Honours even in spring sunshine

Leicester City 0-0 Chelsea

Report by Chris Griffin

Post match opinions differed. Mainstream media saw it as a gentle end of season stroll. Brendan Rodgers, on the other hand, called it “a very good game.” Both sides certainly had chances to score but a point apiece was the right result.

Before the game fans’ attention was on Alan Birchenall and his helpers. For the 39th year Birch was fund raising for charity at the final game of the season  –  this time for Vichai’s foundation. The efforts of Birch and his team drew warm applause around the stadium and in this season of the Chairman’s death served as a fitting reminder of the remarkable community that is Leicester City Football Club. The playing squad joined Birch for one lap and manager Rodgers also took part.

The game started with Jorginho fouling Vardy, the first of three first half fouls that eventually saw him yellow carded. Minutes later Jorginho played in Barkley whose fierce shot was turned aside by Schmeichel. Next Loftus-Cheek headed a Pedro cross over the bar and the early exchanges saw City on the back foot. However City came close in the tenth minute when Albrighton ran past Alonso but Choudhury volleyed the cross over the bar.

City retained possession across their back four but were finding it difficult to play the ball forward due to Chelsea’s high press. After one such occasion the excellent Loftus-Cheek seized on a loose ball and put Willian through but Schmeichel saved the shot smartly.

Around the twenty minute mark City started to look more comfortable. Choudhury lifted the crowd with his aggressive, ball-winning tackling. David Luiz was at full-stretch to cut out an Albrighton cross after good work by Pereira. Then Vardy put in Chilwell whose left foot shot was saved by Caballero.

A superb City move involving Evans, Chilwell and Maddison saw Vardy played through but he was just caught offside. A Maddison corner picked out Tielemans on the edge of the area but Caballero coped assuredly with the shot. At the other end Choudhury’s awareness was welcome when he took the ball from the overlapping Zappacosta in the City penalty area. Willian then played in Higuain who shot wide. Maguire blocked a Higuain shot and then thwarted a Chelsea break after Zappacosta had beaten Chilwell. At the other end Maddison delayed his shot by just a second following excellent play by Pereira and the chance was lost.

Just before half-time Vardy broke past the Chelsea back line. With the crowd expecting him to shoot he chose to play in Tielemans but overhit his pass and Caballero was able to snatch the ball. The best chance of the half was still to come. Willian and Alonso combined and set up Higuain in front of goal but he sent this gilt-edged chance past the post. 

The second half started with Azpilicueta left behind by a Vardy run. The Chelsea man did well to track back and block Vardy’s attempt. Loftus-Cheek’s clearance from the ensuing corner fell to Tielemans but his volley flew just wide of the goal. Chelsea replied with a good move but Alonso’s distance shot presented no danger. Barkley then attempted a shot that went just outside the post.

In the 57th minute another sweeping Leicester move involving Albrighton, Vardy and Tielemans led to a corner from which Ndidi won the header but the Chelsea defence cleared off the line. Maddison then reached the by-line but his excellent pull back was cleared.

In the 66th minute Rodgers replaced Ndidi with Okazaki for his last appearance in a Leicester shirt. The crowd gave a warm ovation to this stalwart of the title year. Chelsea withdrew Willian and put on Hazard – for what might turn out to be his last appearance in the premier league. Barkley then shot from outside the area but the City defence held firm blocking out the danger.

Danny Simpson, another mainstay of City’s title season, came on to a great reception replacing Mark Albrighton with Pereira pushing forward. Chelsea continued to probe with the dribbling of Hazard a constant threat. But City were still in the game. A lung-bursting run from Chilwell saw him cover just short of the length of the pitch to make the Chelsea bye line. Sadly his excellent cut back was met by a mass of Chelsea shirts.

Rodgers put Barnes on for Maddison and the young winger set up a chance for Tielemans but his shot went too high. Both sides maintained their efforts to the end but the game finished goalless.

So City finished ninth. In the ten games since Rodgers took over they have won five, drawn two and lost three. An average of 1.7 points a game which had City averaged that figure over the season would have harvested 64 points. “Ifs” count for nothing of course but fans will look forward to Rodgers ensuring better winning consistency at home to support the drive for an improved position. Many fans remained to show their appreciation of the players in what has been a distinctly draining season following Vichai’s death in October.

Rodgers was clearly taking the positives from the game and from his management of the team so far. "They want to learn. We beat Arsenal, played well against Manchester City and got a point today. People thought we would not get any points from the last three games. It's been a nice induction into the club – the players have been good and the supporters. We'll now add that bit of depth to the squad."

There are some encouraging statistics such as Ndidi making the most tackles in the league (143) and Maddison creating the most chances (100). The talk in the stands after the game and during half time was about recruitment and retention of playing personnel. One lesson from the game came in the danger constantly posed by the high quality wing skills of Willian and Pedro. If we are to seriously challenge for top six then that calibre of player is needed as well as a support striker for JV.

Leicester City: Schmeichel, Pereira, Evans, Maguire, Chilwell, Albrighton, Ndidi, Choudhury, Tielemans, Maddison, Vardy. Subs: Simpson, Morgan, Gray, Iheanacho, Ward, Barnes, Okazaki.

Chelsea: Caballero, Zappacosta, Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Alonso, Barkley, Jorginho, Loftus-Cheek, Pedro, Higuain, Willian. Subs: Arizzabalaga, Hazard, Kovacic, Giroud, Christensen, Emerson, Guehi.

Referee: Anthony Taylor               Attendance: 32140

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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BEATEN BY A BOLT FROM THE BLUE

Man City 1 Leicester City 0

Report by Colin Hall

Leicester City's season on the road during the 2018-19 Premier League season ended in the same fashion in which it began – with a narrow defeat at the hands of a Manchester club.

On this occasion, it was the blue half of the city that inflicted the damage, courtesy of a spectacular strike by home captain Vincent Kompany which may well have ensured that his team, Manchester City, successfully retain their title.

Visiting fans arriving at the Etihad encountered two pleasant surprises. First of all, the weather was dry, in welcome contrast to the incessant downpours that have regularly featured in our previous trips to this venue. Secondly, the club staff were busy handing out free T-shirts bearing the slogan “Together We Are One”.

I've lost count of the number of times our fans have been treated to gifts this season on our travels. Given the challenging circumstances we have faced during the course of this campaign, the club's continued generosity can only be commended.

To little surprise, Brendan Rodgers made no changes from the side that had beaten Arsenal so convincingly in the previous fixture. Meanwhile the hosts were missing the influential midfield duo of Fernandinho and De Bruyne, while their record signing – a certain Riyad Mahrez – was, as so often in recent weeks, left to languish on the bench. Although the former Fox has enhanced his medal collection during the course of the season, he has yet to become the match-winning force that his coach and club hoped he would be.

The game began in a predictably frenzied fashion, with the home side looking to seize the initiative and forcing the Foxes onto the back foot. However, Rodgers had prepared his side well and the visitors displayed considerable fortitude and resilience in resisting the onslaught that came their way.

Indeed, there was only one moment of genuine alarm during the opening half, when a rare lapse of concentration in the Leicester defence allowed Aguero a point-blank header from a Gundogan header. Kasper Schmeichel, though, was somehow able to paw the ball against the underside of the bar and referee Dean ruled, with the aid of technology, that the ball had not crossed the line, much to the relief of both the visiting contingent and those TV viewers eagerly anticipating a setback for the home side.

Despite conceding a string of corners, the Foxes held out until the interval, with Jonny Evans and Harry Maguire looking as solid a partnership as they had been all season. Meanwhile, as home frustrations grew, both Kompany and David Silva earned yellow cards for brutal challenges which may have merited more stringent action.

After the break, the champions continued to pile on the pressure, with Leicester being restricted to rare sporadic breaks. Sterling headed over when he should at least have found the target, before being denied by Hamza Choudhury and Ben Chilwell when looking set to break the deadlock.

Midway through the half, the entire stadium held its breath as Maguire went marauding well into opposition territory He managed to find James Maddison just outside the box, but the midfielder's effort flew just wide of the home goal.

As the tension and intensity rose even further, Aguero was sent clear on goal, only to see Schmeichel's legs divert his goalbound attempt.

The breakthrough was not long delayed, though, as seconds later Kompany burst into the visiting half and unleashed a fierce, swerving, long-range piledriver that gave Schmeichel no chance.

Could the defence or midfield have done more to close him down? Perhaps so, but neither they nor Schmeichel would have expected a central defender to strike a ball with such pace and precision.

During the remaining stages of the game, Rodgers deployed the full range of attacking options from the bench. This could – and perhaps should – have brought due reward with three minutes remaining, when excellent work by Choudhury sent Kelechi Iheanacho through on goal. Sadly, though, the substitute, without a goal since last September, failed to get his bearings right and sent the ball well wide of the target.

Although the former Manchester City frontman has undoubted potential, as his international record indicates, this incident is the latest in a series that suggests that this potential is unlikely to be realised at the King Power Stadium. As with Mahrez, the expectations generated by a hefty price tag have had adverse effect on form and confidence.

Iheanacho's evening went from bad to worse when he was booked in stoppage time following the most theatrical of falls from home sub Jesus. The referee then added further insult by allowing the free-kick to be taken a full 20 yards from its correct position – in stark contrast to his stance previously when he insisted on Leicester free-kicks being taken from the exact blade of grass where the foul had occurred.

The hosts saw out the remaining moments in some comfort and their fans gave a predictably rapturous welcome to the final whistle. Meanwhile, the Foxes, as so often on our trips to the bigger clubs this season, were left to reflect what could have been.

This defeat finally extinguished the faint hopes we had of Europa League qualification, but, in truth, our general standard of performance has not really been high enough to earn that honour. The side is still a work in progress and much will depend on whether Rodgers is able to keep it together during the next transfer window.

At the end of one of the most momentous weeks the Premier League has enjoyed for some time, it remains to be seen whether the Foxes can conclude the season on a high note by seeing off Chelsea in our final fixture.

Manchester City (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Kompany (c), Laporte, Zinchenko; Gundogan, D. Silva (Stones 90 + 1), Foden (Sane 56); B. Silva, Aguero (Jesus 87), Sterling. Subs not used: Muric, Danilo, Otamendi, Mahrez,

Scorer: Kompany (70)

Booked: Kompany, D. Silva, Jesus. 

Leicester City (4-5-1): Schmeichel (c); Ricardo, Evans, Maguire, Chilwell; Albrighton (Gray 85), Tielemans (Barnes 75), Ndidi, Choudhury, Maddison (Iheanacho 80); Vardy. Subs not used: Ward, Morgan, Fuchs, Mendy.

Booked: Maguire, Iheanacho. 

Referee: Mike Dean           Attendance: 54,506

 

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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Understanding the role of alcohol consumption in football cultures (Alcohol FC)

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CITY GIVE GUNNERS A POUNDING

CITY 3 ARSENAL 0

REPORT BY EDDIE BLOUNT

This was arguably the best home performance of the season in a year when good home performances have been rather thin on the ground. Considering that wins of any sort against Arsenal have been rare in recent times it is strange to relate that we have now managed successive home wins against them.

This was totally decisive in the end and Arsenal could not have complained if the result had been 6-0 rather than the actual 3-0 scoreline. It took the better part of an hour before the deadlock was broken but the tone had long been set and from then on it was merely a question of how many we would win by.

No wonder the City crowd left in joyful mood in stark contrast to the Gunners support, subdued from the outset and quick to desert the obviously sinking ship as City turned up the heat. Their fans could learn something from the Toon Army who gave Newcastle tremendous support from the off in City’s previous home game in spite of their team’s indifferent scoring record. Perhaps the difference is explained by the Newcastle fans having a genuine connection to the North East whilst too many Arsenal supporters have no geographical affinity with the club and are basically pot-hunters?

The game was much more open than the Newcastle match and suited City’s style to a tee. Early on City had possession stats of 80% though much of that was possession some distance from the Arsenal goal it has to be said. Nonetheless City had numerous first half chances, the best of which fell inevitably to Vardy who lifted a delightful through ball over keeper Leno, who had a fine game incidentally, but unfortunately also over the bar.

Maddison, influential throughout, had a shot from just outside the box which narrowly missed the keeper’s right-hand post and Leno made a great save from Ndidi’s header from a Maddison corner. There were other near things and Arsenal could only reply with one first time shot from Aubameyang which whistled past Schmeichel’s near post

Arsenal as always were heavily into tactical fouling and this time it was to prove their undoing. Naitland-Miles had already nipped one City counter-attack in the bud by a foul from behind to earn his first yellow card and long before the first half was over he committed a second similar offence giving referee Oliver no choice. With Arsenal down to ten men and City already well on top the crowd scented blood. Somehow the Reds survived intact to reach the interval all square.

Rogers made a very astute change at half-time taking off Ndidi and replacing him with Barnes. Ndidi had been booked and Arsenal had clearly targeted Ndidi in an effort to force the referee to send him off so Rogers took sensible pre-emptive action.

The pattern of play in the second half was as it had been in the first only more so with wing-backs, Chilwell and Ricardo pushing up at every opportunity. The break-through came on the hour and if you blinked you may have missed it. Maddison whipped in an immediate cross to the near post and Tielemans sumptuous header gave Leno no chance whatsoever. It certainly does only take a second to score a goal!

City attacked relentlessly coming very close without breaching the Arsenal defence a second time until Schmeichel achieved the most unlikely of assists! In possession with Arsenal pushed up to the halfway line he unleashed a gorgeous long ball which Vardy pursued with predictable intent. He bore down on the keeper and lifted the bouncing ball over Leno only for the ball to hit the bar. Vardy, first to the rebound, headed cleverly past the covering defender on the line. 2-0 and the three points were safe.

Shortly after Barnes missed a simple chance but moments later Ricardo showed him how to do it. He was through on goal but at an angle so he squared the ball to the eager Vardy who converted with ease. Even 3-0 was not a fair reflection of the number of chances both teams had but City fans were not complaining. After all we had played a top six team off the park. Man City will note this result with a frisson of apprehension I suspect

As for individual performances everybody played well but I must mention the part played by youngster, Choudhury. He is quick and a great tackler. He made a double tackle early in the game which set the tempo for City and enervated the fans. After the match Rogers declared the tackles to be the best he had seen since coming to the City and he was right!

Special mention also for Albrighton who showed us what we miss when he does not play. High marks also for Evans who was never bested in defence though he did put an early header straight at Leno which should have been the opening goal. The others were excellent to a man which is what you need when playing a side like Arsenal

City: Schmeichel, Ricardo, Evans, Maguire, Chilwell, Choudhury (Mendy 79), Ndidi (Barnes 45), Albrighton (Gray 86), Tielemans, Maddison, Vardy

Arsenal: Leno, Maitland-Niles, Mustafi, Papastathopoulos, Kolasinac, Mkhitaryan (Gouendouci 73), Torreira, Xhaka, Iwobi (Koscielny45), Aubameyang, Lacazette (Nketiah 79)

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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We’ll take a point

West Ham 2 City 2

Report by Kate Thompson

In the bright sunshine, it sometimes looked as if the players were already thinking ahead to their summer holidays and this was a rather disappointing match.  There were two changes from the defeat against Newcastle, with Evans replacing Morgan, who wasn’t even on the bench, and the fit-again Albrighton coming in for Barnes.  I would rather have seen Gray dropped for Albrighton; he was a bit better in this match, albeit in parts as ever.

It was a fairly even match at first, although West Ham seemed to want to win more and it was no surprise when Antonio, who had been making a nuisance of himself, scored a simple headed goal.  For once Ricardo was left for dead and the cross from Noble was met too easily for the visiting Leicester fans. 

This was how the score stayed well into the second half, until in the 67th minute Ben Chilwell crossed to Vardy, who somehow scored with the outside of his foot.  Another excellent goal from Vardy, who now overtakes Gary Lineker in the Leicester City all-time scorers chart.  Funny, this wasn’t mentioned on ‘Match of the day’!

At this point we would have settled for a point, until a rather fortunate second goal for West Ham.  Obiang hit the right-hand post with a rasping drive and Schmeichel was unlucky to see another substitute, Lucas, score an easy tap-in. 

In the 64th minute, Albrighton was substituted for Harvey Barnes, a change that Rodgers had hinted at, and he made a difference.  The other two substitutions were Iheanacho for Gray in the 84th minute and Mendy for Tielemans in the fifth minute of time added on at the end of the game.

Just when we thought we would lose again, a sublime pass from Tielemans put Barnes through on goal and he scored his first in the Premier League, in the second minute of added time. 

It may have been more than we deserved but it meant the City fans generally went home happy.  Leicester certainly played better in the second half, although they rode their luck, especially when a second goal from Lucas was ruled offside – it was later shown that this was incorrect.

Perhaps the defeat last week affected the players somewhat because too many of them were below par.  The usually dependable Ricardo was caught napping a few times and even Tielemans was below the excellent level we have seen; having said that, when it mattered (the pass for the second equaliser) he still shone. 

We have dropped to 8th in the table and I can’t say I am too disappointed.  Nice as it would be to have another European adventure, I think we might struggle like Burnley this season.

West Ham: Fabianski, Zabaleta, Balbuena, Ogbonna, Masuaku, Rice, Antonio, Noble, Snodgrass, Felipe Anderson, Arnautovic. Subs: Adrian, Obiang, Wilshere, Diop, Fredericks, Lucas Perez, Diangana. 

Leicester: Schmeichel, Ricardo Pereira, Evans, Maguire, Chilwell, Albrighton, Ndidi, Tielemans, Gray, Maddison, Vardy. Subs: Soyuncu, Iheanacho, Ward, Barnes, Okazaki, Mendy, Fuchs. 

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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