Sunderland 2 City 1
Report by Colin Hall
Leicester City succumbed to their SIXTH away defeat of the current Premier League season as bottom club Sunderland become the latest team to overcome them.
The result, and performance, were all too reminiscent of games witnessed on our travels two winters ago, when the Foxes were marooned for months at the bottom of the league.
Although this side are unlikely to plumb such depths this time around (there are simply too many weak teams in this league for that to happen), Claudio Ranieri and his side continue to perturb those who had hoped that the team would have mounted a more robust defence of their title.
Indeed, the spirit, determination and cohesion which propelled them to those heights were once again qualities notable for their absence as the hosts edged their way to a 2-1 triumph.
As at other league venues, the Stadium of Light observed a minute's silence before the game in remembrance of the Chapecoense players and officials who perished in last week's plane crash. This was immaculately supported by both sets of fans.
The home side, roared on by a partisan crowd, started the game strongly, with Watmore, Anichebe and Defoe all going close in the early stages. Gradually, though, City were able to establish a foothold in the game, with Mahrez showing more touches than in some of his recent displays.
In attack, Vardy had a couple of opportunities to end his long goal drought, but was only able to send his headers wide of the target on both occasions. It was particularly disappointing to observe that, even after three months, his partnership with Slimani shows little sign of gelling.
Nevertheless, the visitors ended the half on the front foot, as Fuchs sent a cross-shot onto the bar with home keeper Pickford stranded.
Sunderland were forced into two midfield changes at the break, with neither Pienaar nor Denayer fit enough to continue. However, both were replaced by experienced professionals who were to play a significant role in their side's eventual victory.
Slimani came close to making the breakthrough early in the second half, only to see his effort blocked by Djilobodji. But with both sides looking short of inspiration, the game looked like meandering towards a scoreless conclusion.
Sadly for City, weakness in defending set pieces, which has proved their undoing so often this season, was made to tell once again.
Midway through the half, Kirchhoff flicked on a corner from fellow substitute Larsson. The ball hit Huth and crept in at the near post past a wrong-footed Zieler.
With the Foxes left reeling by this blow, the hosts swept forward in search of a clincher. They were unfortunate not to win a penalty when former City loanee van Aanholt appeared to be felled in a tussle with Simpson.
But further home pressure brought its reward shortly afterwards when Anichebe teed up Watmore for a shot which Huth could only divert into the path of an unmarked Defoe, who coolly struck the target to double his side's lead.
At this point, sections of the visiting contingent made their frustrations known in the most forthright of terms. Fortunately, this discontent quickly subsided when City finally managed to construct a move of quality to bring them back on board.
Vardy roused himself enough to win a clash in midfield, sending Gray on a run which took him past the home defence. Okazaki, brought on as a replacement for Slimani, was alert enough to convert the cross at the near post and bring the visitors back into the game.
The scene was set for a rousing Foxes fightback, but it did not materialise. City couldn't keep possession for long enough to sustain pressure on the hosts, who were able to run down the clock during the closing stages.
Only when Morgan - and even Zieler - had ventured forward in the dying seconds, did City create another scoring chance, but Pickford was alert enough to turn away a piledriver from the City skipper.
In truth, though, Leicester could have few complaints about the outcome. Too many players again performed well below their capabilities and – as Match of the Day pundit Alan Shearer noted on Saturday evening – some of the side's bigger names lacked the hunger and intensity for this particular battle.
Ranieri's persistent faith in the old guard, and in the formation that served him so well last season, continues to go unrewarded. Until and unless he sees fit to reconsider this faith, another long, cold winter looms for the Foxes fanbase.
Sunderland (4-3-3): Pickford; Jones, Kone, Djilobodji, van Aanholt; Denayer (Kirchhoff 46), Ndong, Pienaar (Larsson 46); Watmore (Manquillo 85), Anichebe, Defoe. Subs not used: Mannone, Khazri, O’Shea, Januzaj.
Goals: Huth (og) 67, Defoe 77.
Booked: van Aanholt, Djilobodji, Larsson.
City (4-4-2): Zieler; Simpson. Morgan, Huth, Fuchs; Mahrez (Musa 72), King, Amartey, Albrighton (Gray 72); Slimani (Okazaki 68),Vardy.
Subs not used: Hamer, Hernandez, Schlupp, Mendy.
Goal: Okazaki 80.
Referee: Andre Marriner. Attendance: 39725.
The views expressed in this report are the opinions of the Trust member nominated to file the report only and do not represent the views of the Foxes Trust organisation