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Sunderland lose at Leicester
Sunderland’s stuttering pre-season continued to disappoint yesterday as they lost their final summer friendly.
Seven days before the season begins at Arsenal, they slumped to a 1-0 defeat at Leicester City after another drab display in which the lack of goal threat was clear.
Manager Martin O’Neill has lodged a bid for Wolves’ Steven Fletcher while he has been linked to Tottenham’s Jermain Defoe. On yesterday’s evidence, more firepower is badly needed to sharpen up the Black Cats’ blunt attack.
They struggled to clear scoring opportunities against the Championship opposition who were worthy of the win having created a string of chances, most notably through lively winger Ben Marshall.
In contrast, the Black Cats, who were again without the injured Phil Bardsley and Stephane Sessegnon, were well off the pace and only a last-ditch Matthew Kilgallon challenge prevented Leicester striker Jamie Vardy scoring after three minutes.
Soon Craig Gardner, playing at right-back, delivered an inswinging cross that a stooping Fraizer Campbell could not direct under the crossbar, but the Foxes were soon again on the attack.
After being fed by Vardy, Jermaine Beckford raced away from a static defence but instead of shooting the former Everton striker attempted a pass to Lloyd Dyer that was intercepted by Kilgallon.
The Leicester chances continued. A mazy run from Ben Marshall saw him cut inside from the right before firing narrowly over the bar before Vardy headed over following a curling Paul Konchesky cross to the far post.
Marshall then broke into the penalty area and unleashed a powerful low effort that keeper Keiren Westwood did well to block; Leicester quickly regained possession with Dyer shooting over from a tight angle.
At the other end, Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel saw little of the action until he had to punch clear a Gardner free-kick after Jamie McClean had been felled.
McClean was starting his second game n four days having also played in the 1-1 draw at Derby last Wednesday, though he failed to make significant impact.
Kieran Richardson was similarly underwhelming, playing just behind lone striker Campbell, but five minutes before the break he did make a goal-line clearance to prevent Ritchie De Laet scoring with a header following a Marshall corner.
After the break two saves in quick succession from Westwood kept out the Foxes. First, the keeper blocked Anthony Knockheart effort from inside the penalty area and then he stopped Marshall’s thunderous effort by tipping the ball over.
But Westwood was powerless to stop Tom Parkes scoring on 72 minutes.
Following Marshall’s inswinging corner, Lee Cattermole sliced his clearance before Parkes, who’d not been on long as a substitute, prodded home.
The goal no more than Leicester deserved having easily been the more productive side at the King Power Stadium and within two minutes they came close to a second goal, this time Knockheart had a pop from 20 yards that sailed off target.
The shot may not have threatened Westwood’s goal, but it was more than could be said of Sunderland in the final third, but they almost fluked an equaliser.
A free-kick from, Seb Larsson, a half-time substitute, bounced in the penalty area and rebounded off the bar and in the scramble that followed Schmeichel clawed away a McClean header that appeared to have crossed the line, but referee Craig Pawson said otherwise.
Sunderland attempted to build a head of steam in the closing stages with Jack Colback firing a rasping drive that Schmeichel pushed away, but that was as good as it got for O’Neill’s men.
Leicester City (4-4-2): Schmeichel; De Laet (Schlupp 46), Morgan, Moore, Konchesky (Parkes 68); Marshall, Drinkwater (Danns 46), James (King 46), Dyer (Knockheart 46); Beckford (Waghorn 46), Vardy (Nugent 43). Subs (not used): Logan, Gallagher
Sunderland (4-4-1-1): Westwood; Gardner, Kilgallon (Meyler 46), Bramble (Cuellar 46), O’Shea (Egan 76); Elmohamady (Larsson 46), Cattermole (Knott 82), Colback, McClean; Richardson (Adams 76); Campbell (Noble 76). Sub (not used): Mignolet (gk)
Referee: Craig Pawson
Attendance: 9,293 (1,117 Sunderland)