Kelechi Iheanacho hit a hat-trick as Leicester City smashed Sheffield United 5-0 in the Blades' first game of the post-Chris Wilder era.
The Nigerian striker slotted home Jamie Vardy's low cross from close range six minutes before the break to put his side in front and then, after Ayoze Perez netted from the edge of the area in the second half, he added another two to complete his treble.
His second was a result of a fine cross-field assist from Vardy and the third a long-range strike after the Blades defenders sat back and invited him to shoot.
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Vardy failed to get on the scoresheet for the seventh straight match but also set up the fifth, driving a low cross towards the back post which Ethan Ampadu diverted into this own net.
The result puts an eight-point bank between the Foxes and fifth-place Hammers, albeit having played two games more. The Blades remain four points adrift at the bottom and look like staying there.
TALKING POINT - Where do the Blades go from here?
It is not like Sheffield United were winning games or creating a host of chances under Chris Wilder but, even so, they looked a side without drive in this match. Defensively though not water tight, they worked hard and did not let Leicester in easily in the first half but after crossing the halfway line they barely looked like breaking the plane of the penalty area, let alone put a shot on target. In the second half you could see the fight in the team subside with sloppy errors so unlike Blades teams of the previous era, epitomised by them letting a corner twice be passed into the feet of Perez in the penalty area.
With the exception of Liverpool and Manchester City, no team’s manager had their imprints over their team’s performances as much as Wilder and one couldn’t help feel the soul has gone out of the side with his departure. Many of the players were not in the top-flight, nor even top Championship performers, before Wilder and they may not be without him. It was a bold move to get part ways with such a successful and iconic manager, but a lot of work will have to be done to rebuild them into a force which can hope to return to the Premier League in 2022.
MAN OF THE MATCH – Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester)
After being highly touted as a youngster, Iheanacho has been a nearly man playing most often as a substitute at Manchester City and in his first three seasons at Leicester.
The last few months with Leicester’s forward stocks being depleted has led to him getting more chances and his performances and goals in this time suggests now at 24-years-old he has come of age as a Premier League striker. His partnership with Vardy, who now perhaps shorn of his electric pace of yore has developed into a more rounded striker, could be one of the best in the league.
His first goal was a typical poacher’s strike he was perfectly positioned for, the second a powerful first time finish from point blank range giving the goalkeeper no chance and the third the type of goal he has always looked capable of, but not always delivered, driving home with his exocet-like left foot from long range.
Leicester: Schmeichel 6; Soyuncu 7, Evans 7, Fofana 7; Castagne 7, Ndidi 7, Tielemans 8, R Pereira 7; Perez 8; Vardy 9, Iheanacho 10. Subs: Albrighton 8, Leshabela 6.
SheffieldUnited: Ramsdale 6; Bryan 6, Ampadu 6, Basham 7; Stevens 6, Fleck 5, Norwood 5, Lundstram 5, Baldock 5; Sharp 5, Burke 5. Subs: Mousset 6, Ndiaye 6.
13’ Off the post! Castagne crosses from the left flank and Perez flicks a header that Ramsdale tips against the post.
39’ GOAL! Leicester 1-0 Sheffield United. Iheanacho on target once more. Perez plays Vardy in down the inside left channel and he slides a ball across the six-yard box which his strike partner puts away.
53’ Off the line! Iheancho unselfishly squares for Vardy in the box and the former England striker shoots well but Basham jumps to head away on the line.
64’ GOAL! Leicester 2-0 Sheffield United. Perez on the break gets a square ball from Albrighton 35 yards from goal and moves to the right of Ampadu before shooting home from just outside the penalty area.
70’ GOAL! Leicester 3-0 Sheffield United. Fantastic ball from the left flank from Vardy and Iheanacho first time smashes the ball past Ramsdale into the net.
78’ GOAL! Leicester 4-0 Sheffield United. The Blades back off away from Iheanacho 25 yards from goal and he blasts his effort low and hard inside the right hand side goal post giving Ramsdale little chance.
80’ GOAL! Leicester 5-0 Sheffield United. Vardy races into the penalty area and drives a low shot towards the back post and it deflects in off Ampadu. The Blades are a rabble.
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