LEICESTER fans flocked to the King Power to hail the return of a former hero.
And got two for the price of one as James Maddison and Jamie Vardy roared back to their brilliant best to spoil Claudio Ranieri’s homecoming party.
Leicester celebrate their 4-2 win over Watford in the snowCredit: Getty
The pair have fallen short of their high standards at times recently but they were unplayable at times yesterday as they combined to form a deadly tag-team which ripped Ranieri’s Watford apart.
And though the visitors scored twice to give Leicester one hell of a scare, the 70-year-old Hornets’ boss should have realised if anyone was going to upstage him it would be Vardy!
After all, nobody throws a better shindig in these parts than the guy who hosted Leicester’s greatest-ever all-nighter in 2016 on the night the Foxes became champions of England!
Watford were certainly punch-drunk by the time they left as Leicester edged home in a six-goal thriller.
There was never any doubt Ranieri would receive a rapturous welcome on his return for his first competitive game here since his Foxes beat Derby County 3-1 after extra-time on February 8, 2017.
The man who brought so much joy to the city of Leicester during his magical 19-month tenure, emerged from the tunnel to a standing ovation.
Then he politely applauded all four sides of the King Power.
The Godfather was back on his old turf and Foxes fans paid homage to the legendary Italian.
James Madison puts Leicester 1-0 upCredit: Alamy
James Madison celebrates putting Leicester aheadCredit: Getty
They kicked it off, singing “Ranieri, oh, oh, oh, oh,” then “We’re all going on a European tour – Dilly-ding and Dilly-dong,” before “Champions of England you made us sing that.”
It was a magical moment for the 70-year-old former Fox who will always be remembered fondly in these parts and rightly so.
However business is business as Ranieri noted in his pre-match interview when he was asked how it felt to be back.
“I feel good at the moment and of course the emotion is inside me – until the referee blows the whistle,” he said.
“Then for 90 minutes I know there is a battle. We try to win – they try to win.”
And he was spot-on.
Because for 90 rip-roaring minutes both these unpredictable sides showed the good and bad sides of their game.
Both potent in attack – yet both totally impotent at the back.
However it made for brilliant entertainment as the goals appeared in a first-half flurry, like the snow.
Joshua King converts from the spot for WatfordCredit: Reuters
Joshua King celebrates equalising from 12 yardsCredit: Alamy
Vardy almost got off to a flyer after four minutes but Daniel Bachmann, in for the injured Ben Foster, beat away his near post shot.
At the other end a mix-up between Jonny Evans and Kasper Schmeichel almost let in Josh King, and sparked an angry exchange between goalkeeper and experienced defender.
Leicester were living dangerously and when Soyuncu headed straight into the path of Emmanuel Dennis it took a timely deflection to prevent Watford taking the lead.
However it was the Foxes who hit the front after 16 minutes thanks to some suicidal Watford defending of their own.
Jonny Evans launched a long free kick forward which should have been sent back to him with interest by William Ekong.
But the Nigerian skipper ducked his responsibilities – literally – and deliberately let the ball drop over his head.
James Maddison was lurking behind him and accepted the gift, wheeling to drill the ball beyond Bachmann.
Watford dusted themselves down and Schmeichel produced a brilliant save on his 600th senior appearance to deny Dennis, before Massina fluffed an easy header at the far post.
Jamie Vardy scoring one of his two goalsCredit: Getty
Striker Jamie Vardy celebrates in front of ex-manager Claudio RanieriCredit: Reuters
The Hornets must have feared their lkuck was out when Cucho Hernandez’s shot bounced off Soyuncu’s back and flew past Schmeichel – only to strike the inside of the post and rebound into the ‘keeper’s waiting arms.
However Watford levelled from the spot on the half hour after Wilfred Ndidi crazily charged in to send Dennis crashing in the box.
Josh King expertly beat Schmeichel from the spot but within four minutes Vardy had restored his side’s lead with a huge helping hand from Maddison.
The Foxes No.10 showed brilliant vision to clip the ball beyond the Watford defence and Vardy pounced in a flash to brilliantly dink the ball beyond Bachmann from a tight angle.
The striker celebrated with a knee slide right in front of Ranieri – a reminder that not everyone was on speaking terms with Claudio when his Leicester reign unravelled!
Vardy then piled on the agony for his old boss just before half-time to give Leicester a two-goal cushion.
Maddison whipped in a corner and Vardy beat King at the near post to glance a fantastic header beyond Bachmann.
The unrelenting pace continued after the break and Schmeichel did well to block Josh King.
Emmanuel Bonaventure pulling one back for WatfordCredit: Mark Cosgrove/News Images
Ademola Lookman puts the game beyond doubtCredit: Getty
But he was helpless to prevent Watford pulling one back just beyond the hour.
Castagne failed to nail a passback from Ndidi and Dennis sped in to rob the bewildered Belgian before racing through to expertly beat Schmeichel.
Despite the Foxes protests, VAR agreed with ref Andrew Madley that Dennis had won the ball legally.
However as Watford pushed on looking for an equaliser, they were suckered on the counter-attack.
Luke Thomas fed Harvey Barnes who hared down the left before cutting in to square the ball for Ademola Lookman who was left with a simple tap-in.
Leicester took the points but have only managed one clean sheet now in 19 Premier games.
Perhaps Brendan Rodgers should offer his players some pizza in return for a clean sheet!
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