Watford

1

Leicester City

2

Emmanuel Dennis’ first goal in his second Watford spell was not enough for the Hornets as Championship pace-setters Leicester City claimed all three points at Vicarage Road.

Patson Daka scored an early penalty as the hosts endured a tough start which included losing Vakoun Bayo to injury inside two minutes.

The Hornets were well in the game against the league leaders and looked threatening going forward but fell further behind in the second half when Ricardo Pereira scored following a swift counter.

Dennis tapped home his first goal since his return on loan but a deserved leveller could not be found as the Foxes’ march towards the league title continued.

The Hornets made four changes from the 3-0 FA Cup replay defeat to Southampton on Tuesday evening, including Ben Hamer replacing Daniel Bachmann in goal.

James Morris and Francisco Sierralta also dropped to the bench with Jamal Lewis and Jake Livermore restored to the side, while Bayo was preferred to Mileta Rajović in attack.

Ken Sema made his first league start since Boxing Day after completing his return from injury, while captain Wesley Hoedt was named for his 50th Hornets appearance.

Watford suffered their early blow when Bayo pulled up injured off the ball, leading to an early introduction for Rajović.

Tom Dele-Bashiru’s loose pass led to a Foxes breakaway when the game resumed but Abdul Fatawu’s attempted ball to Daka was well cut out by Hoedt.

After nine minutes, the Foxes took the lead from the spot when Giorgi Chakvetadze's outstretched leg was adjudged to have brought down Dennis Praet in the box.

Daka stepped up and rifled low past Hamer and into the bottom right corner to give his side the perfect start.

Hamer was quickly needed to rush out and avert the danger after the Hornets played him into trouble, before Daka blazed over the bar from the edge of the area.

On 19 minutes, a promising Hornets counter-attack saw Jamal Lewis swing in a cross but Matheus Martins was eased out at the back post.

At the other end, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall charged powerfully into the box before lashing his shot wide of the near post under close attention from Watford defenders.

The Golden Boys more than once made life difficult for themselves by giving the ball away and another Leicester break resulted in James Justin sending a cross too high when nicely placed.

Ismaël Koné then orchestrated a bright moment for the hosts, switching the ball onto his right foot and drilling a low shot which deflected just wide before the referee denied a corner after blowing for a foul.

Hoedt, receiving the ball with ample time to shoot from range and encouraged by the crowd, then let fly but his effort was comfortable for Leicester stopper Mads Hermansen.

A barnstorming run by Sema, who initially freed himself from the grasp of Harry Winks’ clear shirt-pull, lifted Vicarage Road but ultimately fizzled out before the Leicester man was booked.

Ryan Porteous provided a critical sliding block in the opposite box with Praet’s delivery poised to find Daka for a tap-in.

A series of overhit crosses ended the half for a Hornets side searching for a killer final ball as they went in at the break a goal behind.

Sema’s cross was sent wide by Rajović’s deflected volley as Watford began brightly after the break.

But it was from a strong home position that Leicester doubled their advantage as Pereira broke to devastating effect.

The Foxes skipper ran at pace down the centre of the pitch and steered the ball past Hamer after a neat one-two with Fatawu.

Watford tried to immediately respond and a Lewis cross had to be turned behind by Faes.

A triple Hornets change saw Yáser Asprilla, Dennis and Ryan Andrews introduced for Sema, Rajović and Martins.

Dennis, now leading the line, sent a free-kick over the bar with his first touch but was presented with a gift moments later.

A loose back pass from Winks found the Nigerian with just the empty net to aim for and he made no mistake with Hermansen stranded out of position.

With Vicarage Road finding its voice, Hoedt attempted to catch out Hermansen with an effort from inside his own half but there was to be no repeat of his Hull City wonder goal as the ball went wide.

Tom Ince came on for Watford in place of Chakvetadze as Leicester introduced Jamie Vardy.

Dennis then powerfully darted into the box but his shot from a tight angle was saved by Hermansen at the near post.

Ince cleared the crossbar from just outside the area as the Hornets looked for an equaliser heading into the last 10 minutes.

Asprilla set his sights on the goal with his effort, which looked to be going well wide, taking a big deflection which took it only just past the post.

From the resulting corner Hoedt snuck around the back and saw a close range effort blocked by Hermansen, but the flag then went up.

Seven minutes of added time were announced but it was not to be for Watford who deserved to take something from the game.

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