Leicester City underscored their title credentials as Riyad Mahrez’s stunning strike earned a 1-0 victory at Watford. Yesterday’s north London derby draw opened the door for Claudio Ranieri’s side to take a potentially crucial step towards the title, and they took full advantage as Mahrez’s 56th-minute strike saw off Watford.
The victory marks a remarkable turnaround for Leicester who, at the same stage last season, were seven points from safety rooted firmly to the bottom of the league. Fast forward 12 months and victory at Vicarage Road moves the Foxes five points clear at the summit and clear favourites for the title. For Watford, defeat – their 12th of the Premier League season – leaves them 12th in the table.
It took Vardy just three minute to get in behind the Watford defence but, having rounded Heurelho Gomes, Nathan Ake blocked his shot. Gomes was called into action a minute later to deny Christian Fuchs’ low drive after the left-back had capitalised on some slack defending. Ake then saw a header clip the top of the bar on 11 minutes as Watford appeared to have weathered the early Leicester storm.
The first half petered out, as too did the opening exchanges of the second, until Mahrez finally broke Watford’s resolve.
The Algerian, who had been anonymous until that point, sparked himself and the game into life, thrashing the ball high past Gomes at his near post for his 15th goal in a stellar season.
Odion Ighalo fluffed a late chance, heading straight at Schmeichel after Deeney’s flick, as Watford failed to score for the seventh time in their last nine Premier League games. And Leicester were left to see out the victory that leaves them clear favourites for the title.