SVEN Goran Eriksson celebrated his 63rd birthday in some style on Saturday as his Leicester side brushed Barnsley aside convincingly.
Save for a frantic five-minute spell in the lead-up to the half-time break, Barnsley were second best right across the park.
In fact, had Luke Steele not produced a string of fine saves in the closing minutes the margin of defeat could have been much heavier.
Reds boss Mark Robins acknowledged that his team had been beaten by a top Championship outfit.
He said: “Without doubt Leicester are the best side in our division.
“Sven has come in and drafted in some quality Premier League players, and these astute signings have made Leicester into a very good side.
“It’s going to be up to them if they are to make it into the Premier League, but they’re certainly capable.
“All of their goals were ‘worldys’ today.”
Robins named an unchanged side for the Walkers Stadium clash following the well-deserved midweek win over Preston, with central defender Stephen Foster missing his third straight game as he continued to recover from a nasty shin gash.
The hosts bagged some cracking goals on the day, with the first one coming in the 15th minute.
Paul Gallagher got the Foxes’ show on the road as he took a short pass from Patrick Van Aanholt before smashing home past Steele’s despairing dive from all of 30 yards.
The hosts bossed the opening exchanges and the woodwork came to Barnsley’s rescue seven minutes later when Van Aanholt floated in a curling 20-yard free-kick which struck the crossbar before bouncing behind to safety.
The Reds had been probing and they had plenty of possession, but three minutes before the interval Leicester doubled their lead when Andy King popped in a sublime chip over Steele after an initial shot had been bravely blocked by Bobby Hassell.
Far from being stunned, the Reds suddenly sprang to life in the dying minutes of the first half.
Frank Nouble saw a ‘goal’ chalked off for offside, before the visitors did score as Jacob Mellis steered home his first Barnsley goal from the edge of the box.
As the visitors pressed, they were then denied a quick equaliser when Nouble rounded keeper Chris Weale but watched agonisingly as Sol Bamba somehow got back to hack his goalbound shot off the line.
Half-time came and Barnsley’s momentum was cruelly lost.
King forced Steele into another fine stop after the resumption, before another excellent strike made it 3-1 just before the hour mark.
This time King was afforded far too much time to charge through the middle before guiding a shot into the corner from 20 yards.
As the game closed out Leicester threatened to run riot with Yakubu, sub Lloyd Dyer and Gallagher all forcing Steele into excellent saves, before the woodwork came to the rescue again with two minutes left.
Steele was the hero again as he palmed Matt Oakley’s shot on to the top of the crossbar and behind.
The final goal, just before the stoppage-time board went up, was arguably the best of the lot.
Full-back Kyle Naughton picked up a loose ball just inside the Reds’ half and proceeded to smash home an unstoppable shot past Steele from way over 30 yards this time.
In the end Leicester had swept to a well-deserved win, leaving former England boss Eriksson to head off for a good night out.
He said: “I will enjoy a nice dinner after that performance.
“I will go out now. If we don’t win I never go out.
“We’re definitely on a good run at the moment – 2011 has been good to us so far.
“It’s still too early to talk about promotion, but in the second half we played very well and scored some good goals, some beautiful goals.”
Without doubt Leicester are currently the best team in our division at the moment.
They looked pretty good when we played them at Oakwell earlier in the season, but they’ve got even better now.
We tried to have a go rather than sit back, but the third goal for Leicester effectively finished the match.
We deserved more in the first hour, but after that we fell away.