Not everything changes with the seasons. Leicester’s biggest signing this summer is a potential replacement for Jamie Vardy but the veteran striker proved he is unwilling to surrender his throne just yet. While the new arrival, Patson Daka, watched from the bench the 34-year-old led the line for the home side with a ferocity that sometimes seemed to have faded in the second half of last season and – surprise, surprise – he produced a wonderful finish to give his team a winning start to the campaign.
Vardy was grateful to Ricardo Pereira for creating the chance in the 41st minute, as the Portuguese burst between two opponents on the right before curling a cross to the near post. Displaying the instincts of a supreme predator, he beat Conor Coady to the ball and stabbed it first time into the far corner.
“It was a brilliant finish, sublime,” said the Leicester manager, Brendan Rodgers, who believes there is still plenty of more to come from Vardy. “He’s in great condition, he looks after his body. We had a good chat over pre-season. He’s got two years left on his contract and it’s up to both of us to manage him and make him as explosive and electric as he can be. When he’s in that form with that hunger, he’s very difficult to play against.”
Jamie Vardy (second left) scores Leicester’s winner past José Sá of Wolves. Photograph: Plumb Images/Leicester City FC/Getty Images
Vardy was bright from the start of a match in which most of Leicester’s other forwards struggled. He was the first to force either of the goalkeepers into a save, as José Sá flung himself to his left to block the striker’s shot in the 10th minute after a deft pass from the mostly disappointing Ayoze Pérez. Coady charged down another Vardy effort five minutes later after Pereira’s first attempt at supplying the striker, and Sá had to intervene again in the 22nd minute to stop Vardy’s rasping low drive from 20 yards.
None of those chances could be described as gaping, however, and Wolves generally kept the hosts at bay. Bruno Lage has been hired to cultivate a vibrant attacking style but the new manager had the good sense not to change too much too quickly. Although usually an advocate of a back four, Lage elected to send Wolves out with three central defenders, the formation favoured by his predecessor, Nuno Espírito Santo. But there were palpable tweaks to Wolves’ play, chiefly more tempo to everything they did, from pressing to passing, and, although their defensive line was higher than before, their use of the offside trap frequently caught Leicester out.
New-boys watch: Leicester v Wolves
José Sá bore no blame for Leicester’s goal and did his part in keeping the score down by making several saves, though none of them were particularly difficult. The goalkeeper also showed encouraging proactiveness, rushing off his line several times to help out his defence. Francisco Trincão was far less influential on the right wing. For Leicester, Jannik Vestergaard was busy after being introduced for the last half hour and found himself overpowered on a couple of notable occassions by Adama Traoré, Boubakary Soumaré was mostly tidy in midfield after coming on, learning quickly not to swell on the ball.
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Wolves should have taken the lead minutes before falling behind but Adama Traoré steered his shot wide after racing clear of the defence. That was a mighty relief to Daniel Amartey, whose sloppy pass had allowed João Moutinho to set up the chance.
Wolves did not trouble the home defence as much as Lage would have wished. Raúl Jiménez worked valiantly on his first competitive outing since fracturing his skull nine months ago and showed no signs of skittishness as he challenged for every ball. But the service to him was underwhelming.
Francisco Trincão made little impact on the right wing until early in the second half, when Caglar Soyuncu did well to deflect his shot wide after clever interplay with Jiménez. As the threat from Wolves grew Rodgers changed his system, introducing the new signing Jannik Vestergaard as a third central defender and casting on another debutant, Boubakary Soumaré, into central midfield as Harvey Barnes joined Vardy in a front two.
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Barnes twice chose the wrong option when given chances to increase Leicester’s lead. Then Traoré fired straight at Kasper Schmeichel after a counterattack by the increasingly dangerous Wolves.
Vardy should have secured victory in the 77th minute after neat service by Tielemans – who was as classy as ever – but slashed wide from 15 yards. Wolves threw everything at the hosts in the closing minutes but could not break through, Schmeichel foiling their best chance by saving a close-range header from Max Kilman.