Leicester sink Stoke as Craig Shakespeare joins star managers in record books
Leicester edged closer to certain Premier League safety as boss Craig Shakespeare entered the record books after a routine win over Stoke.
Wilfred Ndidi and Jamie Vardy handed the Foxes a 2-0 victory over a subdued Stoke side who rarely threatened to upset the home side’s momentum.
It was Leicester’s fifth straight win in all competitions since Claudio Ranieri was sacked and meant Shakespeare became the first English manager to win his first four Premier League games.
He joined Guus Hiddink, Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola and Carlo Ancelotti in having a 100 per cent record after four outings.
Shakespeare has now guided last season’s shock champions nine points clear of the relegation zone and into the Champions League quarter-finals.
He also has them back to their vibrant best with hapless Stoke, who remain ninth, unable to cope and the Foxes now sit just three points behind them.
Leicester set an early tone when Yohan Benalouane – in his first league appearance at the King Power Stadium since the opening day of last season – dragged wide.
The Foxes bossed possession with the visitors trying to remain compact but Stoke were indebted to Erik Pieters after 18 minutes.
Ryan Shawcross poleaxed Demarai Gray and, from Christian Fuchs’ free-kick, Pieters nodded Robert Huth’s goalbound header away and Vardy missed the follow-up.
Gray then drilled wide but the Foxes got the goal their early domination deserved after 25 minutes with Ndidi’s first Premier League strike.
The midfielder collected Danny Simpson’s simple pass before advancing and unleashing an unstoppable 25-yard drive into the top corner.
As an attacking force Stoke were non-existent and going behind left them with a mountain to climb, with Saido Berahino anonymous and Marko Arnautovic nullified.
Gray, a constant danger, forced Glen Johnson to deflect his effort over before Lee Grant turned Mahrez’s shot wide nine minutes before the break.
In between, Berahino finally reminded everyone he was on the pitch but his scuffed shot was gathered by the under-worked Kasper Schmeichel.
And Leicester extinguished any hopes of a second-half Stoke revival just 76 seconds after the re-start.
Again, it was too easy for the Foxes as Simpson collected his second assist of the afternoon, swinging in a deep cross which Vardy met with a clinical volley past Grant.
It was the striker’s fifth goal in his last six club games, with the 30-year-old revitalised since February’s exit of former manager Claudio Ranieri.
Shinji Okazaki tested Grant before the goalkeeper produced a fine block to prevent Mahrez making it 3-0 after 64 minutes.
There was no sign of a comeback from Stoke, with Leicester afforded the luxury of taking Vardy off early, even if Peter Crouch side-footed wide with 24 minutes left.
Mahrez nearly added a third but shot wide and Gray almost capped an excellent display when Grant tipped his late effort around the post.
Crouch then headed wide with a minute left and was denied by Schmeichel in stoppage time.