Match ends, Watford 0, Leicester City 3.
Watford 0-3 Leicester City
Leicester City recorded their 14th win from 19 games this season by beating Watford at Vicarage Road.
The visitors took an early lead when a clearance by Watford keeper Manuel Almunia hit Chris Wood in the face and rebounded into the net.
They doubled their advantage with a deflected Anthony Knockaert finish.
Fernando Forestieri was denied by Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel, before Lloyd Dyer's left-footed strike rounded off the win.
The two sides were meeting for the first time since their play-off semi-final second leg encounter in May, when Troy Deeney scored a late winner to send Watford into the final.
That match had finished at an exhilarating pace and this one started in equally explosive fashion as both sides attacked from the outset.
But it was a moment of misfortune for Almunia that resulted in the opener 10 minutes in. The former Arsenal keeper looked to clear a routine backpass but kicked the ball straight into the face of Wood and it bounced into the Watford net.
The bizarreness of the goal seemed to leave Watford stunned in the following minutes, and Leicester twice went close to adding to their advantage,.
Dyer thought he had doubled the lead when he rolled the ball into the empty net, but was flagged offside, and Wood also had the ball in the net with a header, but he too had strayed behind the Watford defence.
Watford improved as the break approached and Schmeichel produced a double save to keep out Lewis McGugan.
Marcin Wasilewski missed a golden chance to score Leicester's second when he powered a header over the bar one minute before half-time.
But a second did arrive for Leicester eight minutes into the second-half when Jeff Schlupp showed great persistence to muscle his way into the area and the full-back pulled the ball back for Knockaert, who slammed home from 12 yards.
That effectively put the game beyond the hosts, but it did spur them into life. Forestieri saw a low shot tipped round the post by Schmeichel, before the Danish keeper produced a superb reaction save from the striker at point-blank range.
However, Leicester added a third just before the end when substitute Gary Taylor-Fletcher released Dyer, and the burly winger made no mistake from inside the area.
Watford head coach Gianfranco Zola said:
"In the second half we should have scored, and if we had the story would have been different. But we gave away 30 minutes of the first half and against a team in form like Leicester, you cannot concede that.
"What disappointed me is how poor we were with the ball in the first 30 minutes. There was no imagination, no movement and no cohesion.
"I saw a reaction, I saw a team creating chances but it was too late."
Leicester manager Nigel Pearson said:
"The win was underpinned by the team's performance. I thought we were very good defensively as a team and as far as I'm concerned it was a good all-round performance.
"We always looked dangerous, I thought we counter-attacked particularly well but this year our ball management has been a lot better than last season.
"We're doing OK at the moment and the players have continued to put an awful lot of commitment into the season so far."
- 18PudilSubstituted forFaraoniat 71'minutes
- 6EkstrandBooked at 77mins
- 12DoyleySubstituted forCassettiat 62'minutes
- 16MurraySubstituted forFabbriniat 45'minutes
- 11ForestieriBooked at 36mins
- 24KnockaertBooked at 53minsSubstituted forHammondat 75'minutes
- 35NugentSubstituted forTaylor-Fletcherat 82'minutes
- 39WoodSubstituted forJamesat 67'minutes
- Roger East
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Watford 0, Leicester City 3.
Corner, Watford. Conceded by Dean Hammond.
Attempt saved. Gabriele Angella (Watford) right footed shot from more than 35 yards is saved in the centre of the goal.
Offside, Watford. Marco Cassetti tries a through ball, but Fernando Forestieri is caught offside.
Attempt blocked. Lewis McGugan (Watford) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Fernando Forestieri (Watford) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Dean Hammond (Leicester City).
Attempt missed. Marcin Wasilewski (Leicester City) header from the centre of the box is close, but misses the top right corner. Assisted by Matthew James with a cross following a corner.
Corner, Leicester City. Conceded by Manuel Almunia.
Attempt saved. Andy King (Leicester City) right footed shot from a difficult angle on the right is saved in the bottom right corner.
Foul by Joel Ekstrand (Watford).
Gary Taylor-Fletcher (Leicester City) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Attempt blocked. Lewis McGugan (Watford) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Fernando Forestieri.
Goal! Watford 0, Leicester City 3. Lloyd Dyer (Leicester City) left footed shot from the left side of the box to the centre of the goal. Assisted by Gary Taylor-Fletcher with a through ball.
Attempt saved. Troy Deeney (Watford) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Fernando Forestieri.
Substitution, Leicester City. Gary Taylor-Fletcher replaces David Nugent.
Foul by Joel Ekstrand (Watford).
David Nugent (Leicester City) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Corner, Watford. Conceded by Wes Morgan.
Joel Ekstrand (Watford) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Joel Ekstrand (Watford).
Daniel Drinkwater (Leicester City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Hand ball by Liam Moore (Leicester City).
Attempt blocked. Matthew James (Leicester City) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Substitution, Leicester City. Dean Hammond replaces Anthony Knockaert.
Foul by Marco Davide Faraoni (Watford).
Daniel Drinkwater (Leicester City) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Delay over. They are ready to continue.
Delay in match Daniel Drinkwater (Leicester City) because of an injury.
Substitution, Watford. Marco Davide Faraoni replaces Daniel Pudil.
Attempt missed. Daniel Pudil (Watford) right footed shot from the centre of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Lewis McGugan.
Attempt missed. Troy Deeney (Watford) left footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Ikechi Anya.
Substitution, Leicester City. Matthew James replaces Chris Wood.
Attempt missed. Ikechi Anya (Watford) right footed shot from the right side of the box is close, but misses the top right corner. Assisted by Fernando Forestieri.
Diego Fabbrini (Watford) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Daniel Drinkwater (Leicester City).
Substitution, Watford. Marco Cassetti replaces Lloyd Doyley.
Attempt saved. Fernando Forestieri (Watford) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Ikechi Anya.
Attempt missed. Gabriele Angella (Watford) header from the centre of the box is too high. Assisted by Lewis McGugan with a cross following a corner.