Leicester City 5:3 Bolton Wanderers
Leicester City ended 2013 in style with a thrilling win at Filbert Way to maintain top spot.
Nigel Pearson named an unchanged side from the one that beat Reading on Boxing Day and there were two familiar faces in the Bolton line-up with Matt Mills and Jermaine Beckford starting for the Trotters.
It was City who were quickest out of the traps and they took the lead on 5 minutes after a Dyer cross was cleared and then set up for Danny Drinkwater who struck a lovely low drive in off the post from 25 yards. Unfortunately this wasn’t the cue for City to push on and instead they relaxed and were punished when Bolton put together their first worthwhile attack in the 16th minute after Lee hit a low cross in to the City area and Moritz stuck out a foot and guided the ball beyond Schmeichel to silence the home fans. It was to get worse just five minutes later when Beckford collected a pass on the edge of the City area and was given far too much time and room to line up a low shot that wrong-footed Schmeichel. Beckford clearly enjoyed his moment and the predictable ‘cupped ear’ gesture followed in front of the East Stand.
This setback seemed to spark City again as they forced Bolton back and an equaliser arrived in the 38th minute when Lloyd Dyer again found room on the left and picked out Knockaert with a lovely cross from the byline and the Frenchman planted a firm header past Lonergan to bring City level. But no sooner had City finished celebrating the equaliser than the visitors took the lead again and once again it was Moritz who delivered. There seemed little danger as he collected the ball on the edge of the area with plenty of blue shirts in front of him but he struck a low shot through a forest of legs and in to the bottom corner as Schmeichel was caught unsighted and flat-footed. This time it was City who made the instant reply in the 41st minute when another Lloyd Dyer cross was only half-cleared as far as Konchesky who struck a first time, angled drive that ricocheted off of Matt Mills and past a helpless Lonergan in the Bolton goal. 3-3!
The second half started off at the same pace and there was action in both penalty areas and, just before the hour mark, a set to between Jamie Vardy and Zat Knight when it appeared that Knight had Vardy by the throat at one point. After it all calmed down the referee opted to book both players which incensed the home faithful. As City started to turn up the heat on Bolton they saw a superb 30 yard free-lick from Knockaert cannon back off the bar and Liam Moore somehow missed the gaping net with the rebound effort. In the 74th minute Lonergan clattered Vardy in the area but Nugent spurned the penalty opportunity and placed his kick too close to Lonergan. At the other end, former City loanee Mark Davies struck a deflected low drive that Schmeichel did well to turn away.
Mercifully it was City that finally broke the deadlock in the 77th minute when the impressive Dyer left the Bolton defence standing with a run from inside his own half that ended with a low drive across Lonergan and inside the far post to raise the roof and give City a lead that they wouldn’t surrender this time. In fact the lead was extended in the last minute when one sub, Andy King, nodded down a clearance for another sub, Gary Taylor-Fletcher, to slam the ball home and seal the win in style.
It was breathless fare for a good sized crowd that bodes well for the remainder of the season. It was a performance that was never dull and although the defence was not entirely switched on for the opening 45 minutes the control that that City brought to the second half was impressive and the desire to win was there for all to see. With the January transfer window opening soon Nigel Pearson will have the opportunity to fine-tune what looks like an already well-oiled machine.
Leicester: Schmeichel, De Laet, Konchesky, Drinkwater, Morgan (c), James, Vardy (King 86), Dyer, Moore, Knockaert (Hammond 86), Nugent (Taylor-Fletcher 77) Subs not used: Waghorn, Miquel, Logan, Wasilewski
Bolton (4-4-2): Lonergan, Mills, Ream, Spearing (c), Beckford, Hall (Pratley 46), Knight, Moritz (Davies 67), Baptiste, Lee, Kamara (Mason 79) Subs not used: Eagles, Ngog, White, Lee-Barrett
Attendance: 26,614 Referee: Mick Russell