LONDON • Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri praised his side's camaraderie, as striker Jamie Vardy extended his scoring streak in a 2-1 win over Watford in the Premier League on Saturday.
The Foxes were leading 1-0 courtesy of N'Golo Kante's second-half goal when Vardy was brought down in the box by Watford goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes.
Riyad Mahrez, Leicester's usual penalty taker, invited Vardy, on a run of eight goals in as many league games, to take over the spot-kick duties.
And the England striker duly blasted the ball past Gomes for a league-high 12th goal of the season.
"They are all real friends, everybody understands the project," said Ranieri.
"It is a very strong group, a friendly group and there is a good spirit in the group.
"When we got the penalty Riyad Mahrez gives Jamie the ball and says, 'Come on, score'. It was a lovely moment."
Vardy, 28, became the first player to score in nine straight Premier League games in the same campaign. He can equal former Manchester United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy's record of scoring in 10 consecutive top-flight matches - achieved over two seasons - at Newcastle on Nov 21.
By contrast, Kante's goal was his first for Leicester.
"Kante is a hard worker and he plays for all his team-mates," said Ranieri of the French midfielder. "He runs a lot. He's good and I'm very happy with him."
Victory left Leicester in third place on 25 points.
However, avoiding relegation remains the immediate priority for Ranieri.
"We don't change our focus. The sooner we achieve 40 points, then we can speak about other things," he said.
"For now we target 40 points."
Another team who have surprised this season are West Ham. But Hammers manager Slaven Bilic now fears that serious injuries to Dimitri Payet and Enner Valencia could derail his side's impressive start to the season.
The duo suffered ankle problems in Saturday's 1-1 draw against Everton at Upton Park.
French midfielder Payet, who has been instrumental since joining from Marseille in the close season, limped off soon after a first-half tackle from James McCarthy.
Ecuador striker Valencia was stretchered off with a serious-looking injury following an innocuous challenge from Seamus Coleman.
With West Ham making a surprise push for a coveted Champions League spot, those losses could potentially prove a damaging blow as Bilic awaits news of scan results.
"We have to wait about Payet and Valencia," he said.
"It doesn't look good but I'm not a doctor."
West Ham climbed to fifth in the table on Saturday but Tottenham Hotspur will leapfrog them with a draw at Arsenal yesterday.