Jamie Vardy breaks Sheffield United with late Leicester winner

Boyhood Sheffield Wednesday fan relished last-minute winner to deepen Blades’ woes

Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy takes out the corner flag celebrating his winning goal against Sheffield United. Photo: Jason Cairnduff/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy takes out the corner flag celebrating his winning goal against Sheffield United. Photo: Jason Cairnduff/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

 

Sheffield United 1 Leicester City 2

No one relishes scoring against Sheffield United more than Jamie Vardy, and the boyhood Wednesday fan struck in the closing seconds at Bramall Lane to leave Chris Wilder’s team cursing another defeat.

United looked to be on course for a hard-fought point after Oli McBurne broke his scoring duck to cancel out a goal by Ayoze Pérez but Vardy netted on the break in stoppage time to end Leicester’s four-game winless streak and prolong United’s woe.

United remain rooted to the bottom of the table with one point from 11 matches. No team in English football has survived after such a paltry haul from their first 11 matches of a campaign.

Wilder was accused of negativity by some fans for suggesting this week that a 17th-place finish had become United’s primary target but that was surely intended to stress to his players they were very much in a fight for survival, just in case that was not already obvious. The Blades certainly began in battle mode with McBurnie and Oliver Burke leading the pressing from the front as if to show that even if they could not score, they could at least buffet their opponents.

Once Leicester adapted to the demands imposed by the hosts, Brendan Rodgers’ team began to take control with sharp passing and movement. Vardy nearly broke through with his first involvement, peeling away from his marker to collect Pérez’s shrewd pass and lash a ferocious shot against the near post from 15 yards.

That was a splendid effort that spoke of the striker’s confidence. Burke provided a perfect contrast 12 minutes later when, after making a nice run to collect a beautifully weighted pass from McBurnie, he took a poor first touch as he tried to dodge the advancing goalkeeper and then lost his footing as he tried to adjust. Kasper Schmeichel resisted any urge to laugh he as picked up the ball untroubled.

Pérez, too, might have been classed as a striker low on confidence but he betrayed no traces of uncertainty after being entrusted with his fist league appearance since the home defeat to Aston Villa in mid-October. He linked midfield and attack cleverly and finished emphatically when his first chance came. That was in the 24th minute, when Marc Albrighton got on the end of a cross from the left by the intrepid James Justin. Albrighton’s shot was blocked but it rebounded to Pérez, who swept a half-volley into the net from eight yards, too powerful for Aaron Ramsdale to stop even though the goalkeeper got a hand to it.

A side bereft of hope would have shrivelled up and invited defeat. But Wilder’s men fought back and scored just three minutes later. McBurnie, who had taken 19 shots this season without finding the net, showed determination and fine technique to outjump Wesley Fofana and Youri Tielemans to meet John Lundstram’s corner and guide a downward header into the net.

Then Leicester tried to re-assert their class, popping the ball around with skill and zest and forcing United to defend tigerishly. Max Lowe took things a bit too far when he pulled down Tielemans to stop a counter-attack. He was booked and Wilder replaced him at half-time to ensure he did not attract a second yellow card.

United were relieved to get to the break on level terms after Pérez threaded a pass through to James Maddison, whose shot from 15 yards struck the same post that Vardy had hit.

Leicester continued to dominate possession after the interval, with United defending deep to deprive Vardy of space to exploit. Leicester applied plenty of pressure but could not muster enough creativity to penetrate. And the home team threatened on sporadic counter-attacks.

Ramsdale rescued his defence when Vardy got a rare chance to run on to a pass over the top, the goalkeeper haring out of the box to head clear. But Vardy had the last laugh. John Fleck lost the ball in midfield, Maddison released Vardy and the striker raced clear to plunge a dagger in Blades’ hearts. – Guardian

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