March 3 (Reuters) - Watford’s Andre Gray scored a stoppage-time winner as Leicester City began life under new boss Brendan Rodgers in underwhelming fashion, suffering a 2-1 defeat at his former club in the Premier League on Sunday.
Watford clinched victory in the second minute of added time as Troy Deeney received the ball following a poor goal kick by Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel and fed substitute Gray who held his nerve to slide his finish into the net.
Eighth-placed Watford had taken the lead through Deeney in the fifth minute as the striker got his body across Wes Morgan and rose well to head home Gerard Deulofeu’s whipped ball from a free kick for his first goal in 10 matches at Vicarage Road.
Leicester responded after the break as Jamie Vardy ran onto a fine through ball from midfielder Youri Tielemens and dinked his finish over Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster in the 75th minute for his 10th league goal of the season.
Watford manager Javi Gracia hailed captain Deeney’s impact as they moved to 43 points from 29 games, behind seventh-placed Wolverhampton Wanderers on goal difference.
“Everybody knows how important he is for us because of his professionalism, personality, ambition and character on and off the pitch,” Gracia told Sky Sports.
“There are nine games left and we have 43 points... I can feel the ambition of the group and they want more. I prefer to enjoy every game and do my best, it’s the best way to enjoy something special at the end.”
Despite conceding early, Leicester looked lively as the first half wore on but were unable to convert their good build-up play into clear chances, as Watford comfortably maintained their defensive discipline.
Watford began the second half on the front foot as Deulofeu combined well with Roberto Pereyra to tee up Abdoulaye Doucoure whose curling shot from distance was swatted away by Schmeichel.
Vardy, who endured a heavy collision with Foster earlier in the match, was substituted minutes after scoring as he appeared to suffer a delayed reaction to the knock.
Rodgers was happy with Leicester’s display despite the loss.
“The players were excellent in the second half and it looked like there was only one team that was going to win the game,” Rodgers told the BBC.
“We passed the ball well and opened up the game... you felt Watford were getting deeper and opportunities were coming and then the goal at the end, it’s a case of managing the game.
“That’s something we’ll get the more we work together. There were a lot of good signs.”
Leicester are 11th in the table after their seventh defeat in 10 games.
Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis