for Leicester. Hodgson wants him to play wide on the left, a difference that prompted the England manager’s comment that the former non-League striker should be happy to play anywhere for his country.
Ranieri said that the choice lay with Hodgson, yet repeated his conviction that Vardy is at his most effective through the middle. “If he plays through the middle, he can attack on the left or the right,” the Italian said.
After a Watford-dominated first half, Leicester upped their tempo in the second period, the introduction of Shinji Okazaki providing a better link between Vardy and the midfield.
Nonetheless, it was an enormous slice of luck that saw them go ahead. Kanté’s shot, more in hope than expectation, squirmed past Gomes despite the Brazilian getting both hands on it.
It was only the first awful moment of his afternoon. As Leicester looked to make the most of their good fortune, Gomes had what could only be described as a rush of blood.
As Vardy’s electric turn of pace made a through ball from defence his own, Gomes ran straight at him, making no attempt to play the ball as Vardy looked to line up a shot. He felled the Leicester striker with a blatant body check that had referee Roger East pointing without hesitation to the spot.
Watford scored with a penalty of their own, converted by Troy Deeney after Kanté’s foul on substitute Juan Carlos Paredes, but there was to be no denying Leicester, whose last 21 league matches have yielded 47 points.
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