Leicester City 2 Sheffield United 0 - Blades outfoxed at King Power Stadium
He was famously part of a Sheffield United line-up who clinched promotion back to the top-flight after a 14-year absence with a riotous 5-2 victory at Leicester City’s old Filbert Street home – a day which ended with a party back at legendary former Steel City nightclub Josephine’s, complete with a cardboard cut-out of absent stand-in Blades captain Bob Booker.
United’s latest visit to the East Midlands was also ripe with potential for the present-day Blades under the command of Wilder, even if the phrase ‘European qualification’ is the proverbial ‘elephant in the room’ for him.
A win would have significantly hardened the Blades’ continental credentials after recently claiming star scalps as prolifically as an autograph hunter collects high-profile signatures.
After this one, Wilder would not have been in a party mood.
It was Leicester who progressed that bit closer to getting their passports out and Wilder’s side – by their high standards –were not at the races and only a combination of sterling goalkeeping from Dean Henderson and errant finishing preventing the hosts from registering a emphatic victory.
Resident in the top four since September they may have been, but there was pre-match angst in the Leicester ranks given a return of three wins in their previous 14 matches and a late capitulation at Bournemouth.
Player Ratings - How Sheffield United’s players performed in defeat to Leicester City
In a county forever associated with fox hunting, the chasing pack were circling, but Leicester’s response was one of adeptness, with the Blades struggling to cope with their movement and energy.
After overpowering, out-enthusing and out-witting Tottenham, Wolves and Chelsea in revitalised wins, United got a taste of their own medicine.
Ayoze Perez sent Leicester on their way just before the half-hour and substitute Demerai Gray made it safe 11 minutes from time and United could have few complaints whatsoever.
Perez got the applause for the opener, but there were backslaps aplenty for left-sided wing-back Luke Thomas. On his senior debut, his family and friends may not have been present, but memories of his assist will not fade.
A smart inside pass from the teenager – who caught the eye alongside former Barnsley loanee Harvey Barnes – found the untracked Perez, whose clinical low finish was unerring and true.
Not looking particularly happy with his side at the first drinks break, there was little to enthuse Wilder after it, with his side looking decidedly leggy, with Leicester looking a yard sharper.
The early vibes had actually been encouraging when trademark vision by Oli Norwood and industry by George Baldock picked out David McGoldrick, but his effort was wild and in keeping with an unsatisfactory first half.
The action was at the other end, with Perez culpable when he headed over after drifting into space from Thomas’s cross. The axis would bear fruit later.
It was the sort of chance that the talismanic Jamie Vardy would have put away without a second thought, but the Sheffielder would soon came to the party in customary fashion, with a cross-shot blocked by the legs of Henderson after some bewitching movement by the veteran.
The Blades custodian was also in the right place to thwart Youri Tielemens, but was powerless to prevent Perez from punishing an uncharacteristically muted United half.
Clearly unimpressed by what he had seen, Wilder threw John Fleck, John Lundstram and Lys Mousset into the fray at the start of the second period – in a very visible message to his United side and bid to restore some order.
It failed to have the desired effort, with Vardy clipping the outside of the post after being supplied by Tielemens, who profited from Lundstram’s sloppy header.
The only saving grace for United was that the scoreline was not out of sight, with Henderson soon called into action to block Barnes’s efforts with his legs.
Henderson’s stoic resistance saw him again frustrate Barnes after Norwood was dispossessed by Ndidi, with Leicester almost paying a price for their ability to seal the deal when the previously unengaged Kasper Schmeichel denied Jack O’Connell from close range following a United corner.
The second goal that Leicester merited finally arrived when Vardy slotted in Gray for the clincher on the counter, with the only surprise being that the strike took so long in coming.
Leicester City: Schmeichel; Bennett, Morgan, Evans; Justin, Tielemans, Ndidi, Thomas; Perez (Choudhury 71); Vardy, Barnes (Gray 76). Substitutes unused: Ward, Johnson, Mendy, James, Praet, Iheanacho, Hirst.
Sheffield United: Henderson; Basham (Sharp 59), Egan, O’Connell; Baldock, Berge (Lundstram 45) Norwood, Osborn (Fleck 45), Stevens; McGoldrick (Mousset 45), McBurnie. Substitutes unused: Jagielka, K Freeman, J Robinson, Moore, Zivkovic.
Referee: M Oliver (Northumberland).
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