Leicester City 1:0 Norwich City
City struggled to break down a Norwich side fighting for their Premier League lives, but they got there in the end with an 89th minute Ulloa goal…
Claudio Ranieri was forced into making one change to his side with Amartey making his debut at right-back, replacing the suspended Simpson.
The Norwich game plan soon unfolded, they were defensive minded and also determined to impose themselves physically with some early heavy challenges which twice left Albrighton on the turf. But they did also look keen to break forward when it was on. They were first to threaten when Schmeichel had to be alert to beat Jerome to a Redmond through-ball.
At the other end City were struggling to turn possession into chances with crosses being dealt with by the Canaries’ aerial supremacy.
A Huth header over the bar was the nearest they got in the early stages.
Vardy then got in down the right and pulled the ball back for Okazaki, but his back-heeled effort was blocked by Bennett.
As City continued to press Mahrez sent Albrighton in down the right and his hard, low cross was blocked at the near post by Martin, trickling 6 inches wide of goal. The Algerian international then ghosted past two defenders before having a shot blocked, before Albrighton’s follow up effort was also charged down by the yellow and green wall.
Naismith was then denied by a superb Morgan tackle, before play swept back up-field and City gained a free-kick out on the left when Okazaki was bundled over. Albrighton’s swinging effort eluded Huth’s head and went narrowly wide of the far post.
The visitors, with just one point from their last six games, should have taken a priceless lead as they ended the half with a good spell. Jerome did everything right leaping above City’s defence to meet a Brady corner from the right at the near post, but his glancing header didn’t have quite enough on it and it flashed across goal.
Schmeichel then blocked a well-struck Redmond effort in the last action of the half.
City had the first chance of the second half when Mahrez was tripped on the edge of the area. Drinkwater set up Vardy with the free-kick, but his low shot was too centrally placed and thumped into the chest of Ruddy.
In what was now a very tight game neither goalkeeper was seeing much action. Ruddy made another save from Albrighton, but the whole stadium seemed to be acutely aware that the minutes were ticking down.
With just over twenty minutes remaining Ranieri made a couple of changes. The slightly limping Kanté was replaced by King, while Okazaki made way for Schlupp, making his first appearance since December.
Although that gave City some fresh impetus down the left, Norwich stood firm and it looked as though the game was drifting towards a 0-0 draw.
Redmond sent one effort narrowly wide for the Canaries late on, but it was City who would be able to summon up that something extra in the 89th minute.
Mahrez fed Albrighton down the right, and the winger delivered a hard, low ball. Vardy, at full stretch, could only get a toe to it, but that touch diverted it away from the defender and into the path of substitute Ulloa, who slid in for a glorious and vital winner.
A huge roar of relief greeted Ulloa’s goal, but City still had to get through 4 minutes of time added on, which were mercifully drama-free. The place was absolutely buzzing at the final whistle.
A delighted Claudio Ranieri commented: “The conclusion I have drawn from this is that my players believe until the end. That, for me, is very important. If the other teams start to win, they can win all the matches. But for us, the next match is always the final match. That is our mentality.”
Ulloa’s priceless goal meant City went five points clear at the top of the Premier League, while Norwich were left with nothing for a huge effort. Like City last year, if they could produce more performances of this intensity, they should be able to survive.
For Leicester the incredible dream continues…
Leicester: Schmeichel, Amartey (Ulloa 78), Morgan, Huth, Fuchs, Drinkwater, Kanté (King 69), Albrighton, Mahrez, Okazaki (Schlupp 69), Vardy. Subs Not Used: Schwarzer, Wasilewski, Gray, Dyer.
Norwich: Ruddy, Martin, Naismith (Jarvis 82), Howson, Jerome (Bamford 90), Brady, Klose (Mbokani 90), Redmond, Bennett, Pinto, Tettey. Subs Not Used: Rudd, Mulumbu, Olsson, O’Neil.
Referee: Neil Swarbrick. Attendance: 32,114.
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