Fábio Silva and Jamie Vardy misses leave Wolves and Leicester in stalemate
As the clock ticked into three minutes of stoppage time, there arrived a couple of moments that underlined a frustrating afternoon for Leicester, one that may prove damaging in their hopes of making a play for the title. James Maddison rolled a free-kick into Youri Tielemans on the edge of the box but the midfielder swiped thin air and, seconds later, the returning Jamie Vardy sent a header wide after meeting Marc Albrighton’s cross.
Had Vardy, thrown on with half an hour to play on his comeback after a hernia operation, scored then Leicester, who have won just one of their last four games, would have pulled level on points with second-placed Manchester United. Vardy looked to have done everything right, having beaten Leander Dendoncker to Albrighton’s perfect cross from the right but, as Brendan Rodgers conceded, it was one of those days and an opportunity missed.
“I think I had my arms up [in celebration] because his run was great,” the Leicester manager said. “I was just waiting for the net [to bulge].”
In recent history, games between these sides have either been bang or bust and this one fell into the latter category. This occasion, in an empty stadium on a bitter afternoon, was a stark contrast to the preposterous seesawing finale here two years ago, when Nuno Espírito Santo ended up sprinting on to the pitch to join a pile-in as Wolves revelled in edging a seven-goal feast.
Nuno had promised the teamsheet would lay bare the growing injury issues facing his side, with the absence of Raúl Jiménez most keenly felt in recent weeks. Without Willy Boly and Daniel Podence, owing to hamstring and hip problems respectively, Wolves were forced into another reshuffle. That was offset by the return of Jonny after six months out with a knee injury but the wing-back was withdrawn at half-time, as planned.
“We decided for him to start and the minutes he was going to play,” Nuno said. “It is a big blow for us, losing Daniel and Willy. They are going to be out for some time.”
Wolves got into some fine positions, propelled by Pedro Neto’s bewitching footwork, but the end product eluded them. Neto burst to the byline after leaving Ricardo Pereira in his trail but his cross flashed across goal and beyond the back post, leading the miffed Wolves forward to ask questions of Adama Traoré and Willian José. By that point, Neto had already teed up Traoré inside the box after slinking between Jonny Evans and Tielemans, only for James Justin to dash in and make a crucial block.
Evans was struggling as half-time approached but lasted the distance, with Rodgers explaining the defender’s toenail came off mid-battle. Rodgers confirmed Leicester will welcome back Wilfred Ndidi against Brighton in the FA Cup on Wednesday. “We’ll take the point and move on,” he said.
When an early chance did arise, Rodgers was able to see the funny side, grinning towards his staff stationed in the away dugout. Ayoze Pérez eventually had the ball in the net amid a scene of such desperate defending that the Wolves box had become reminiscent of a Renaissance painting. Harvey Barnes steamed down the flank, twice exchanging passes with Kelechi Iheanacho before laying the ball on for Maddison. Then a gold haze descended, with Conor Coady, Jonny and Max Kilman among a flurry of players throwing their bodies at the ball before Pérez slammed in, by which point the referee, Martin Atkinson, had already blown for a Wolves free-kick.
Kilman superbly denied Barnes as the game drew to a crescendo but the golden chance fell to the substitute Fábio Silva, who contrived to send the ball wide via the studs of Kasper Schmeichel’s left boot. Leicester made a meal of clearing a corner and Rúben Neves, with the help of a ricochet or three, worked the ball through to Silva but the teenage forward fluffed his lines.
Nuno felt Silva was unfortunate and was keen to give credit to Schmeichel, as was Rodgers. “He didn’t have a great deal to do but what he did do, he was so clean, so agile and that spread was absolutely vital for us,” Rodgers said. “He is up there with the very, very best keepers at this level and in Europe. I’m very thankful he is at Leicester City. He is absolutely first class.”