Jamie Vardy ended his Premier League goalscoring drought in spectacular fashion as Leicester City recorded a crucial victory over Liverpool in their battle for survival. In the first match since the controversial sacking of Claudio Ranieri, Vardy scored twice during an inspired performance that rekindled memories of last season. The England striker had not found the net domestically since a hat-trick against Manchester City on December 10. But his goals – Leicester’s first of 2017 in the Premier League – and a phenomenal strike from Danny Drinkwater ensured they climbed out of the relegation zone.
Vardy had been in the news following the surprise departure of Ranieri, with speculation circulating that he was among the group of senior players who were alleged to have complained to the club’s owners about the Italian manager, which precipitated his dismissal. Perhaps keen to prove a point to the watching world, the former non-league star was like a man possessed straight from kick-off. Arguably, this eagerness to impress crossed a line and he was lucky to avoid punishment in the opening minutes for a nasty challenge on Sadio Mane. Vardy then squandered a couple of opportunities to break the deadlock before he eventually opened the scoring on 28 minutes.
It was a move that could have come straight out of their title-winning season playbook. Latching on to a delightful through ball from Marc Albrighton, Vardy outpaced the Liverpool defence and, after steadying himself, slid the ball past Simon Mignolet. His celebration was a mixture of ecstasy and relief, no doubt triggered by all the pre-match talk. Vardy’s second goal on 61 minutes, which came after Drinkwater’s long-range wonder strike had doubled Leicester’s lead, was testament to his predatory instinct. From the left flank, Christian Fuchs delivered a teasing cross into the danger area where, having maneuvered himself into space, Vardy nodded the ball into the bottom corner. Despite a consolation goal, there was no way back for Liverpool.
Leicester supporters will hope that Vardy’s timely return to form is a good omen for the remainder of the campaign. His 24 goals last season, which made him the joint second-highest Premier League scorer, were a key factor behind the Foxes’ success. Vardy’s brace at the King Power Stadium takes his tally this term to seven, but more than that, his overall performance suggested he has rediscovered his mojo. Liverpool’s defenders were afforded no time or space on the ball, with Vardy generally making a nuisance of himself. Leicester are not out of the woods yet, but Vardy has given their fans reasons to be optimistic again.
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