Vardy and Mahrez fire Foxes to victory over struggling Watford
Leicester boss Claude Puel has now lost just four of his 18 games since taking charge.
Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez fired Leicester to a routine 2-0 win over Watford as Claude Puel’s powers of recovery continued.
Winger Mahrez – linked with a January move – maintained his fine form with a third goal in six games after Vardy’s first-half penalty put the Foxes ahead.
Leicester moved up to seventh in the Premier League while Watford’s struggles continued with Marco Silva’s side having won just once in 11 games.
The Foxes still needed a fine Harry Maguire block on Andre Gray to clinch victory but boss Puel has now lost just four of his 18 games in charge.
He took over in October, as Leicester’s third manager of 2017, after Craig Shakespeare was sacked while the club were in the bottom three.
The Hornets are 10th but they are just four points above the relegation zone.
Despite Watford’s energetic start they relied on stand-in goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis, in for the injured Heurelho Gomes, to keep them level early on.
Vardy, all pace and power, shrugged off Molla Wague and forced Karnezis into a smart stop before the Greece international blocked Wilfred Ndidi’s close-range strike.
Watford’s only win in their previous 10 league outings came in a 2-1 victory against Leicester on Boxing Day and their fragile defending underlined a lack of confidence.
But they survived the early scares and Kasper Schmeichel gathered Abdoulaye Doucoure’s low drive after 19 minutes.
Leicester’s early promise waned as a scrappy game struggled to ignite but
Troy Deeney, the subject of several Leicester bids in 2016, almost opened the scoring after 33 minutes when he finished low past Schmeichel, only to be ruled marginally offside.
Yet it was the Foxes who broke the deadlock six minutes later thanks mainly to their hapless former defender.
Ex-loanee Wague was left trailing behind Vardy as the striker latched onto Matty James’ through-ball and he could only clatter the Foxes forward in the box.
It was a clear penalty and Vardy dispatched his 11th goal of the season into the bottom corner.
With little inspiration and Richarlison’s early-season influence fading Watford never recovered and they have now failed to keep a clean sheet in 12 top-flight games.
The second half began with Karnezis gathering Shinji Okazaki’s low effort before Marvin Zeegelaar denied Vardy a second when he intercepted Okazaki’s centre.
The visitors showed little signs of life except for Gray’s snapshot being easily held by Schmeichel after 66 minutes.
Leicester were then furious minutes later when Mahrez went down under Doucoure’s challenge in the area but referee Lee Probert ignored their protests.
The hosts had more threat and energy but they relied on Maguire’s excellent block with 17 minutes left to stay ahead when Gray raced through but took too long.
And Mahrez made the game safe in stoppage time with an excellent run and low effort after he bamboozled Christian Kabasele.