Leicester City 1 West Bromwich Albion 1 – 16 October 2017
Report by Tish Krokosz
I was looking forward to writing my inaugural report following an exciting victory – it was not to be. I was looking forward to Iborra’s first Premier League start, hoping he would have some control over the opposition midfield – it was not to be. It has been 23 years since City have beaten West Bromwich Albion at home and I hoped this would be the match to break that run, but it was not to be. I was hoping, following Shakey’s description of training ground improvements, to see a fast and flowing start from our forward line against a pedestrian, Pulis defence; yes, you’ve guessed it, it was not to be.
We came into the match sitting in the bottom 3 of the Premiership, knowing that a win would shoot us up the table. After a difficult start to the season, the timetable of “easier” opponents brought hope that we could consolidate our position higher up the table. To do this, we needed to score goals; preferably more than West Brom. Yet, most of the first half seemed to be spent passing the ball horizontally across the pitch or even backwards. Many fans were shouting that the opposition goal was in the other direction.
There was little to note about the first half and I thought this report would be the shortest on record due to lack of incident. City’s best chances seemed to come from set pieces but the packed West Brom. defence coped with them easily. The only shot of worth and on target came from Simpson in the 34th minute following a half clearance from a Fuchs long throw, but Myhill parried it to safety.
Perhaps this sparked City into thinking that it was worth trying to attack as there followed a couple of attempts at breaking the Albion massed rearguard. Vardy had a headed effort tipped over for a corner and ... oh, there wasn’t any other attempt on goal. Pulis had clearly come to take a point because his team were even less inventive and Schmeichel did not have to make a single save in the first half. In fact, it was shame that he did not see more of the ball because, with the wind behind him, this would have been a good opportunity for him to try one of his low, powerful kicks to get on to the scoresheet.
I cannot imagine that the TV audience would have been enthralled by this half. One (usually excitable fan) behind me was so bored that sitting rigid had brought on cramp in his leg. Having waited so long to see Iborra play, I could not understand his role in the side. His movement on and off the ball was very slow and several passes were wayward; but this was true of all City players going forward. Two seasons ago, we had Kante winning the ball in midfield, Okazaki offloading the loose one to Drinkwater and he could deliver the telling pass to Vardy or Mahrez to run on to and score – bang, bang, bang. We are missing someone who can provide that third bang.
And where was Iheanacho? I know he was on the teamsheet, but where was he on the field? I was surprised that he came out for the second half and that he was not substituted earlier. He did not link up with Vardy, was often too deep and did little in the way of penetrative passes. Unfortunately for him, a slow reaction from a City clearance led to a booking in the 61st minute and Albion’s goal from a Chadli free kick. Firstly, I was not convinced that West Brom. should have been given the free kick – it seemed a 50-50 ball from my angle. Secondly, from that distance, Schmeichel should not have been beaten. He did not move when the ball was kicked and I believe (storm) Ophelia assisted the speed with which the ball went into the net. This was a disaster. Going down a goal to a defensive West Brom. was not going to be easy to overcome.
Shakespeare’s answer was to make a double substitution, bringing on Chilwell and Slimani for Simpson and Iheanacho and changing the shape of the team from 4-4-1-1 to more of a 3-5-2. This should have been done a lot earlier as there was an immediate change in the balance of control in midfield with Chilwell often having acres of space. He has had success in the past when he has come on in this role of wing back on the left hand side and in this match he was prepared to go past, through or round opposition players. It was from one of his runs that, in the 80th minute, he made a telling cross which Slimani headed down to Mahrez, who had one touch past Gareth Barry and delivered the ball into the net with his right foot.
This made up for a glaring error in the 50th minute after Vardy and Albrighton had combined well on the left wing. The latter took the ball into the penalty area and made the perfect pass to an unmarked Mahrez who blasted it into the crowd with his favoured left foot. If City had taken the lead at this stage it may have ended far more happily for the team at the end of the evening. Generally, he was unimpressive most of the game. Has he lost his confidence in taken on players? I can recall only one occasion when he tried to outpace the defenders down the right wing and he was muscled out by two defenders. We used to call this a sandwich and I thought was a foul, but Mike Dean did not view it in this way and had waved play on.
The second half on the whole was a lot more active and interesting but it was disappointing that City were unable to test a goalkeeper who, five minutes into that half had clashed with Vardy just outside the penalty area and was clearly injured and unable to manoeuvre easily. He was unable to take goal-kicks and shortly after the Vardy incident Myhill just keeled over when preparing to take a kick. I did not know that Ophelia was that strong.
The West Brom. team made full use of his disability to kick the ball by wasting time at every opportunity. This did not please the crowd and we did not understand why he was not substituted. Was the addition of 5 minutes at the end of the half enough to make up for the blatant time wasting? I would also question why Shakespeare decided to bring King on for Iborra during this period when City were definitely in the ascendancy? Crosses were coming into the Baggies’ penalty area from Chilwell and Fuchs on the left and they were accurate. It just needed one more knock down from Slimani for City to get the winner.
I have never seen City beat West Brom. and recently, I have not seen a West Brom. worthy of beating City. They always seem to bring a burly, defensive set up and with the height of Ndidi and Iborra I thought we were able to match them physically. The first half was mainly played in a 20 yard block in the middle of the park. After City’s substitutions, the game became a lot more open and I feel City showed more promise and intention to move forward. But we badly need a midfielder who is creative and can control the direction of the game.
West Bromwich Albion came for a point and showed no intention of trying for more. They duly got their result. City needed 3 points and could have obtained them with more resolve because the opposition was not great, but in the end had to settle for 1 point – definitely a case of 2 points lost.
Leicester: Schmeichel, Simpson (Chilwell 74), Morgan, Maguire, Fuchs, Mahrez, Iborra (King 90+4), Ndidi, Albrighton, Iheanacho (Slimani 74), Vardy. Subs not used: Hamer, Gray, Amartey, Okazaki
West Bromwich Albion: Myhill, Dawson, Evans, Hegazi, Gibbs, Livermore, Rodriguez (McClean 84), Krychowiak, Barry, Chadli (McCauley 84), Rondon. Subs not used: Palmer, Nyom, Yacob, Phillips, Brunt
Referee: Mike Dean Attendance: 30,203
This match report was written prior to the announcement of Craig Shakespeare’s departure
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