Category: Gianfranco Zola
Leicester City recorded their 14th win from 19 games this season by beating Watford at Vicarage Road. The visitors took an early lead when a clearance by Watford keeper Manuel Almunia hit Chris Wood in the face and rebounded into the net.
The build-up to the match was dominated by memories of last season’s dramatic final day clash at Vicarage Road, when Knockaert’s missed penalty proved costly as Troy Deeney netted the winner down the other end, meaning the Foxes missed out on the play-off final.
You could see this coming from several miles – and months – away. Frankly, I’d braced myself for a season’s worth of this back in August. Has there ever been a campaign in the club’s history when the current level of expectation has ended in something other than a train wreck? Certainly not in the Premier League era, when expectation has generally been accompanied by foolhardy over-spending, weighing up the cost of not getting promoted as if it were tangible on the balance sheet, and followed by a grand washing-of-hands by the supporters who demanded it. “Yeah, but we didn’t mean Nathan Ellington.”
The best aspect of this season thus far from our point of view has been the entertainment value. Twelve league games in, plus three in the League Cup… how many have been anything less than gripping? (Even if, admittedly, some of that excitement has been our own doing in situations where you’d prefer dull defensive competence). The opening fifteen minutes or so here were suitably mundane… Derby’s notorious vulnerability at corners was manifest and Essaid Belkalem ghosted in (or as close as a monstrous Algerian can get to “ghosting”) at the far post. He should have scored. Two minutes later and Jamie Ward, half Belkalem’s size and with what looked a tougher heading chance, outjumped his marker to put the Rams ahead from Bryson’s brilliant cross. Another five minutes and Fernando’s levelled it again with a gorgeous dink. Same old, same old.
Premier League Norwich avoided an upset as Gary Hooper scored late in normal and extra-time on his first start to see off Watford in the Capital One Cup. Javier Acuna’s first Watford goal and Marco Faraoni’s 25-yard effort left Norwich teetering. But substitute Josh Murphy rifled home the game’s third superb goal, and Hooper flicked home Nathan Redmond’s cross in the 95th minute. Johan Elmander went close before Hooper poked in to complete Norwich’s escape.
The opening was all anticipation, and the drumrolls were provided by the immediate pressure that Norwich put on us a long way up the pitch. We’ve played City a million times before, this tie had none of the lustre of a Manchester United or a Liverpool… nonetheless, this is a competent top-flight City side, and to see them adopting such an archetypal Championship approach – pressure, pressure, pressure, but with better-than-Championship players – was ominous.