Leicester City 1 Sheffield United 0: Vardy’s pristine touch sends battling Blades towards exit

Leicester City's Harry Maguire, top left, and Sheffield United's Chris Basham in aerial combat (Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire).
Leicester City's Harry Maguire, top left, and Sheffield United's Chris Basham in aerial combat (Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire).
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AS the old saying goes, he who laughs last, laughs longest.

Sheffield United’s 3,000-strong away following may have enjoyed their sport with England international and former Sheffield Wednesday trainee Jamie Vardy with chants of “Wednesday reject” in the first half, but in the end a moment of class told.

It arrived midway through the second period when the Sheffielder found his radar following two moments of uncharacteristic first-half profligacy to settle the tie with a pristine touch.

Leicester’s two game-changers combined with a sweet cross from Riyad Mahrez, back in the fold following his coquetry with Manchester City, was guided expertly headed home by Vardy after pulling away from Chris Basham.

Speak to most observers and they would opine that the biggest difference between the Championship and Premier League is pace and adept movement and both are qualities Vardy possesses in abundance.

Vardy’s celebration may have pointed to his satisfaction at silencing a few taunts, but also his relief after those two first-half misses, one of which was careless by his high standards.

The FA Cup may figure at the top of Leicester’s priority list, with the Foxes looking as safe as houses in the top flight, but for United it is very much of secondary importance to the main course.

This was evident in the reaction of their visiting fans at the final whistle when chants about Wembley and promotion showed just where their focus lies.

Ahead of the game, Blades and Leicester favourite Alan Birchenall spoke about his desire for this fixture to be staged at the Premier League table soon, with manager Chris Wilder’s troops now assigned with securing their ticket and completing their side of the bargain.

After conceding four goals in a second-half onslaught at the hands of Leicester in the EFL Cup at Bramall Lane in August, the Blades lasted the course rather longer last night.

Indeed, they went close to a leveller when George Baldock fired straight at Kasper Schmeichel after ghosting in with plenty of the goal to aim at and Samir Carruthers then fired just wide.

It was a Leicester side which possessed a stronger look to the one United faced in late summer, with the goalless interval scoreline being pleasant enough for Wilder’s side, just as it was almost six months ago.

Vardy curled one presentable chance wide before causally firing an even better one straight at Jamal Blackman.

The hosts were then thankful for the intervention of their other Sheffield-born international in the shape of Harry Maguire, who made a saving block to divert Enda Stevens’s goalbound effort –the Blades one outstanding chance of the first half.

Blackman also beat away a fierce strike from Wilfred Ndidi, and Gray stabbed an effort wide from close in as the opportunities started to stack up.

The precocious talents of David Brooks, impressively showcased to a watching TV audience against Leicester earlier this season, were given further chance to shine on the restart and he had his moments on his return from glandular fever.

A slalom run was ended by some assertive defending from Maguire, though, before Vardy’s intervention with his fifth goal in five matches.

Leicester City: Schmeichel; Simpson, Morgan, Maguire, Chilwell, Mahrez (James 90), Iborra, Ndidi, Gray; Iheanacho, Vardy (Albrighton 83). Unused substitutes: Hamer, Silva, Dragovic, Fuchs, Diabate.

Sheffield United: Blackman; Basham, Wright (Evans 76), O’Connell; Baldock, Carruthers (Duffy 76), Lundstram, Lafferty, Stevens; Donaldson, Wilson (Brooks 45). Unused substitutes: Sharp, Stearman, Heneghan, Eastwood.

Referee: L Mason (Lancashire).