Saturday’s match against Norwich was always going to be a true test of Leicester City’s credentials as title contenders – and Claudio Ranieri’s side passed with flying colours. After the events at the Emirates two weeks ago, the Foxes more than showcased their ability to bounce back from the agony and adversity of a narrow defeat.
It was an unattractive and underwhelming affair but one that bore close similarities to the Manchester United and Arsenal of old. Despite being off the mark for much of the match, Leicester have proved that they know how to win ugly. It is this ability to win in such unconvincing circumstances that separates the contenders from the champions.
As a side that have enjoyed a two-week break from football and were even granted a week’s holiday – the likes of Jamie Vardy and Danny Drinkwater both spent their free time relaxing in Dubai – Leicester looked anything but refreshed. With ex-manager Martin O’Neill watching on from the stands, the Foxes struggled to assert their authority on the game. A high Norwich press limited their ability to play while Vardy appeared uncharacteristically quiet in the opening 45 minutes.
Nonetheless, it was not as if the home side did that little wrong. Asides from a few hairy moments in the first half, Robert Huth and Wes Morgan defended well, recording their fifth consecutive clean sheet at home, while new-signing Daniel Amartey proved a reliable cover for the suspended Danny Simpson. Morgan’s strength proved particularly invaluable as he went head-to-head with Cameron Jerome and largely succeeded in keeping him at bay.
But there was no denying that there was something missing from this Foxes side. Leicester did not register their first shot on goal until the 58th minute and although they demanded a greater percentage of possession for the 90 minutes, the side lacked their usual urgency, dynamism and magic.
It could have been the hangover from the Emirates or the burdening sense of expectation that must surely have settled within the changing rooms, but this was not the Leicester side that fans and neutrals alike have become so used to watching. While Riyad Mahrez continued to trouble Norwich’s back four with his quick feet and trickery, others looked off the beat.
N’Golo Kante was brought off for Jeffrey Schlupp with 20 minutes to go, having failed to prove as disruptive as he did against Arsenal, while Drinkwater was kept under wraps for the majority of the match thanks to the efforts of Norwich’s Alexander Tettey.
But any doubts over Leicester’s credentials quickly evaporated as substitute Leonardo Ulloa snatched a last-minute goal to give the Foxes the win and another important three points.
To win in such fashion, and in the dying minutes of the match, demonstrated that Leicester do indeed possess that resilient, dogged mentality which has come to characterise the title winners over the years. Regardless of their performance prior to Ulloa’s 89th minute goal, the Foxes churned out a necessary win and took another step closer to making history. It is games like these where the champions set themselves apart and Leicester have done just that.