Claudio Ranieri’s side was without their maestro in today’s clash with their Welsh counterparts but went on to give an outstanding performance at the King Power Stadium.
After their dramatic draw against West Ham seven days previously, the nervous atmosphere that hung in the air around the King Power Stadium prior to kick-off could be forgiven. Leonardo Ulloa’s penalty may have rescued Claudio Ranieri’s side a point, but the prospect of playing without the suspended Jamie Vardy for at least one match and Tottenham relentlessly breathing down their necks could have proven too much even for the most hardened supporter.
They need not have worried. An edgy opening 10 minutes apart, they remained in total control once Riyad Mahrez had taken advantage of Ashley Williams’s ill-advised pass out from the back to open the scoring. The goal certainly required an element of luck, but it was fortune that was earned by a player who was relishing the situation.
Mahrez has been subdued in recent weeks, particularly in home matches where sides have doubled-up in defence on the Algeria international in a bid to keep him out of the game for as long as possible. But in Vardy’s absence, the winger took it upon himself to do the striker’s dirty work and chase down what seemed a lost cause. His reward was a goal on the same day he will likely be crowned the PFA Player of the Year.
From there the Foxes were able to cruise against a Swansea side that seem to have written off this season after securing their survival in the top flight. The uneasy tension that had filled the air in the build-up turned to a party atmosphere, with the home faithful keen to remind all those watching on elsewhere of both their league position and their plans to take on Europe’s best next term. Ulloa’s header from Danny Drinkwater’s delicious free-kick to make it 2-0 was the least that they deserved.
Attacking changes from Franceso Guidolin promised a more committed showing from Swansea after the break, but if anything they were even more inept than in the first half. Ulloa’s second highlighted the gaps in the visitors’ defence, and though the superb Jeffrey Schlupp’s pace was difficult to handle all afternoon, the way he opened up the Swans’s defence with just two touches left a lot to be desired.