Sunderland moved off the bottom of the league thanks to a 2-1 victory over reigning Premier League champions Leicester City on Saturday at the SOL. The lads’ well deserved third win in four games came courtesy of a Robert Huth own goal and a Jermain Defoe strike with Claudio Ranieri’s side netting a consolation through Shinji Okazaki.
Champions Leicester headed to Wearside with last season’s talisman Jamie Vardy ominously having not found the net in his last 15 games which has coincided with his sides faltering league form. Leicester have won only one in their last eight which is the second worst start at this stage of the season by a reigning top flight champion. Despite this Claudio Ranieri’s side have excelled in their debut Champions League campaign and having qualified for the knockout stages they would be able to concentrate on their domestic campaign.
David Moyes injury woes continued with Lynden Gooch joining Paddy McNair on the side-lines with the young American stretchered off after damaging ankle ligaments in the under 23’s draw with Tottenham at Eppleton on Monday. There was some good news on the injury front with Moyes revealing that Jan Kirchhoff should be fit to play some part in the game whilst Fabio Borini has also resumed light training.
Moyes made one change to the side that lost at Anfield last weekend with Papy Djilobodji replacing John O’Shea at the heart of the defence. There was a minute’s silence prior to kick off as a mark of respect to the 71 people killed on board Brazilian side Chapecoense’s team flight this week before the game began and Sunderland started at a blistering pace.
Watmore forced an early save after a cross from Anichebe before the big man himself found space on the edge of the box to turn and shoot but miss the target. Sunderland were causing the visitors real problems in the opening fifteen minutes with van Aanholt frequently getting forward on the left flank but the ball never really seemed to fall kindly to anyone in red and white.
Our best chance came on 20 minutes and again it came down the left hand side when van Aanholt broke forward and fed Anichebe. The big man did well with his cross to find his man but uncharacteristically Jermain Defoe miscued his volley and the chance went begging. At the other end Leicester who rarely threatened in the first half had a chance when Mahrez crossed for Huth but he glanced his header wide.
Ranieri’s side were successful last season through hitting teams on the break but Sunderland countered this by sitting deep and making them try and break us down. They did almost get lucky before the break when a wayward cross hit the cross bar before a nasty collision between Pienaar and Albrighton brought the first half to a close.
The clash obviously took something out of Pienaar as he was substituted at the break as was Jason Denayer with Seb Larsson and Jan Kirchhoff replacing them. Leicester performed better in the opening stages compared to their first half performance and had a glimpse of goal when Slimani burst forward but Jordan Pickford was out quickly to deal with the danger.
At the other end Anichebe was played in by Watmore but couldn’t find the target before Watmore forced a corner with some good work on the right. Sunderland took the lead from Larsson’s corner with the Swede crossing for Kirchhoff to glance goal wards with the ball ricocheting of Huth to nestle into the bottom corner.
It was no more than Sunderland deserved and we should have had penalty moments later when van Aanholt surged into the box and was felled by former Sunderland loanee Danny Simpson but the ref waved away the protests. As Sunderland continued to search for a second the official, Andre Marriner, further angered the home crowd when he booked van Aanholt for diving after he appeared to be clattered after cutting inside.
Defoe got another sight of goal after being put through by Anichebe and although a difficult angle Defoe managed to get enough power to force a good save from Zieler before van Aanholt wildly lashed the rebound harmlessly away from danger with his weaker right foot. We had another good chance to double our lead when Defoe and Watmore combined thanks to Defoe’s clever first time lay off but Watmore failed to get a shot away.
Leicester made three quick changes with around twenty minutes to go with Gray, Okazaki and Musa coming on although it was Sunderland who would strike again. Duncan Watmore saw his shot blocked but Jermain Defoe was on hand to dispatch the loose ball with a clinical left foot effort to raise the roof at the stadium.
The visitors got a goal back five minutes later when Gray outpaced Billy Jones down the right wing and crossed for Okazaki to slot home leaving a nervous ten minutes to play for Sunderland. Duncan Watmore was stretchered off with a bad looking injury and was replaced by Manquillo.
With the goals, substitutions and injury there were six minutes of added time and while Leicester went looking for an equaliser Sunderland were again grateful for the goalkeeping heroics of Jordan Pickford. Leicester forced a corner after Billy Jones was caught out by Vardy trying to run the ball out of play for a goal kick.
The goalkeeper even came up for the set piece which saw Sunderland make a few blocks before the ball dropped to Wes Morgan who lashed the ball goal wards on half volley with Pickford equal to his effort parrying the ball away and guaranteeing David Moyes’ side another three points.
Final Score: Sunderland 2 Leicester City 1
ALS Man of the Match: Papy Djilobodji
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