LEICESTER CITY 3 LEEDS UNITED 1
Match Report by Paul Weston
After a typically crazy week in the life of a Leicester City supporter I approached the Cup game against Leeds with slightly less pessimism than of late. Whilst I had been supportive of Craig Shakespeare there is no doubt that our performance against a limited West Brom side was very poor and it was difficult to see how we could recover our mojo with so many players playing below par. It seems like our owners had the same feeling and poor Craig Shakespeare was relieved of his duties, never to find out if the elusive Mr Silva would have solved his midfield problems in January.
The Swansea away win under Michael Appleton’s leadership, and more importantly the manner in which we won, was a pleasant surprise and typical City. Perhaps we should rotate Shakespeare and Appleton as manager and assistant throughout the season because we always seem to win after sacking the manager!
Leeds United arrived after a good away win at the weekend, with a growing reputation and a great away following as usual. However, Leeds had a tough match ahead against Sheffield United so, like City, chose to field some new faces. Appleton retained just Maguire, Iborra and Albrighton from the side that beat Swansea.
The first half started in dreary fashion. What is the point of keeping possession if it is always passing side to side and backwards? Fans were getting quite frustrated and City hardly were creating any chances. Only the ever-eager Albrighton seemed capable of running at pace and trying to make things happen. Leeds passed the ball well and looked confident and scored in the 26th minute when City failed to close down in the middle and Hernadez let loose a shot that went in just under the bar. I may be too critical but I thought Hamer was caught by surprise and should have tipped it over.
Thankfully City drew level a few minutes later. Slimani chased onto a good through ball from Albrighton and the ball came out to Iheanacho with a chance of a right foot shot with the goal gaping. He chose instead to make it complicated, beat a player, thread the ball onto his left foot and shoot through the eye of a needle past two players and the goalie into the net. It was a welcome first goal and his confidence grew from that point.
The rest of the first half was fairly even with few chances except for a long shot from the enigmatic Gray that rebounded off the bar. It seemed even then like extra time and penalties might be looming.
However, City started the second half with much more purpose and Chilwell and Amartey pushed forward more with great purpose. I was really impressed with Amartey who, on this form, would press Simpson for the right back slot. City started to pass quicker and Albrighton teed up an absolute sitter for Slimani which he managed to miss from about two yards. King then missed a good chance when set up by Slimani.
City’s second goal was so simple and effective. Iborra, who got better as the game progressed, slid the ball through the defence to Iheanacho on the left who crossed well and this time Slimani slid in and slammed the ball into the net. It was a well-executed goal and showed the benefit of moving the ball at pace, which we had not done in the first half.
Appleton then chose to bring on Mahrez for Albrighton with about 15 minutes to go and as the game opened up it became clear that confidence was returning to Riyad. He seemed to have a free role and Leeds were failing to control him and looked devoid of ideas to get back into the match. In fact they had no shots in the second half at all.
Then, in the 88th minute, Mahrez scored a goal that was worth the admission money in itself. He picked up the ball on the half way line, beat a player, then at pace beat two players close to the penalty area and then, with his left foot of course, shot low into the goal. It was a superb goal and a reminder of his mercurial talent. City saw out the game, also bringing on Vardy late, to what looks like a comfortable 3-1 win, but only after a second half transformation. Much credit should go to Appleton who managed this victory.
City now pass into the hat for the quarter finals and a chance of silverware. What did we learn from the match? Dragovic and Maguire are good on the ball, but Maguire sometimes loses the ball in dangerous positions. Amartey is very fast going forward and defending. Chilwell is better at going forward than defence. Hamer did not have too much to do.
Iborra started to look better than in the West Brom match but that might be because his midfield opponents were not so fast in comparison. Gray still, for me, does not know when to pass or shoot and also drifts inside too much. Slimani worked his socks off but his flat footed running style still does not look like that of an athlete costing £29 million. Iheanacho, despite his goal and assist, still needs to show a surer touch on the ball and then we might see how he might progress into the side and support Vardy.
At the time of writing the next City manager is yet to be confirmed. Amidst all the rumours the underwhelming name of Claude Puel seems to be the strongest, with Michael Appleton’s role undecided. However, I seem to remember my reaction was similar when Ranieri was appointed and just look what happened!
Leicester: Hamer, Amartey, Maguire, Dragović, Chilwell, Iborra, King (c), Albrighton, Gray, Iheanacho, Slimani. Subs: Vardy, Mahrez, Fuchs, Ndidi, Jakupovic, Ulloa, Musa
Leeds: Wiedwald, Anita, Jansson, Shaughnessy, Borthwick-Jackson, Phillips, Klich, Roofe, Hernandez, Cibicki, Grot. Subs: Lonergan, Ayling, Pennington, Vieira, Sacko, Alioski, Lasogga
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