Jamie Vardy strike enough for Leicester to see off Sheffield United

Leicester City progressed to the FA Cup sixth round after Jamie Vardy broke the deadlock with a 66th-minute goal to see off Sheffield United 1-0 at the King Power Stadium

If Pep Guardiola needed any more convincing that Riyad Mahrez can add to his already star-studded Manchester City squad, then the Algerian’s performance on his first start since his failed move to the Etihad Stadium would surely have done enough.

The 2015-16 PFA Player of the Year ran the show from start to finish against Sheffield United, providing the assist for Jamie Vardy’s winning goal in the second half as Leicester reached the sixth round of the FA Cup for the first time since 2011.

On this evidence, with Mahrez and Vardy linking up in a manner that was at times reminiscent of their title-winning season, they will be a stiff test for whoever they are drawn against in the next round as Leicester attempt to win this competition for the first time in their history having been beaten in the final on four previous occasions.

Claude Puel, who took Southampton to the EFL Final last season before being unceremoniously dumped, was not looking that far ahead yet, although this does represent their best opportunity to return to European competition after reaching the quarter-finals of the Champions League last season. “It was a good feeling to see Jamie and Riyad playing together on the same pitch again,”said Puel. “Now we move on. It’s behind us. He came back with his quality and created the goal against a difficult opponent. We will see what happens but it is an objective. We need to stay ambitious and see what the draw brings.”

Guardiola’s attempt to sign Mahrez on the final day of the transfer window angered the usually mild-mannered Frenchman to such an extent that he accused the Premier League leaders of showing a lack of respect earlier this week. City insist that they first approached Leicester a whole week before the end of January but it has undoubtedly been a distraction to the manager and his players.

Last week’s 5-1 hammering at the Etihad Stadium in which Mahrez came on as a second-half substitute followed the home draw with Swansea and defeat at Everton, meaning Leicester had not tasted victory since thrashing Peterborough in the previous round of this competition.

The announcement of the Algerian’s name before kick-off was greeted with a smattering of boos, although the response from a depleted home crowd was generally supportive. Their opponents also made six changes from their last league outing, with Chris Wilder perhaps mindful of the three crucial Championship fixtures in the space of seven days coming up next week. The Blades have lost their way in recent months following a blistering start to the season and now sit three points behind the play-off places.

Setting out with a rigid five-man defence was an indication that they were here to contain their opponents for as long as possible. With Mahrez causing problems from his starting position on the right flank, they just about did enough to keep the scores level in the first half. Jamie Vardy’s effort from Wilfred Ndidi’s precise through-ball was blocked by the impressive Jack O’Connell, while another attempt from the England striker just curled wide of the far post after good work from Demarai Gray.

At the other end Leicester were thankful for Harry Maguire’s alertness when a poor clearing header from Danny Simpson fell at the feet of Enda Stevens. The defender, who was a ballboy at Bramall Lane before coming through the youth system, reacted quickly to fling himself in front of the ball and save a certain goal. Vardy, who is also from Sheffield but grew up supporting Wednesday, should have given his side the lead soon after, following a slide-rule pass from Mahrez, but he could not find a way past the goalkeeper, Jamal Blackman.

Leicester continued to dominate proceedings after the break, albeit without creating any clear chances to break the deadlock despite the best efforts of Mahrez. That changed in the 66th minute, though, when he picked up the ball on the right touchline. A twisting and turning run that left his marker, George Baldock, bamboozled eventually won him the space to deliver a deep cross to the back post which Vardy did well to loop over the helpless Blackman.

The goalkeeper then made amends with a brilliant save from Gray to keep United in the tie, while his counterpart Kasper Schmeichel also had to be at his best to deny Baldock. Vardy had the ball in the net for a second time, only for the assistant to rule that Mahrez had been fractionally offside when he cushioned a header across goal. That would have sealed their progress to the next round but instead Leicester were forced to dig deep against opponents who suddenly fancied their chances of forcing a replay.

The hosts stood firm however and there was not a Leicester fan in the house who did not get up to applaud when Mahrez left the pitch in injury time. “We’re disappointed but they had a strong side out,” admitted Wilder. “We tried to hit them on the counter but a lot of things have got to go right for you if you’re going to win somewhere like here.”


Ed Aarons at the King Power Stadium

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Leicester's Jamie Vardy scores late winner to sting Sheffield United
Jamie Vardy’s 90th-minute winner gave Leicester a 2-1 victory over Sheffield United at Bramall Lane

Paul Doyle at Bramall Lane

06, Dec, 2020 @4:38 PM

Article image
Sheffield United v Leicester: match preview
Sheffield United have enjoyed an impressive re-introduction to Premier League life but their manager, Chris Wilder, is rightly wary about the threat posed by Leicester’s Jamie Vardy

23, Aug, 2019 @2:14 PM

Article image
Pérez and Gray goals reward revitalised Leicester in win over Sheffield United
Goals from Ayoze Pérez and Demarai Gray secured a 2-0 win against Sheffield United that gave Leicester’s Champions League ambitions a timely boost

Paul Doyle at the King Power Stadium

16, Jul, 2020 @7:13 PM

Article image
Kelechi Iheanacho hits hat-trick as Leicester thrash sorry Sheffield United
A hat-trick from Kelechi Iheanacho helped Leicester defeat Sheffield United 5-0 in the Blades’ first match since Chris Wilder’s departure

Paul Doyle at the King Power Stadium

14, Mar, 2021 @4:08 PM

Article image
European stakes rise for Sheffield United as they look to reel in Leicester
No longer underdogs, Chris Wilder’s side will be confident they can cause Leicester further pain in the race for the top four

Paul Doyle

15, Jul, 2020 @9:30 PM

Article image
Dani Ceballos strike sinks Sheffield United and puts Arsenal in semi-final
A stoppage-time winner from Dani Ceballos gave Arsenal a 2-1 victory over Sheffield United in the FA Cup quarter-final at Bramall Lane

Paul Wilson at Bramall Lane

28, Jun, 2020 @2:20 PM

Article image
Fleetwood Town’s Nathan Pond: ‘Jamie Vardy helped get us where we are today’
Nathan Pond played for Fleetwood with Jamie Vardy in non-league and the Leicester striker will be welcomed back at Highbury even if he is not fit to play in the FA Cup tie

Louise Taylor

04, Jan, 2018 @7:41 PM

Article image
FA Cup fourth round: team news and match previews
News and previews for the weekend’s games as Liverpool visit Shrewsbury, Chelsea go to Hull and Southampton host Spurs

Guardian sport

24, Jan, 2020 @6:19 PM

Article image
Jamie Vardy hands Leicester Champions League lifeline against Sevilla
Jamie Vardy gave Leicester City late hope with goal in 2-1 defeat after Sevilla had dominated Champions League last-16 first leg

Sid Lowe at Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán

22, Feb, 2017 @9:50 PM

Article image
Sheffield United’s Sharp and Berge strike late to end Wrexham’s Cup dream
Sheffield United’s Billy Sharp and Sander Berge scored in stoppage time to beat a determined Wrexham 3-1 and set up a fifth-round tie with Spurs

Aaron Bower at Bramall Lane

07, Feb, 2023 @9:47 PM