English Premiership

Gardner checks Leicester charge

2016-03-02 06:54
Craig Gardner (AP)

Leicester - Leicester City's hopes of a fairytale Premier League title suffered a setback as they were held to a 2-2 draw at home by West Bromwich Albion on Tuesday.

The leaders had the chance to extend their advantage at the top of the table to five points with rivals Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Manchester City all in action on Wednesday.

But they were restricted to a point as Craig Gardner levelled for West Brom with a superb free-kick five minutes into the second half.

That meant a frustrating night for the Foxes, who had recovered from conceding Salomon Rondon's early opener to lead 2-1 at half-time through Danny Drinkwater and Andy King.

They hit the crossbar twice through Jamie Vardy and Shinji Okazaki, while captain Wes Morgan was denied late on by Albion goalkeeper Ben Foster, leaving Claudio Ranieri's surprise package with a three-point advantage.

Leicester began the evening positively, with West Brom content to stay deep and soak up whatever pressure came their way.

A delightful feint from Riyad Mahrez took him past two defenders early on, but the visitors dealt well with his cross before clearing a corner that was conceded needlessly by captain Darren Fletcher.

Yet it was Albion who claimed the lead in the 11th minute as Leicester were undone by a simple move.

Fletcher's excellent forward pass found Rondon, who beat Robert Huth for pace and power before slotting a shot beneath Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

Leicester should have been level almost immediately when Huth rose to head a set-piece back across goal, only for Okazaki to flick a shot over the crossbar when he ought to have tested Foster.

Okazaki tried his luck again in the 20th minute after catching Fletcher in possession, but the Japanese striker sent an optimistic lob harmlessly wide.

Leicester wasted another fine chance to level just before the half-hour when another shimmy from Mahrez ended with a cross that Vardy headed straight at Foster.

Leicester's pressure told in the 30th minute when Mahrez and King combined to tee up Drinkwater, whose shot from outside the penalty area took a huge deflection off Jonas Olsson and looped in.

They squandered an opportunity to take the lead moments later when Drinkwater got to the by-line and his deflected cross sat up for Vardy, who headed against the bar.

The home side claimed the lead in first-half stoppage-time, though, with a goal of quality.

Marc Albrighton's fine cross field pass was flicked deftly by Mahrez into King, who beat Foster with a confident finish.

Leicester looked in good shape to assert their authority, yet five minutes into the second half they found themselves pegged back.

Mahrez was penalised for handball 22 yards from goal and Gardner curled the free-kick expertly over the wall and past Schmeichel, who was rooted to the spot.

The hosts might have restored their lead before the hour, but the woodwork frustrated them again as Okazaki's bullet header from Albrighton's cross rattled the crossbar.

Foster made a smart save to keep out a deflected shot from substitute Jeff Schlupp.

Then, as the game switched from end to end, Rondon scooped the ball over as he tried to turn Craig Dawson's misdirected shot towards goal.

Vardy tested Foster again after beating Gareth McAuley for pace, but the West Brom goalkeeper turned the shot around the near post.

Gardner then sent two more long-range efforts past the post as Leicester committed more players forward and left gaps in defence.

The hosts threw caution to the wind and Vardy had a chance when he met Schlupp's cross after a clever pass by Mahrez, but the striker could not make a clean connection.

As they pushed for the winner, Foster stood tall to block a drive from Morgan in a late scramble in the 18-yard box.

And in the dying moments of stoppage time, Leonardo Ulloa flicked a shot inches past the far post from a Mahrez header.

Read more on:    wba  |  english premiership  |  craig gardner  |  soccer

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