Leicester City – 2 Brighton and Hove Albion – 1
Report by Chris Griffin
Brighton arrived on the heels of Claude Puel’s weekend dismissal with City having not won since New Year’s Day at Everton. Mike Stowell and Adam Sadler took charge of the team but media outlets throughout the day were reporting Brendan Rogers would be our new manager. Many mobiles were at the ready in Raw Dykes Road en-route to the game as fans scanned news outlets for information.
About an hour before kick-off Rogers’ appointment was confirmed. The fast-moving narrative reflected City’s quick response to the recruitment process. Birch introduced Rogers to the fans and the new manager, in the directors box, was given a warm and enthusiastic reception.
Thoughts turned to the game. Home results have blighted City for two consecutive campaigns. This season had seen only 14 points at the KP from a possible 42. Fans turned up in the hope of seeing City on the front foot, providing excitement, pace, goals and three points. At least – that’s what this fan wanted.
City made a good start. In the early stages Vardy, Barnes and Tielemans each had shots blocked. It was no surprise when City took the lead in the tenth minute and what a good goal it was. Knockaert dallied on the halfway line and a triumvirate of Ndidi, Madison and Barnes bushwhacked him. Barnes played the ball to Tielemans who surged through the inside right channel before playing a superb ball to Gray. The winger steadied himself and fired fiercely into the net past goalkeeper Ryan.
Two minutes later Gray could have had a second from a Chilwell pass but Ryan smartly saved the winger’s well- struck effort. For Brighton Duffy headed a good chance over the bar from a corner but the tide was with City. Barnes and Maguire missed opportunities. Barnes was giving Montoya a real examination: so much so the defender picked up a yellow card for pulling back the youngster.
Up till now City had looked good value for their lead. The pace of the front men and the quick one-touch passing from midfield were easy on the eye and creating chances. But the high tempo did not last.
Some of the City passing became careless: over or under hit or misdirected. Some problems were self-inflicted with too much passing deep in their own defensive third. Sometimes there is nothing wrong with simply giving it a welly. Brighton started to gain a foothold forcing corners and building some pressure. Schmeichel had to be very alert to tip a deflected and dipping Gross effort over the bar. Then former Fox Knockaert swept in a fierce shot from around the penalty spot and Schmeichel again saved City with a top stop diving to his right.
Although Ricardo managed a shot before the interval there was a sense of restlessness among the fans as City seemed to be losing a firm grip on the game.
At the start of the second half a good City move saw Vardy head an inviting cross from Gray wide of the post with the goalkeeper nowhere to be seen. Then slick Brighton approach work carved out an excellent chance for the usually reliable Murray but he hit his shot over the bar from in front of a gaping goal mouth.
Stephens had a strong drive blocked in the City penalty area. Brighton kept up the pressure winning a succession of corners but the City defence remained strong. Even so City players and fans alike were relieved to see a rasping drive from substitute Bissouma fly just past the upright with Schmeichel scrambling across the goal. Duffy then sent another chance wide.
At this point it seemed that Brighton carried the bigger goal threat but it was City who scored next in the 63rd minute. The goal was reminiscent of the counter attacking play from the title winning year. Aggressive pressing in midfield led to Gray breaking with the ball. He fed Maddison who rolled a nicely judged ball forward for Vardy to run on to and bury his shot in the corner of the Brighton net: City two nil up from two quality goals. It was a trademark JV goal and great to see.
But if we thought it was time to relax we were wrong. Back came Brighton immediately with Duffy heading a Knockaert corner wide. Then Pröpper strode confidently into the City area and scored with a strong shot past the diving Schmeichel.
Stowell tightened things up bringing on Mendy for Tielemans. Many of us were baffled by this given Tielemans’ excellent distribution up to that stage but what do we know? Mendy went on to have an influential 20 minutes through interceptions, keeping possession under pressure and generally bringing some stability to the team.
City looked dangerous on the break. Barnes’ energy was astounding as he kept making long runs down the left flank. But too often the final ball went astray or the shot went wide. At one stage Maguire strode forward beating man after man with a series of feints and step-overs. This run from the “Chesterfield Beckenbauer” deserved better but no City player could reach his pass across goal.
Brighton kept pressing and the City fans were edgy. A yellow card foul by Vardy gave Locadia a free kick chance but his attempt came back off the strong City wall. Then in the 88th minute another chance fell to the unmarked Murray but he sent his shot into the side netting.
The nerves of the home supporters were exemplified when there was a disbelieving exclamation of “FIVE!” all round the ground when the 4th official showed five minutes added time. Meanwhile Barnes kept running and running including one 70 metre lung bursting effort in over time. Leicester took off Maddison and Vardy for Okazaki and Iheanacho. There were lots of anxious looking at watches but it seemed Brighton knew the game was up. City managed to keep possession for most of added time to secure a welcome and hard fought victory, but one that was deserved.
This was a good game for the new manager to see. It was a reminder that there are few “soft” games in the Premier League. He probably would have approved of Leicester’s young contingent showing plenty of pace, inventiveness and determination. The team dug in and weathered Brighton’s efforts.
But he would have seen where development is needed regarding decision-making, better composure in the final pass or shot, and reducing unforced passing errors. Reportedly he’s told the players there are “special things on the horizon.” Let’s wish him and the players well in reaching that horizon.
Leicester City: Schmeichel; Pereira; Evans; Maguire; Chilwell; Tielemans (Mendy 69’); Ndidi; Maddison (Okazaki 90’+1); Gray ; Vardy (Iheanacho 90’+6); Barnes. Subs not used: Morgan; Ward; Fuchs; Ghezzal
Brighton and Hove Albion: Ryan; Montoya; Duffy; Dunk; Bong; Gross (Bissouma 51’); Stephens (Izquierdo 81’); Pröpper; Knockaert; Murray; March (Locadia 67’). Subs not used: Jahanbakhsh; Button; Bernardo; Burn
Referee: Lee Probert. Attendance: 30,558
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