Leicester City 1:0 Watford
An 81st minute goal from David Nugent gave Leicester a slender lead to take to Watford in their play-off semi-final…
Nigel Pearson fielded an unchanged side for this vital first leg, watched by the largest crowd of the season who turned up the volume to a level we haven’t heard for a few seasons.
And City responded early on, dominating possession for the first 20 minutes. Nugent’s back-heel was saved by Almunia as City went close to taking an early lead. Almunia was then equal to a De Laet header from a James’ corner as City relentlessly pressed forward at pace.
Watford’s first chance came on 18 minutes when a Schlupp error let Anya in on goal. But Schmeichel blocked his shot and then saved again from Abdi. This incident seemed to turn the tide with City losing their early momentum and Watford being given time to establish their passing game.
Chances were rarer and Nugent fired one off target after being set up by the lively Dyer.
Anya and Chalobah, both went close for the Hornets before the last chance of the half fell to Knockeart who did well to battle his way past Ekstrand from the goaline.
City continued in an attacking vein after the break though too often passes were going astray and good work was undone.
Schlupp opened up a decent bit of space for himself but fired well over, before Abdi went close with a free-kick as the game swung from end to end.
The best chance of the game then fell for Vydra, but he snatched his shot with only Schmeichel to beat, for a huge let off for City.
Nigel Pearson brought Kane on for Wood just after the hour.
Watford were enjoying a decent spell now and Vydra forced a fine save from Schmeichel before Geijo sent his header over when it looked easier to score.
Just when it looked as though City had run out of steam they took a precious lead in the 81st minute. Knockaert’s free kick from the left saw a stampede of defenders and attackers towards goal and Nugent got there first to nod home his first goal since January and raise the stadium roof.
Straight from the restart City went agonisingly close to a second when Knockaert, was denied by a fine save from Almunia.
City were all over Watford, as they had been at the start of the game, but could not extend their advantage going into the second leg.
However, they have a vital lead to take to Vicarage Road on Sunday…
Leicester: Schmeichel, De Laet, Morgan, King, Dyer, Keane, James, Schlupp, Knockaert (Drinkwater 90), Nugent, Wood (Kane 63). Unused Subs: Konchesky, Marshall, Vardy, Logan, Moore.
Watford: Almunia, Hogg, Doyley (Hall 86), Pudil (Briggs 73), Vydra (Forestieri 90), Anya, Abdi, Cassetti, Geijo, Chalobah, Ekstrand. Unused Subs: Eustace, Yeates, Briggs, Bond, Battocchio.
Referee: Neil Swarbrick (Lancashire). Attendance: 29,560.
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