Brendan Rodgers paid tribute to the “fitness, hunger and form” of Jamie Vardy after “a sublime finish” edged Leicester to a hard-fought 1-0 win over Wolves.
The Leicester manager acknowledged that Vardy’s playing time will have to be managed in the next two years of his contract so that the 34-year-old can stay “electric and explosive”.
Leicester have invested £23milliion in Patson Daka, from RB Salzburg, and Kelechi Iheanacho scored the winning penalty in last Saturday’s Community Shield triumph over Manchester City, but Vardy remains the main man.
Rodgers said: “He’s in great condition, he looks after his body and he’s the ultimate professional.
“We had a good chat over the course of pre-season. He’s got two years left on his contract. It’s up to both of us to manage him, we can make him as explosive and electric as he can be. That’s the reason we brought Patson Daka in.
“But when he has that form and that level of fitness, that hunger, he’s very difficult to play against. I thought he was outstanding today.
“There’s some outstanding strikers in the Premier League and of course he’s up there with them. He had a really good pre-season and we saw the results of that today.”
Wolves, under new manager Bruno Lage, dominated the second half but could not match the exquisite finish by Vardy four minutes before half-time.
Vardy got in behind the Wolves backline for three chances even before his brilliant goal but, while Wolves counter-attacked dangerously, they lacked the finishing touch of the former England striker.
For the goal, Ricardo Pereira muscled his way past two men down the right wing and pulled a low cross to the near corner of the six-yard area where Vardy ran in front of Conor Coady to flick a brilliant left-footed shot past Jose Sa.
Rodgers added: “He was a threat all the game, getting in behind and he was unlucky not to score more than one. That was the only downside today. We got into good positions but couldn’t find the precision on the final pass. But with his attacking and defending, he was instrumental to the team.”
Wolves, with Raul Jimenez leading the line intelligently on his first league appearance since fracturing his skull nine months ago, looked dangerous on the counter-attack, mainly through Adama Traore.
Five minutes before Leciester’s goal, Traore sprinted onto Joao Moutinho’s pass but sidefooted just wide. He also shot at Kasper Schmeichel in the second half as Wolves pushed on.
Leicester switched to a 3-5-2 shape by introducing Boubakary Soumare, the £17 million signing from Lille, and £15million defender Jannik Vestergaard, who joined on the eve of the game from Southampton.
Wolves dominated the final stages but neither Max Kilman, dribbling in on goal, Leander Dendoncker, with a clear header, nor Morgan Gibbs-White, fed by Traore, could convert.
Lage was pleased with his team’s performance.
He said: “The result was more important but the way we play and the chances we created, we deserve more.
The new Wolves manager suggested Jimenez just needs to rebuild his confidence after his nine months out.
“I think he did well, the way he worked for the team.
“I just have one word for him: just be confident. The goals are coming. The way you work, you’re going to help us win games.”
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