VAR-dy Party

Leicester City 2 v 0 Fleetwood Town

Report by Stuart Dawkins

Those 17,237 hardy souls who braved an increasingly cold evening to watch this FA Cup replay were rewarded with an “I was there” moment of historic proportions.  The 60-odd seconds between Iheanacho being flagged for offside and the over-ruling of that flag by someone sitting in a studio in London, marked the first time that the Video Assisted Referee (VAR) system had changed a decision in English football.

In truth, the rest of the match was largely unremarkable.  Puel make myriad changes from the team at Stamford Bridge, retaining only Amartey, Dragovic and Mahrez – the latter wearing the captain’s armband.  Slimani and Iheanacho were the new front-pair, with Iborra and Silva the new central midfield.

The game started as a continuation of the tie at Highbury, Fleetwood pressed hard and City players found they had very little time on the ball.  The visitors played like what they are: a more-than-decent League One side. The question was, how long would they be able to maintain that level of intensity? 

The City team played like what they are: a bunch of players who have barely ever played a competitive game together.  There were few passages of flowing play, Fleetwood forced a couple of decent saves from Jakupovic.  There were a few yellow cards for incautious tackles … and not much else to talk about.  In the first 40 minutes, City did not manage a shot on target.  That changed in the 43rd minute. 

Do you remember the Kelechi Iheanacho who, last season, would come on as a substitute for Manchester City and almost inevitably score a goal with a piece of clinical finishing?  Well, following a clever flicked pass from Slimani, that Iheanacho finally turned up in a Leicester City shirt, controlling the ball effortlessly, stepping into space between two centre-backs and scoring under the advancing keeper with apparent ease.  A one-nil score-line at half time flattered Leicester.  Neither side had done much to warrant a lead, it was simply one of those cliched “one moment of magic from the Premier League side” which marked the difference.

Neither manager made any changes for the start of the second half.  Leicester, however, began to dominate the game.  It was noticeable that throughout the match, City were taking quick free kicks and largely ‘getting on with it’.  If that was a deliberate ploy to reduce the amount of time Fleetwood’s players had for rest and recovery – it worked.  As Fleetwood tired, City had more time on the ball, more space, and the gap in quality between the players began to show.  Silva began to do tricks and make runs.  Gray and Mahrez began to look more of the threat we know they can be.

Ten minutes into the second half, it was still only one-nil and Puel made a change – bringing on Albrighton for Slimani.  Slimani was clearly frustrated at the substitution.  He had not had a bad game: he linked up well, finding space between the Fleetwood defensive lines, he set up the goal well, and a one-two with Iheanacho early in the second half gave him a tricky but scorable shooting opportunity which unfortunately he fluffed. 

The change of formation, with Mahrez moved into the centre and Albrighton taking the left wing, worked well, however.  City were looking increasingly threatening and Fleetwood did not register one shot in the second half until the 86th minute.

That is to leap ahead of the key moment in this match.  Jon Moss (yes, him again!!) had refereed well.  He had clearly indicated to the crowd each time that he was listening to VAR-referee Michael Jones.  Iheanacho finished sweetly in the 62nd minute, but – after consulting with VAR – Moss concurred with his Assistant referee that the ball had marginally crossed the line for a goal kick before Gray had crossed it.  In the 71st minute, he again consulted over a defender apparently holding Iborra in the penalty area.  This was one of those “seen them given, but not clear-cut” decisions and play was allowed to continue.

Then, in the 77th minute there was a bit of Mahrez trickery in the middle of the pitch, his pass released Iheanacho who calmly clipped the ball into the net over the advancing keeper.  The assistant referee had flagged Iheanacho offside.  Watching it live, it was impossible to say.  Moss indicated that he was talking to the VAR referee by putting his finger in his ear, and we waited …

… the longer the crowd waited, the more possible it seemed that the offside decision might be over-ruled.  The home fans increased the noise level.  Far from it being a lull of just over 60 seconds, it was engaging – it was clear what was going on and actually quite exciting!

By now, we have all seen the TV footage: Jon Moss gave the square TV-shaped signal, pointed to the centre spot and Leicester were two-nil up.  For many reasons - some good some bad and some irrelevant in my opinion – VAR will continue to spark debate, but on the evidence solely of this match I thought it worked well.

The final result was not in any doubt.  Iheanacho had a decent effort blocked, thus not getting a hat-trick, before he and Mahrez were replaced for the last ten minutes by Vardy and Okazaki.  Vardy’s appearance got a huge cheer from the Fleetwood fans, who were magnificent throughout.  They had turned up in decent numbers for such a long journey for a televised match.  They supported their team vociferously throughout (“Lancashire … is full of cod, oh Lancashire is full of cod …”  is now in my top-ten favourite football chants), and capped it all by singing “If Vardy scores, we’re on the pitch”.

Unfortunately, Vardy did not score – although it felt that the only people in the stadium who did not want him to were the eleven Fleetwood players and their manager Uwe Rosler.

Over the full 90-minutes, it was an effective performance from Leicester, and a very creditable one from Fleetwood.  That is, of course, not what will be remembered.  We hardy 17,237 can simply say … “we were there!”

Leicester: Jakupovic, Amartey, Dragovic, Benalouane, Fuchs, Mahrez, Silva, Iborra, Gray, Iheanacho, Slimani. Subs: Vardy, Albrighton, Hamer, Maguire, Okazaki, Ndidi, Barnes

Fleetwood: Neal, Jones, Pond, Bolger, Bell, Hunter, Glendon, Schwabl, Dempsey, McAleny, Hiwula-Mayifuila. Subs: Coyle, Burns, Grant, Cairns, Sowerby, Cargill, Cole

The views expressed in this report are the opinions of the Trust member nominated to file the report only and do not represent the views of the Foxes Trust organisation

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Next Up Watford

Manager:            Marco Silva         Founded      1881

Ground        Vicarage Road

Address        Watford, WD18 0ER

Capacity      21,438

Squad:

1              Brazil                     GK          Heurelho Gomes

2              Netherlands       DF           Daryl Janmaat

3              Uruguay               DF           Miguel Britos

4              France                  DF           Younès Kaboul

5              Austria                  DF           Sebastian Prödl

6              Jamaica               DF           Adrian Mariappa

8              England               MF         Tom Cleverley

9              England               FW         Troy Deeney (captain)

10           Nigeria                  FW         Isaac Success

11           Brazil                     FW         Richarlison

13           Mali                       DF           Molla Wagué (on loan from Udinese)

14           England                MF         Nathaniel Chalobah

15           Northern Ire        DF           Craig Cathcart

16           France                  MF         Abdoulaye Doucouré

17           England                FW         Jerome Sinclair

18           England                FW         Andre Gray

19           England               MF         Will Hughes

21           Spain                    DF           Kiko Femenía

22           Netherlands       DF           Marvin Zeegelaar

23           England              MF         Ben Watson

25           Greece                DF           José Holebas

27           Belgium              DF           Christian Kabasele

28           Peru                    MF         André Carrillo (on loan from Benfica)

29           France                MF         Étienne Capoue

30           Greece               GK          Orestis Karnezis (on loan from Udinese)

31           Republic of Ir    DF           Tommie Hoban

33           Italy                    FW         Stefano Okaka

35           Austria               GK          Daniel Bachmann

37           Argentina          MF         Roberto Pereyra

We have tried our best to ensure factual accuracy at the date of going to press – apologies in advance for any errors or out of date information.

For the very latest updates please follow the link below to the club web site: http://www.watfordfc.com

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Next Up Fleetwood Town

Next Up Fleetwood Town – 16 January 2018

Manager         Uwe Rösler

Founded       1908            Ground       Highbury Stadium 

Address       Park Avenue, Fleetwood, FY7 6TX

Capacity        5,327      

Squad:

1          England           GK      Chris Neal

2          England           DF       Lewie Coyle (on loan from Leeds United)

3          England           DF       Amari'i Bell

4          Australia          MF      Aiden O'Neill (on loan from Burnley)

5          England           DF       Ashley Eastham

6          England           DF       Nathan Pond (captain)

7          England           FW      Jordy Hiwula (on loan from Huddersfield Town)

8          England           MF      Kyle Dempsey

9          Wales              FW      Wes Burns

10        England           FW      Conor McAleny

11        England           FW      Bobby Grant

12        Rep of Ireland DF       Cian Bolger

13        England           DF       Joe Maguire

14        France             DF       Victor Nirennold

15        England           DF       Harvey Rodgers

17        Rep of Ireland FW      Paddy Madden

18        England           MF      George Glendon

19        Wales              MF      Gethin Jones

21        England           GK      Alex Cairns

22        England           FW      Ashley Hunter

23        Germany         MF      Markus Schwabl

24        England           FW      Ashley Nadesan

27        England           FW      Harrison Biggins

28        England           MF      Jack Sowerby

30        England           MF      Michael Donohue

31        England           GK      Billy Crellin

32        England           DF       Nathan Sheron

33        England           DF       Luke Higham

35        Nigeria            DF       Godswill Ekpolo

38        England           DF       Baily Cargill (on loan from Bournemouth)

39        England           FW      Alex Reid

44        England           FW      Devante Cole

            Northern Ire    MF      Dion Charles

        England           MF      Elliot Osborne

We have tried our best to ensure factual accuracy at the date of going to press – apologies in advance for any errors or out of date information.

For the very latest updates please follow the link below to the club web site: https://www.fleetwoodtownfc.com

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A hard-earned point at Stamford Bridge

Chelsea 0 City 0

Report by Kate Thompson

Claude Puel was true to his word and there is no doubt that Leicester were the better team and deserved to win this match.  They never let Chelsea settle and you could see them getting rattled – and their supporters getting more and more frustrated. 

Unfortunately few of the shots were on target and those that were, were saved or otherwise cleared.  Schmeichel was a spectator for large parts of the game but had to be on his toes, not least right at the end of the game when he had to defend a free kick from just outside the box. 

By this time (in fact from the 68th) minute we were down to ten men, when Ben Chilwell was sent off for two yellow cards.  These seemed harsh, especially as Chelsea were just as guilty of some bad fouls that went unpunished, but only Kante and Morata were booked. 

The City fans were particularly cross that former favourite Kante – who I don’t remember being a dirty player – was a serial offender but escaped with just the yellow card.  Apparently it all depends on where the foul is committed, according to the referee! 

After the awful game against Fleetwood it was a welcome relief to see something like the team who won the Premier League.  Chilwell was preferred to Fuchs and Amartey continued to deputise for Simpson; in the centre Maguire was partnered by the on-loan Dragovic and they both had a good game. 

In truth, there were no weak links and the midfield pairing of James and Ndidi was particularly impressive; several reports have said that the latter put Kante in the shade, so perhaps that was why he was responsible for so many fouls!  Vardy and Okazaki were their normal busy selves but sadly failed to make any of their chances count.  The nearest we came to a goal was an excellent header from Ndidi which was acrobatically saved by Courtois.

James and Okazaki were booked, as well as Chilwell; neither of them is a dirty player and some of the fouls (from both sides) were merely mistimed tackles rather than dirty play.  Referees seem to be handing yellow cards out like sweets these days.  Mike Jones was not a referee I recall but I will remember him next time!

After Chilwell was sent off, Fuchs replaced Okazaki, the unfortunate player who had to be sacrificed to bolster the defence; Gray came on for Vardy in the 82nd minute and Iborra for James in the 90th.  James seemed to have picked up another knock but Puel later said it was just a kick. 

Inevitably the team had to defend for the remaining time but deserve credit for sticking to their guns and keeping Chelsea out.  The Chelsea players were booed off by their own fans, which is some sort of testimony to how well Leicester played.  Now let’s keep it going, starting against Fleetwood on Tuesday.

Chelsea: Courtois, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Rudiger, Moses, Fabregas, Kante, Bakayoko, Alonso, Hazard, Morata. Subs: Caballero, Pedro, Zappacosta, Willian, Batshuayi, Christensen, Luiz. 

Leicester: Schmeichel, Amartey, Maguire, Dragovic, Chilwell, Mahrez, Ndidi, James, Albrighton, Okazaki, Vardy. Subs: Gray, Iheanacho, Hamer, Slimani, Iborra, Fuchs, Benalouane.

The views expressed in this report are the opinions of the Trust member nominated to file the report only and do not represent the views of the Foxes Trust organisation

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