Shakespeare fairytale continues as Foxes beat Stoke

Steve MADELEY
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Leicester City's Wilfred Ndidi (L) celebrates scoring their opening goal against Stoke City at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England on April 1, 2017

Craig Shakespeare became the first Englishman to win his first four matches as a Premier League manager after reigning champions Leicester City moved closer to top-flight survival with a 2-0 victory at home to Stoke City on Saturday.

Victory saw Shakespeare join some of football's most high-profile coaches -- Portugal's Jose Mourinho, Italy's Carlo Ancelotti, the Netherlands' Guus Hiddink and Spain's Pep Guardiola -- in an exclusive club.

Wilfred Ndidi’s long-range rocket and Jamie Vardy’s latest goal saw the Foxes triumph at their King Power Stadium, with victory taking Leicester to 33 points, just three behind Stoke, who kicked off in ninth place.

January signing Ndidi scored his first Premier League goal in style while England striker Vardy grabbed his fourth goal in as many games.

For all the controversy over Leicester's decision to sack title-winning manager Claudio Ranieri, there is no denying their resurgence under Shakespeare.

This result means that with two more games to play before their Champions League quarter-final against Atletico Madrid, the Midlands club could be all but safe from relegation before the next chapter of their European adventure.

The first chance fell to Leicester in the seventh minute after midfielder Danny Drinkwater lofted a dangerous free-kick into the Stoke goalmouth.

It was flicked on by Robert Huth and took two deflections to the feet of Yohan Benalouane, who was deputising again at centre-back for injured captain Wes Morgan.

But he fired a cross-shot across the face of goal and wide of the far post.

Leicester almost led in the ninth minute after Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross was booked for a crude challenge on Demarai Gray.

The resultant free-kick was delivered by Christian Fuchs onto the head of Huth, whose goal-bound effort was cleared off the line by Erik Pieters.

Gray recovered from his heavy blow and might have put the hosts in front in the 24th minute when his long-range shot flashed just wide.

But it was an unlikely goalscorer who put Leicester ahead in the 25th minute.

- Ndidi's stunning strike -

Nigeria's Ndidi collected a square pass from Danny Simpson and and unleashed a fabulous right-footed shot that bent into the top corner of Lee Grant’s net from 25 yards.

Gray was tormenting Stoke with his quick footwork and a fabulous trick in the 34th minute took him away from Glen Johnson and forced Shawcross into a desperate block.

The resulting corner found its way to Shinji Okazaki, whose overhead kick from 15 yards looped just over.

January signing Saido Berahino had been quiet for Stoke but he had a sight of goal 10 minutes from half-time when he collected a neat pass by Ramadan Sobhi and sent a tame shot at Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

But the hosts posed the greater threat and Grant had to make a smart save to keep out a 20-yard drive from Riyad Mahrez.

The second Leicester goal arrived just 76 seconds into the second half as Stoke were punished for failing to start quickly after the interval.

Simpson was given room on the right to cross, Johnson was caught napping at the far post and Vardy crept in to volley home.

Mahrez should have put the victory beyond doubt for Leicester in the 64th minute when he raced forward to meet a cross by Vardy after an electric break by the striker.

But the Algerian’s effort was too close to Grant, who saved well.

A rare Stoke break then ended with Marko Arnautovic crossing for substitute Peter Crouch, but the former England man side-footed wide.

Arnautovic had the ball in the net 20 minutes from time but he was denied by an offside flag.

Vardy could then feel aggrieved not to be given the chance for a second goal when he won a towering header and found Mahrez before bursting into space for a return pass, only for Mahrez to try a shot that flew wide.