Andy King’s second half brace handed Leicester their first win of the season against a depleted Cardiff at the Walkers Stadium.
The Foxes had found themselves a goal down at half time courtesy of Cardiff left back Lee Naylor’s bizarre cross finding its way into the net, but produced a superb second half comeback to claim a deserved victory.
Cardiff – without the fearsome attacking trio of Craig Bellamy, Michael Chopra and Jay Bothroyd for the visit – were second best for much of the game and rarely stamped any authority on the match.
Manager Paulo Sousa made only one change from Saturday’s draw at Coventry, as Steve Howard was handed a start in place of Matty Fryatt up front.
Neilson — Morrison — Hobbs — Berner
Oakley — Wellens — King
Waghorn — Howard — Dyer
Neither side began the match particularly well, and a slow start to the match saw possession change hands on a frequent basis.
The final third was quickly identified as a problem area for Leicester as they struggled to provide their forward line with any real service.
It was the same tale for visitors Cardiff, who created the game’s opening opportunity on goal when Jason Koumas tested loanee goalkeeper Carl Ikeme from an acute angle.
Lloyd Dyer was a constant thorn in the Cardiff ranks for the duration of the game and ultimately proved to be the first Foxes player to spring into life. Knocking the ball past Kevin McNaughton, the winger’s dangerous cut back into the penalty area just eluded the City forward line.
On the other side Martyn Waghorn looked lively throughout and had the first real chance to stretch his legs soon after when he skipped past Lee Naylor before delivering a final ball just too strong for Steve Howard.
But Leicester’s luck soon swayed for the worse true to season form on 25 minutes when Cardiff took the lead in cruel fashion.
Left back Naylor gathered the ball on the wing from 35 yards before unleashing a wild cross which flew into the top corner past a shell-shocked Ikeme.
Lady Luck was in hysterics.
The goal had clearly deflated the Foxes, who began to find themselves controlled by a Cardiff side passing the ball at will.
Chances remained few and far between however, and Leicester rode the spell of Cardiff pressure before hitting back themselves.
Martyn Waghorn’s excellent corner was only half dealt with by the Bluebirds’ defence as McNaughton found himself on line duties to head away Steve Howard’s goal-bound effort.
There was time for one more prestige opportunity for Leicester before the half-time whistle. Lloyd Dyer’s magnificent ball into the box between goalkeeper and defence screamed for a finish, but ultimately proved too much for a stretching Waghorn.
The second half was another story entirely.
With Sousa’s words of wisdom ringing in their ears a revitalised Foxes side took the game to the Welsh outfit in style.
Richie Wellens, wretched in the first half, soon began to turn creator in the middle of the park alongside Matt Oakley.
Indeed it was Wellens who proved instrumental to City’s equaliser on 51 minutes. The midfielder’s delightful ball into the penalty area was met by the head of Welsh starlet Andy King to head past David Marshall in the Cardiff goal. Relief.
From then on there was only one side in it for maximum points, but with recent matches engraved into the memory the Foxes knew there was still work to be done.
Pressure continued and King was almost on target with another header from a second Wellens cross, but his effort flew harmlessly wide.
Lloyd Dyer caught the side netting with his drive from a difficult angle, before City unleashed three quick-fire efforts on goal on the hour mark.
Matt Oakley was first to test Marshall, before Waghorn fired in to call the Cardiff goalkeeper into action once again soon after. The third, Waghorn again, sailed over.
But sure enough Leicester had their second goal with just over 20 minutes of the game remaining. Robbie Neilson’s through ball was met by the orchestral Wellens, whose lay-off into the penalty area allowed King to sweep the ball home for his fourth league goal of the season.
It was no more than Sousa’s side deserved for their second half efforts, as finally they took hold of a winning position for the first time this season.
Unsatisfied with their slender advantage, City took to firing more ammunition at the Bluebirds and squandered a glorious opportunity to seal victory just over five minutes later.
Goalkeeper Marshall’s terrible pass to Lee Naylor was intercepted by Dyer, who burst into the penalty area with the goal at his mercy before unbelievably clipping the post with his comical effort.
Japanese international Yuki Abe was handed his Leicester debut with eight minutes of the game remaining, as King left the field to a standing ovation.
Leicester continued to dominate in the final stages of the game, but were dealt a brief scare when Chris Burke’s looped effort dropped narrowly over the crossbar.
The Foxes hung on with ease for a deserved victory however, putting any niggling doubts to bed with a superb second half showing on home soil.
Cardiff’s injury list no doubt proved favourable to Sousa, but the Leicester manager will care little after seeing his side finally reap their rewards from a difficult start to the season.
Andy King once again proved just how important he can be to City when given license to roam forward, enhancing his credentials as a star performer in the Championship.
High-flying Queens Park Rangers are the visitors to the Walkers on Saturday afternoon as Sousa looks to get one over on his former employees following an ill-fated spell at Loftus Road.
Good things come to those who wait.