Watford’s difficult run of form was extended at the King Power this afternoon but they at least went down with a fight in a performance that suggested a win might be just around the corner.
Jamie Vardy’s 41st-minute penalty and a late strike from Riyad Mahrez were the difference between the sides on the scoreboard but Watford were well in the game and could easily have snatched a point. Indeed they may well have done had Harry Maguire not produced a magnificent block to deny Andre Gray 15 minutes from time.
It was the sort of intervention that decides matches. Gray couldn’t believe he hadn’t scored. At the other end and just to rub salt into the wounds, Mahrez made no mistake in stoppage time and that was the difference between the two sides: the ability to fashion and take chances.
You could certainly not accuse Watford of not having a go and Leicester had to defend for their lives at times, particularly in the last 15 minutes as the Hornets threw the kitchen sink at the hosts, finishing with Gray, Troy Deeney and Stefano Okaka up front and only three at the back.
Watford were bravely prepared to risk conceding a second in chasing an equaliser. Leicester knew they were in a game and the fact their two best players were centre-backs Aleksandar Dragović and Maguire told its own story.
This defeat will be hard to take, and it’s now one win in 11, but encouragingly the Golden Boys showed glimpses here of recapturing some of their early-season form. They were at it for large parts, pressed well and looked cohesive. They just need a lucky break and a bit more quality in the final third. The return of the injured players will help enormously.
It was a crying shame Watford conceded when they first did as they had done all the hard work in quietening the usually boisterous home crowd and restricting Leicester to very little.
The Hornets had a nice shape about them, were compact in defence, organised and looked lively on the break. They forced the first corner inside a minute and could have had the dream start had Dragović not flicked a cross from Roberto Pereyra off the head of Christian Kabasele at the far post.
It was also encouraging to see Orestis Karnezis make such a confident start, the Greek international positioning himself well and standing tall to palm away a fierce drive from Vardy after five minutes. The England striker probably should have scored but let’s give Karnezis some credit.
A combination of Richarlison, of all people, and Karnezis then denied Wilfred Ndidi from six yards out but apart from that, the Hornets were comfortable and kept the hosts at arm’s length in the first period.
Going forward, Troy Deeney linked the play well and he was at the heart of a move on 18 minutes that resulted in Abdoulayè Doucoure testing Kasper Schmeichel with a daisy cutter from the left-hand edge of the box.
Deeney against Maguire was one of the game’s more fascinating subplots, with both giving as good as they got in a good old-fashioned battle between centre-forward and centre-back. Deeney managed to wriggle free from the attentions of the England defender, who worked under Silva at Hull, on 38 minutes and buried a shot into the bottom left-hand corner. It was a great finish, it was just a shame it was ruled out for a marginal offside call.
The Hornets were well in the game and looking like getting to half-time on level terms at the very least when Molla Waguè felled the electric Vardy when he was running away from goal. Lee Probert had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and Vardy made no mistake from 12 yards, sending Karnezis the wrong way. It was a tough pill to chug down.
But Watford swallowed their medicine and fashioned an early chance at the start of the second, Andrè Carrillo’s cross almost finding Deeney but for a crucial interception by Dragović again. The Austrian defender was having a fine game.
If that was a half chance then a full one fell the way of Shinji Okazaki shortly after when Vardy cut the ball back for the 100-cap Japanese international. He struck the ball first time left footed but Karnezis got down well to save. There was then some good defending by Christian Kabasele on Vardy after the speedy forward charged down the inside right channel.
What Marvin Zeegelaar did shortly after was outstanding. A wicked cross from the left by Ben Chilwell fizzed across the face of goal and looked certain to be put in at the far post by Vardy but the Dutchman scrambled back to not only prevent the ball reaching find but also doing incredibly well not to scream one in his own net. It was defending of the highest order.
Sensing the need to turn the tide and get something out of the game, Marco Silva threw on Gray, switched to two up front and went for broke. “C’mon Watford, c’mon Watford,” roared the 2,000 strong away support.
They were out of their seats on 75 minutes when Deeney expertly picked out the run of Gray. He steadied himself and looked certain to score until Maguire came from nowhere to block his shot that was certain to end up in the back of the net. That was the team’s big moment and you felt it wasn’t going to be their day after that chance went begging.
That sinking feeling was confirmed in stoppage time when Mahrez made the game safe on the break at the death. The second goal was a touch harsh but sometimes you don’t always get what you deserve in football.
HORNETS | Karnezis (GK), Janmaat (Okaka 82), Waguè (Prödl 61), Kabasele, Zeegalaar, Watson, Doucourè, Pereyra (Gray 60), Carrillo, Richarlison, Deeney.
Subs | Bachmann, Capoue, Mariappa, Sinclair.