Leicester defeat Wolves to rise out of drop zone

Without a win in their last nine league games, Leicester welcomed a resurgent Wolves side full of confidence from back-to-back league wins over Chelsea and Brentford to the King Power Stadium. Wolves would have been within touching distance of safety with a win.

LEI: Iverson, Kristiansen, Faes, Söyüncü, Castagne, Soumare, Tielemans, Tete, Daka, Ihenacho,Vardy 

WOL: Sa, Semedo, Dawson, Kilman, Toti, Nunes, Gomes, Lerma, Sarabia, Cunha, Costa 

It has been nine long league games since Leicester tasted victory in England’s top-flight since the 4-1 battering of Tottenham at the King Power Stadium back in February. The run culminated in the departure of Northern Irishman Brendan Rodgers, with former Aston Villa and Norwich manager Dean Smith now tasked with keeping the Foxes in the Premier League. 

In his first home game in charge of the Foxes, Dean Smith made four changes to the side that lost 3-1 against reigning champions Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium last time out.  

Crucially, Smith was without key midfielders James Maddison and Harvey Barnes for the clash with Wolves, with Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall also missing from the matchday squad as illness and injury forced Leicester’s selective hand.  

Kelechi Iheanacho, Patson Daka and Tete came into an attacking offense to support lone striker Jamie Vardy. Smith had chosen to play a compact back three against the Citizens, but opted to move to a more familiar 4-2-3-1 against a Wolves side looking for their first PL goal against Leicester City at the King Power.

Things have started to come together for Spaniard Julian Lopetegui’s Wolves side at just the right time, with last weekend’s 2-0 victory over Brentford providing breathing room over the chasing pack. The former Barcelona manager was able to welcome Ruben Neves back to his matchday squad, but named an unchanged side having picked up a credible ten points from the last 18 available. 

Looking to avenge the 4-0 drubbing in the reserve fixture at Molineux back in October, Wolves were put under the cosh in the early stages as the home side started the brighter of the two teams. Nigerian international Iheanacho showed good skill on the left-hand side to find Vardy – and the veteran forward laid off unselfishly to Tete, though the Brazilian took too long to get a shot away and saw his effort blocked by Kilman.

Wolves found their way back into the match with a spell of possession and punished the home side’s indecision in the defensive third, scoring the game’s opening goal. Leicester midfielder Youri Tielemans was found guilty of spending too much time on the ball and lost out to Maria Lemina. The Gabon midfielder showed his creative talents, picking out the run of Matheus Cunha who fired low into the bottom corner past a despairing Daniel Iversen. 

Cunha could have added a second just minutes later for Wolves from Pablo Sarabia’s clever in-swinging cross, but found Iversen in inspired form who sent his effort wide of the post. Wolves were looking the better side, but they would go on to rue their missed opportunity as Leicester struck back against the run of play minutes before half-time via the penalty spot. 

Vardy did well to round Sa from Iheanacho’s delightful through ball, before the Portuguese goalkeeper’s outstretched arm caught the forward – leaving referee Andy Madley no choice but to award a spot kick. Iheanacho calmly sent the Wolves ‘keeper the wrong way for his fifth goal of the season to level the scores at the break. 

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Full of impetus, the Foxes started the second half with a striking confidence – and should have been ahead after substitute Dewsbury-Hall failed to convert from close range following Dana’s effort that was denied by Jose Sa.

Daka came close again as Tielemans picked out the Zambian’s well-timed run – but his shooting boots let him down, and he find well over the crossbar to squander a great chance to take the lead.

Wolves were always in the game though, and posed a threat through Ruben Neves’ set-piece deliveries. Soumare’s petulant foul on the edge of the box almost cost his team, though the Portuguese midfielder sent his free-kick inches over the horizontal.

Leicester looked more likely to score though, and Söyüncü almost put the home side ahead after firing on the turn, forcing a fine reaction stop from Sa after Tete’s corner was poorly cleared by the Wolves defence in the box.

Smith’s side found a breakthrough in the next phase of play, as the Foxes were rewarded after adding extra numbers into attack. Victor Kristiansen spotted Castagne’s run down the flank, playing in the Belgian who struck a first-time effort past Sa!

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Wolves then threw the jugular at their Midlands rivals – Toti bombed forward down the left after being picked out by Nunes, but his shot was straight into the side netting. The home side camped deeper into their own half, but remained defensively solid for the remainder of the game. The excellent Faes and Söyüncü produced numerous blocks to avert danger and break up play. 

There was late drama as Wolves would see a penalty appeal for a handball offence by Wout Faes was rejected by Andy Madley and his VAR team. Ultimately, Leicester managed to hold on and gain a vital victory that moves them outside of the relegation zone.