Goalscorers: Stan Collymore 17, 60, 87, Emile Heskey 34, Kevin Phillips 53, Niall Quinn 75, Stefan Oakes 90
Leicester City: Tim Flowers, Matt Elliott, Gerry Taggart, Frank Sinclair, Darren Eadie (Stefan Oakes 56), Steve Guppy, Neil Lennon, Robbie Savage, Muzzy Izzet, Stan Collymore, Emile Heskey
Sunderland: Thomas Sorensen, Paul Butler, Jody Craddock, Chris Makin, Eric Roy (John Oster 71), Alex Rae, Stefan Schwarz, Darren Holloway (Nicky Summerbee 45), Kevin Kilbane, Niall Quinn, Kevin Phillips
Referee: Neale Barry, Attendance: 20,432
Having joined Leicester City a month earlier after falling out of favour at Aston Villa, Stan Collymore was keen to show his doubters wrong. He had his chance infront of the Sky Sports cameras on his home debut at Filbert Street as the Foxes’ hosted Sunderland in an end-to-end contest that saw seven goals and a reminder of his class when he was at his absolute best.
Collymore had already been in trouble with new manager Martin O’Neill for an off-field incident in a hotel during a club training camp break in La Manga. This was his second match for the club and after 16 minutes, he produced a spectacular opening goal. His half-volley from a flick-on by his new strike partner Emile Heskey left Thomas Sorensen completely helpless.
It was always going to be an entertaining contest. Sunderland had impressed many on their return to the top-flight but had the poorest defensive record in the top 10 coming into the match and it was exposed again 10 minutes before half-time. Neil Lennon won possession in the heart of midfield and he played Heskey in. He took one touch and finished in-between Sorensen’s legs.
Peter Reid was not happy with his team’s performance and withdrew Darren Holloway at half-time, replacing him with Nicky Summerbee. They did come close to reducing the deficit when Leicester defender Matt Elliott’s clearance at the near post hit his own crossbar. It was a warning sign to the Foxes but it wasn’t adhered to. Kevin Phillips’ half-volley from the edge of the penalty area on 53 minutes reduced the arrears. It was the 100th goal of his league career and 24th of an amazing individual season that saw him clinch the Golden Boot at the end of the campaign.
Leicester restored their two-goal lead on the hour mark. Lennon chalked up his second assist of the match. His beautiful cross was met by Collymore who directed the ball into the top corner of Sorensen’s net. One thing Reid had installed in Sunderland’s armoury was the ability to respond clinically and he had one of the best strike partnerships in the country at the time in Phillips and Niall Quinn. The Republic of Ireland forward joined Philips on the scoresheet with 15 minutes left. His curling strike would set-up a grandstand finish.
The day though would belong to Collymore. He completed his hat-trick with a striker’s tap-in. The finish was slightly scuffed but he wouldn’t be complaining about that and nor were the Leicester supporters. With time running out, substitute Stefan Oakes added a fifth to ensure the Black Cats’ conceded five on their travels for the second time this season, having shipped five at Everton on Boxing Day.
The sides would finish seventh and eighth at the end of the season. This day though belonged to Leicester and to the maverick that was Stan Collymore.