Jamie Vardy powers Leicester past Liverpool to stay atop EPL
Jamie Vardy scored twice, including one of the goals of the season, as Leicester City gained a measure of revenge and retained their grip atop the Premier League on Tuesday night with a 2-0 triumph over Liverpool at the King Power Stadium.
The win kept Leicester three points clear of Manchester City and gave them a five-point gap on Tottenham and Arsenal as the title race remains both intriguing and unpredictable. Liverpool, losing for the third time in their last five Premier League matches, are now 16 points adrift in another season that is rapidly sliding into mediocrity.
Liverpool had defeated the Foxes 1-0 back on Boxing Day, joining Arsenal as one of only two teams to get the better of Claudio Ranieri's miracle men, but they lacked the bite up front to repeat that feat and couldn't match the energy of Leicester.
Vardy's spectacular goal was a perfect payoff for the crowd which kept up a constant din in support of their favorites, whose title challenge now must be taken very seriously. Without the distraction of an FA Cup run and with their next matches coming against Manchester City and Arsenal, the Foxes are poised to write the most unexpected of title stories in Premier League history.
This latest win was far from easy, but Leicester's non-stop work nullified whatever edge Liverpool might sometimes have had in possession and they had the match-winner that the visitors so clearly lack. Once they got ahead they were never about to relax their hold.
It took an hour for the Foxes to get on top because two fine saves from Simon Mignolet kept Leicester from taking a first half lead.
Shinji Okazaki should have put the Foxes on top in the eighth minute when he got up to head a Vardy cross, but put the ball where Mignolet could turn it onto the bar and over. The cross from the left was a beauty and gave Okazaki time to aim his header down and away from the keeper, but the shot stayed up and too straight, allowing Mignolet to react and save.
Riyad Mahrez produced a bit of magic in the 35th minute, collecting quickly at the top right edge and curling a delicious shot away to the far post. This time Mignolet flew to his right-hand post and managed to touch it away from danger.
Vardy's first goal was one of the best of the year, a full-blooded volley from 22 yards top right after he ran under a long, searching ball from Mahrez and lashed his shot to the far corner of Mignolet's goal. It was an exhibition of skill at the highest level, both the 40-yard pass and the finish.
Vardy's second came in the 72nd minute when he was first to a deflected shot by Okazaki after Mamadou Sakho let a cross bounce, opening the way for the original shot and the scorer's prescient, precise finish. It owed equal parts to Vardy's anticipation and the defending which led to the opening.
Liverpool battered away rather than probed and did not test Kasper Schmeichel often enough, even though there were times when they seemed confident going forward.