Bluebirds produce the ‘complete’ away display to earn vital win
Leicester City manager Claude Puel said “a lot of players were tired” as they slipped to a disappointing home defeat against Cardiff City.
The Foxes had beaten Chelsea and champions Manchester City in their previous two matches, and Puel said it was “normal” that his side should be feeling the effects “in this busy period”.
Leicester had 62% of the possession against Cardiff, but Victor Camarasa’s stunning injury-time strike gave the Bluebirds their first away win of the season.
The midfielder curled home a 25-yard shot which sailed into the top corner over a flailing Kasper Schmeichel.
Cardiff goalkeeper Neil Etheridge had earlier produced an inspired display, including saving James Maddison’s second-half penalty.
When the ball rebounded straight to Maddison, who looked poised to slot home, defender Sol Bamba dived in with a great tackle to turn the ball behind for a corner.
That was symptomatic of a resolute defensive effort from a Cardiff side, who kept their second clean sheet in as many matches.
The Foxes dominated the first half but Etheridge thwarted their best efforts, including denying Jamie Vardy when he went through on goal.
Vardy was later substituted for Kelechi Iheanacho, and Puel said: “I manage my team on what I see and Jamie was tired.
“We tried to find a solution to push on with fresh players giving their best.”
Defeat means Leicester drop to eighth while Cardiff move above Southampton – who host Manchester City on Sunday – into 16th.
While Camarasa will draw most of the headlines for his match-winning intervention, Cardiff were only in the game at that point because of those behind him.
Etheridge produced seven saves to deny a Leicester side full of confidence – and Neil Warnock’s side will be buoyed by the fact he will remain available next month after being omitted from the Philippines squad for the Asian Cup.
Maddison looked the player most likely to make a breakthrough, and when the England midfielder was hauled over inside the area, it looked as though the visitors’ hard work would be undone.
But Etheridge plunged to his right to save, and Bamba was first to react as the ball broke back to Maddison.
That was his most crucial intervention in a match in which he kept Vardy quiet, and made more tackles (three) and more clearances (nine) than any of his team-mates.
His reward was a second consecutive clean sheet on the road, for a Cardiff team four points above the relegation zone.
Leicester dominated the ball for large spells but rarely looked like breaching Cardiff’s defence.
The Foxes had 16 shots at goal, with seven on target, but largely kept the ball in midfield without showing much urgency or intent to get in behind.
On the one occasion they did get through, Vardy – who has scored only three goals from open play this season – spurned the chance.
Leicester’s system does not get the best out of the England international – their patient build-up play not utilising the 31-year-old’s pace.
But their unexpected victories over Chelsea and Manchester City show they have the talent and desire to match the best in the division.
However, Puel’s prospects will ultimately depend on results and performances against those outside the top six. And a home defeat by Cardiff is likely to, fairly or otherwise, add to the pressure on the Frenchman.
Leicester manager Claude Puel, speaking to Match of the Day: “This was another game against a team with another style of play. We had a lot of chances without finding the clinical edge.
“We conceded in the last minute. It’s very harsh because I think we deserve another result.
“We needed to win this game, but it’s difficult. There’s a lot of disappointment because we tried.
“I think we had the right mentality. They’re a difficult team to play against with their long throw-ins, free-kicks and second balls.”
Cardiff manager Neil Warnock, speaking to Match of the Day: “I thought we deserved it overall. We had a very good plan and looked to break when we could. Our goalkeeper didn’t have many saves, apart from the penalty.
“Other than that I thought we showed a lot of character. In the last couple of games we’ve really had to dig deep. We’ve done well against really good sides in our last two games against Palace and Leicester.
“We’ve had opportunities this season – we’ve missed penalties and everything else away from home. This was the first time away from home that we’ve deserved to win. We were the better team if I’m being honest.”
On Victor Camarasa’s goal: “He’s quite capable of doing that every week. He deserves it – he’s a super lad.”
K Harris 7 (78 mins for Murphy)
Reid 7 (83 mins for Hoilett)
Peltier (94 mins for Arter)