Vardy strikes to haul Leicester to safety

Steve MADELEY
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Leicester City's Jamie Vardy (R) scores opening goal during their English Premier League football match against West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns stadium in West Bromwich, central England, on April 29, 2017

Jamie Vardy scored the goal that effectively ensured Leicester City would remain in the Premier League as the outgoing champions won 1-0 away to West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.

England striker Vardy's first-half goal, his third in as many seasons at The Hawthorns, gave the Foxes their first win in four league games and took them to 40 points, a total widely regarded as enough to avoid relegation in most seasons.

Leicester, however, had looked in danger of the drop when former assistant manager Craig Shakespeare took over from sacked title-winning boss Claudio Ranieri in February.

As well as helping secure Leicester's top-flight status, Vardy's 10th goal in 15 games for club and country also strengthened Shakespeare’s bid to land the manager’s job beyond the end of the season.

Vardy's recent form has been in sharp contrast to that of Midlands rivals West Brom, who have now failed to score in five successive league games for the first time in their history.

Saturday's match started at a frantic pace with Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel forced to make an important catch in the opening minute when Salomon Rondon headed an Allan Nyom cross back across goal.

Leicester broke to the other end with Vardy catching Gareth McAuley in possession to force a corner which the visitors could not turn into a chance.

In the sixth minute, Wilfred Ndidi tried his luck for Leicester from long range but his effort was deflected wide by Jake Livermore.

Twelve minutes later Leicester needed Schmeichel at his acrobatic best to tip over a header from Chris Brunt.

West Brom’s ex-Leicester defender McAuley was then left wearing a bandage after a nasty clash of heads with Yohan Benalouane.

- Suicidal pass -

Leicester claimed the lead two minutes from half time thanks to the opportunism of their front two.

Rondon played a suicidal square pass which was intercepted by Shinji Okazaki, who found strike partner Vardy with a superb, first-time ball.

The England man kept his composure to beat goalkeeper Ben Foster with a firm shot.

West Brom forced two corners in stoppage time but both came to nothing with the second one glanced wide by Rondon.

Leicester might have doubled their lead two minutes into the second half when Albion were again undone by the pace of Vardy.

He tore down the left and crossed for Okazaki, who was arriving late at the far post. But the Japanese striker could not stretch far enough to force the ball home.

Brunt had a shot charged down and Claudio Yacob sent the follow-up just wide as West Brom pressed for an equaliser.

West Brom went even closer when Craig Dawson met a Nacer Chadli corner with a firm header but his effort took a deflection and looped over.

Leicester had another opportunity to increase their advantage just before the hour mark when Riyad Mahrez cut in from the right but fired into the side netting.

James Morrison then headed straight at Schmeichel from a cross by substitute James McClean as the hosts threw everything at Leicester in the closing stages.