A Leicester downpour reveals the Toon Army’s weakness and strength

Leicester City 5 v 0 Newcastle United

Report by Stuart Dawkins

One of the objectives of writing match reports is to describe a match to people who were not there.  When the match is being shown on live television, one is writing a match report on something which many people will have seen more clearly than you.  So, what to focus on?

Firstly, the ludicrousness of the only televised Premier League game of a Sunday being at 4.30pm, and requiring Newcastle fans (more on them shortly) to have a long drive down in poor driving conditions, followed by a drive back that presumably leaves many of them not getting home until midnight.  There really is no excuse for this, and Sky TV should be ashamed of choosing fixtures like this for such a time slot.

Secondly, the armchair watcher does not get to experience the joys of a walk to the ground in a drenching downpour, followed by a couple of hours sitting in trousers which dry very slowly.  Here’s a thing: if you bash your clapper on your thighs throughout a match onto very wet trousers, you end up covered in a coating of white cardboard flecks.  This is not a fan experience to repeat at home.

Thirdly, the armchair watcher will not have seen the first appearance of the new City fan-zone, set up in one of the old car parks and including a bar and an open-air big screen.  It was a shame the weather was so appalling for its first outing, but the awnings made for good rain-shelters.

Finally, the Newcastle fans but, like I said, more of them later …

And as for the match itself?  The previous four league meetings of these clubs had resulted in away wins.  If City were to lay a good claim to the task of breaking into the top six, or top four, this was the sort of match they needed to win.  Their cause was apparently not helped by Maddison being unavailable through injury, Praet replacing him in the City line-up.

The match kicked off in a downpour, complete with swirling wind, that lasted until half time.  Even Row X could feel the rain as it was blown under the roofs of the stands.  It kicked off with City facing ‘the wrong way’, Newcastle having presumably won the toss and deciding to put the home team out of their familiar zone.  The impact of this did, indeed, lead to an unfamiliar start for Leicester: the team moved straight into gear from the off, with Perez almost scoring against his former employers as early as the second minute.  The first ten minutes or so was very open, with both sides passing quickly and both sides looking a bit open defensively, but then Leicester took control and never lost that control for the rest of the match.

I’m not sure that Vardy had even touched the ball before playing a helpful role in City’s first goal.  A neat flick by Perez found Pereira on the half-way line.  He ran through a posse of Newcastle defenders, each of whom assumed he would play the ‘obvious’ pass to a space-creating Vardy.  He didn’t.  He curled a low, left-foot shot just inside the far post for an excellent opening goal for City, and his second in successive league games.

Barnes and Chilwell had oodles of the ball, looking an almost permanent threat to the ponderous Newcastle defence.  City pressed well, with Vardy even earning a yellow card for the kind of ‘just a bit late’ tackle whilst chasing a lost cause that he used to rack up every other game earlier in his City career.

By the half-hour mark, the weather was getting even worse, but City continued to dominate.  They were faster to almost every ball, faster in thought and stronger.  They then appeared to be slowing things down in anticipation of half-time when the next key incident occurred.  Messy play by both sides led to the ball falling loose just outside the City box.  Hayden lunged for it rashly, going through the ball and hitting Praet’s leg hard.  It was a clear red card: not a deliberate attempt to hurt the opponent, but it was reckless and dangerous and for a couple of minutes it looked as though Praet might be seriously hurt.  Thankfully he was not.

Steve Bruce made an immediate tactical substitution, bringing on Ki for Muto, even as Hayden continued to complain about the referee’s decision.

There was no half time entertainment for the crowd in the stadium.  Whether that was due to the still -appalling weather, we will never know.

The second half was as one-sided a game of football as I have seen for some time.  The easing of the downpour from the clouds was matched by an acceleration of the downpour of City chances.  In the 54th minute, a long ball over-the-top found Barnes on the left, his immediate pass to Vardy found the striker with a seemingly-impossible angle from which to fashion a shot, but fashion a shot he did, with Dubravka arguably at fault for allowing enough space between himself and the near post for the ball to score.  It was one of those occasions where many fans thought that Vardy must have hit the side netting, only to then see the ball in the back of the net.

A couple of minutes later, it was three-nil.  Praet found space inside the Newcastle penalty area, his cross-shot taking a big deflection off a defender to leave Dubravka stranded.

Rodgers replaced Barnes with Albrighton.  Barnes had a good game and was unlucky not to have either scored or created more.  Albrighton showed immediately the kind of winger he is: creating havoc with his first substantive touch of the ball before following up, five minutes later, with a straightforward left-wing cross that picked out an on-rushing Vardy to complete an easy header to make it four-nil.

Newcastle had been looking abject after the second goal was conceded.  Bruce chose to bring on Carroll to spice up the attack, replacing Joelinton and, whilst the match was still no contest, Newcastle did begin to try to play the ball forwards more assertively for the last ten minutes. 

Choudhury replaced Praet for the home team.  The Belgian looked a more-than-decent player in this performance, calm at all times and tidy in all that he did.

The rain began to fall again, Yedlin replaced Almirón for the visitors.  Gray replaced Perez.  The former Newcastle player had a decent game, with a number of flicks and a few tackles noteworthy.  He has yet, to my mind, shown that he is a winger, but maybe that will change as he gets more opportunities. 

The game looked destined to end at four-nil, but in the 90th minute a Chilwell cross found Ndidi – apparently via the feintest of touches on Evans’ head – his back was to goal, he had time to turn and shoot well to complete the scoring at five-nil.

City had looked in control at one-nil and eleven-versus-eleven.  As the match continued, they simply looked a different class to a slow, uncreative Newcastle team.  Schmeichel had precisely zero shots to save in the whole match. So, the bad parts of the Toon Army?  A team that only once looked like it might score in the entire match and with a defence and midfield which was out-paced, out-thought and out-played by City for almost the entire 90-minutes.

And the good parts of the Toon Army?  The fans … not only for such a good turnout for a televised Sunday game with a long journey to and from, but also for the noise they made and for sticking with their team.  Almost no Away supporter left the ground before full-time, and for most of the second half, as City’s second, third, fourth and fifth goals were scored, it was the travelling fans who were making the most noise.  Their may be a little bit of gallows humour (Gallowtree Gate humour, maybe?) in it, but it was still impressive stuff.

City sit well in third place, and the home fans are singing of a European Tour, Dilly Ding, Dilly Dong and all.  One does not want to jinx it so soon in the season, but today the team warranted that thought.

Leicester: Schmeichel, Ricardo Pereira, Evans, Söyüncü, Chilwell, Ndidi, Pérez, Praet, Tielemans, Barnes, Vardy. Subs: Justin, Morgan, Gray, Albrighton, Ward, Iheanacho, Choudhury

Newcastle: Dubravka, Krafth, Lascelles, Schär, Dummett, Hayden, Longstaff, Almirón, Muto, Atsu, Joelinton. Subs: Ki Sung-yueng, Carroll, Saint-Maximin, Fernandez, Manquillo, Yedlin, Darlow

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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Changes galore as City ease through to Fourth Round

Luton Town 0 Leicester City 4

Carabao Cup Third Round – 24th September 2019

Report by Colin Murrant

Before the match there was some reminiscing amongst the older supporters of the 4-0 FA Cup victory at Luton in 1974 and, of course, that Keith Weller goal. On that occasion, the thousands of City fans stood on the open terraces at The Kenilworth Road end. The old open terrace is now roofed and for home supporters only, the away fans now situated at the opposite end of the ground (The Oak Stand) on seats fixed to old terracing; so close to the row in front that anyone above average height is likely to incur sore knees.

In the intervening 45 years, nothing else has changed or improved at the stadium. One of the accesses to The Oak Stand is along a very narrow alley way between the terraced houses and The Bobber’s Stand which is a row of executive boxes. When entering the ground, the view is very poor as there are so many steel pillars supporting the roof that, as some wag commented, ‘there is probably more steel in Luton’s ground that in Sydney Harbour Bridge’. Yet for all this there is some charm about the place, the stadium has its own identity, a journey back in time. Plans for a new stadium were passed in January this year, the club have been looking to relocate since the 1950s.

With Luton 21st in the Championship and on the back of a 3 nil home defeat to Hull, and The Foxes third in the Premier League and having just beaten Spurs, this always looked like it should be a match the visitors should win. Their task was made easier by 10 changes to the Hatters’ starting eleven as manager Graeme Jones gave the team that conquered Cardiff in the previous Round another chance.

Brendan Rodgers himself made seven changes to his starting X1 with only Evans, Ndidi, Perez and Tielemans remaining from Saturday’s team. Such is the depth in the City squad that the replacements included players of the quality of Choudhury, Fuchs, Albrighton, the increasingly impressive Praet, and debutant James Justin.

City started the match defending the goal in front of their fans and were quickly into their game. It looked like a 4-1-4-1 formation with Perez the lone striker, Luton had a 5-man midfield in front of their back four yet they were being overpowered. Marc Albrighton was particularly prominent in the early stages having a shot well saved by Shea, down low at the foot of the post, and then setting up chances in quick succession for Perez and Fuchs. Gray and Justin were combining well and both possessing excellent pace, at the quarter of an hour mark Justin put Gray through who’s attempt on goal was blocked.

With all the City possession (70%) and the rising tally of shots, it was a surprise that the breakthrough took 34 minutes. A corner was taken by Albrighton, low to the edge of the six-yard box, it was cleverly flicked back by Perez, under pressure from the defender, into the path of Gray who struck the ball into the net.

Ten minutes later City doubled their advantage after Tielemans made a trademark pass to pick out the onrushing Justin to score on his Leicester debut following his £7m summer move from the Hatters. What followed then was quite bizarre as the Kenilworth Road faithful joined in the applause and started singing ‘… he’s one of our own’.

Shots from Perez and Tielemans followed before a foul on Albrighton led to a free kick in Maddison territory. Gray took it and, although he connected well, the ball was straight at the keeper who saved comfortably. Half time came and City were comfortable but there was a sense that a Luton goal could change things.

As the teams came out for the second half the stadium announcer did his best to raise the spirits as he said ‘come on Luton we can still win this’, his rallying words fell on deaf ears though as the fans seemed to accept the inevitability of the result. There was to be no Luton revival and no goal.

Gray was again prominent in the space of a minute shooting wide, first from a corner and subsequent retrieval and cross from Evans, then being set up by Ndidi. It was still all City with the shot tally soaring. The most notable being on 58’ when Wes Morgan played a one-two with Ndidi on the edge of the box before he got his shot away from 10 yards only for Shea to save well low down. If a video clip exists of this move it should be sent to FIFA 20 as proof that Morgan’s pace deserves a rating far in excess of the derisory 29 points they awarded.

67 minutes gone and Luton registered their first shot, Leicester had 21 attempts at this stage; if it had gone in it might have changed the complexion of the game. Bolton set up Brown whose fierce shot was turned away by Ward’s foot in what was to be his only real test of the night. On 71’ there was a bit of disappointment in that Perez was substituted for Iheanacho. Perez desperately needs a goal to kick-start his season and this could have been a great opportunity. However, it was to be the substitute who benefitted. On 79’ Iheanacho was set up by Justin and he was fed through one-on-one with the keeper, stumbling as he went through and off-balance, his shot was saved by Shea. Somehow the City forward won back possession and the ball found its way via a Luton defender to Gray who crossed to Tielemans at the far post who rifled the ball into the net from 7-yards.

If Iheanacho had fluffed his lines then, he had another chance to redeem himself a couple of minutes later but his shot from the edge of the 6-yard box was saved well.

The final goal came on 86’ as good pressure from Iheanacho and then Albrighton caused panic in the Luton defence.  Albrighton’s interception fell into the path of Iheanacho and his chip from the edge of the box found the net, although the keeper got his fingertips to the ball, he could not prevent the goal. The relief for the striker, his team mates, the fans was palpable, the year long wait for a goal was over.

All in all, a solid City performance albeit against an average Championship side. A fantastic return to Kenilworth Road for James Justin, Praet looking increasingly good, and a big improvement in Tieleman’s performance. Perez’s game is improving but needs his goal, perhaps it might come on Sunday against The Toon.

Luton Town: Shea, Bolton, Jones, Sheehan, Potts, Berry, Mpanzu, Moncur (Brown 60’), Butterfield, McManaman (Lua Lua 72’) Lee (Cornickat 60’). Unused Subs: Tunnicliffe, Pearson, Sluga, Bree

Leicester City: Ward, Justin, Morgan, Evans, Fuchs, Ndidi (Choudhury 77’), Gray, Praet, Tielemans, Albrighton, Perez (Iheanacho 71’). Unused Subs: Schmeichel, Vardy, Barnes, Amartey, Pereira.

Referee: Matt Donohue                Attendance: 8260

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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MADDISON GETS HIS REVENGE

LEICESTER CITY 2 SPURS 1

Match Report by Paul Weston

It had to happen didn’t it? All the pundits had started to talk up City’s chances this year of getting into the top six. And what happens next? We blow the chance of beating a rather ordinary Manchester United side with a rather timid display and there goes our unbeaten start to the season. This rather dented the cautious optimism of City fans as the match against Spurs got closer to kick off. I think we feel more comfortable when no-one mentions our team in the press.

Spurs arrived for the kick-off with criticism in their ears from Pochettino after losing a two-goal lead against Olympiakos during mid week. They fielded a strong powerful side but with Loris absent due to the birth of his third child. City dropped Gray to the bench after his underwhelming display against Man Utd and brought in Barnes on the left wing.

Although City started brightly Spurs grew in strength as the first half progressed with Lamela featuring in particular and too easily carving through our midfield. Ricardo had his hands full on the right and Chilwell equally prevented from bombing forward too much on the left by Aurier. Maddison, Tielemans and Perez flitted in and out of the match and the supply to Vardy was limited. Maddison did manufacture two chances quite skilfully but the goalie made smart saves.

Part way through the first half, slightly against the run of play, City “scored”. From a corner Tielemans shot from outside the penalty area. The goalie fumbled, Perez gobbled up the rebound and N’didi bundled the ball in.

Cue delirium which after a long delay was crushed when VAR ruled no goal. Match of the Day later clearly showed Perez offside. However, those 30,000 in the crowd were left baffled. There has to be a better way of communication with the crowd than the current system. Why not broadcast the conversation with the ref and the VAR official?

It just had to be Harry Kane who then made matters worse. During a typical Spurs fast counter attack Son back heeled the ball to Kane. He was squeezed by Ricardo and Soyuncu and started to fall down as he burst through the middle (trying to win a penalty?). As he fell he managed to hook the ball over Schmeichel and into the goal. Spurs 0-1 and it was starting to look ominous.

Somewhat surprisingly Rogers made no changes at half time. Barnes was getting out muscled on the wing, Perez slightly anonymous and Spurs’ cynical fouls were clearly focussed on Maddison. Sissoko in particular was extremely fortunate to avoid a red card when scything down Maddison from behind.

And then came the turning point in the match. Another fast break from Spurs led to Son passing out to Aurier who had been left isolated by Chilwell. A good shot across Schmeichel and it looked like 0-2 and game just about over. But no – VAR deemed that Son was offside by a whisker. Again, those inside the ground were left guessing.

This seemed to galvanise both the crowd and the team in moving up a gear. Ricardo and Chilwell advanced forward more and as the support to Vardy improved he became much more dominant. He nearly scored when streaking through on the left but the keeper got his finger tips to make the save. The pressure on Spurs grew and Vardy was released again down the left channel. He cut the ball across the penalty area, Spurs defenders could not clear and Ricardo arrived to smash the ball into the net. 1-1 and this time VAR did not intervene!

Although Spurs were always a threat it felt that the force was now with City. Rodgers had brought on Praet for Perez and then Gray for Barnes. I had wanted to see Choudhury on earlier to stiffen up our midfield and, late in the day, Rodgers brought him on for Tielemans who had had an indifferent match. It only took a few moments for Choudhury to receive the ball from Barnes and slide a great first-time ball across to Maddison to move into space who then shot into the corner of the goal from long range. It was a great goal but perhaps Loris would have pushed it around the post?

It was the best way for Maddison to gain revenge for the persistent fouling. He was kicked yet again later on the ankle and had to hobble on as all the substitutes had been used. There were 7 minutes of extra time due to VAR and substitutes but Evans and Soyuncu (my man of the match) in particular continued to stand firm and City grabbed the points and a 2-1 win. Perhaps a draw would have been a fairer result but who cares!

It had been a very eventful and exciting match in which both teams had played their part. The three points push City back up the table and optimism for a successful season has been renewed. There is still work for Rodgers though. Tielemans does not seem to be having the same effect as last year. Barnes is still learning and Perez is not having much of an impact. Soyuncu is the big bonus of the year so far. City have £80 million in the bank and it looks like we have a ready-made Harry Maguire replacement. One foray late in the match from defence to attack brought the crowd to its feet.

City are third in the table as I write this report. Long may it continue!

Leicester – Schmeichel (c), Ricardo, Evans, Soyuncu, Chilwell, Ndidi, Tielemans, Maddison, Perez, Barnes, Vardy. Subs Justin. Morgan, Gray, Albrighton, Ward, Choudhury, Praet.

Tottenham – Gazzaniga, Aurier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose, Winks, Sissoko, Ndombele, Lamela, Son, Kane (c). Subs – Wanyama, Dier, Ericksen, Moura, Skipp, Davies, Whiteman

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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After the Lord Mayor’s show

Man Utd 1 City 0

Report by Kate Thompson

Like I guess many City fans, I travelled to Old Trafford with a lot of optimism and sure that we would finally win at a stadium where we have had no recent success.  After all, the last match was excellent – apart from too much passing sideways and backwards! – but I should have known better. 

One of the causes of optimism was the thought that the players would know Maguire’s weaknesses, and Vardy’s pace would be a problem to him.  Sadly, the opposite was the case and Vardy only got the better of him on one occasion, when he was able to slide the ball invitingly across the box, but with no City player there to score.

I was not surprised by the two changes and felt that Gray deserved a chance, after his good cameo against Bournemouth, but sadly he failed yet again to live up to his reputation and perhaps his own view of how good he is.  We should have let Bournemouth sign him when they wanted to! 

I am an Albrighton fan, for more than his playing abilities, but on this occasion I think Barnes was the better choice; he came on for the ineffective Gray in the 68th minute and the other substitute was Perez for Choudhury in the 57th minute.

Like other matches, Leicester started slowly and were therefore having to play catch-up from the 8th minute when Rashford went down for a very soft penalty.  For neither the first nor last time the referee, Martin Atkinson, infuriated the City fans; I don’t like criticising referees but he ignored blatant fouls against City players while blowing for every little contact against a United player. 

Rashford scored a good penalty – apparently he missed the last one – and I suppose we should be grateful that we didn’t have to watch Pogba’s silly antics when he takes them!  Soyuncu was adjudged to have brought Rashford down and he needs to learn not to do anything at all careless in the box. 

Apart from that he was pretty solid and Evans was probably the best player.  Usually reliable players, like Ricardo and Tielemans were below their best and Vardy hardly had any opportunities to score.

City had 58% of the possession but we all know what a meaningless statistic that is!  In all honesty, they huffed and puffed to very little effect and the only shots on target were from Maddison and Chilwell in the first half, which De Gea dealt with easily. 

Two players were booked, Maddison for a silly foul and Chilwell for something that happened right at the end of the game; there was some sort of scuffle in the far corner, but I have no idea what happened as it was so far away! 

I wonder if City were carried away by the hype in some quarters and thought it would be easy.  If they didn’t know before that there are no easy games in the Premier League, they will now.

Man Utd: de Gea, Wan Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Young, McTominay, Matic, Andreas Pereira, Mata, James, Rashford. Subs: Jones, Fred, Romero, Greenwood, Gomes, Tuanzebe, Chong.

Leicester: Schmeichel, Ricardo Pereira, Evans, Soyuncu, Chilwell, Ndidi, Gray, Tielemans, Choudhury, Maddison, Vardy. Subs: Justin, Morgan, Albrighton, Ward, Barnes, Perez, Praet.

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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CHERRIES FAIL PEST CONTROL TEST

Leicester 3 Bournemouth 1 

Report by Eddie Blount 

Jamie Vardy aka The Pest lived up to his nickname at the King Power today with a brace of goals, the first and the third, and an assist for the second scored by midfielder Tielemans in a convincing win over Bournemouth, lifting City into a very satisfactory third place in the premiership table. Bournemouth to their credit played a much more open game than previous visitors Wolves though there is no justice in football and Wolves negativity earned them a point whilst the Cherries had ultimately nothing to show for their efforts.

Bournemouth started well but with the risky plan of playing a high line, compressing the play but leaving them vulnerable to the ball over the top. City for their part played two wingers, Barnes and Albrighton, for the first time this season at the beginning of a game, not a formation we are likely to see at most away games. Today it worked and we scored three and frequently threatened to get more so it will be a case of horses for courses.

Bournemouth’s vulnerability to an accurate long ball was unveiled as early as the 12th minute when Chilwell, restored to the side after a hip problem released a gorgeous through ball from near halfway. Vardy allowed it to bounce before lobbing it over the advancing keeper from the corner of the box, the ball landing on the full in the corner of the net neat as you like. A skilful finish made to look simple.

The Cherries responded well to this setback and were level within four minutes. Callum Wilson, in whom City are said to be interested, ran well off the ball when supporting a quick thrust by Ryan Fraser who slotted the ball through to him for an excellent corner of the net finish. At this stage no more than they deserved but this was to be the high point for City’s opponents as Leicester gradually took the upper hand.

Vardy was unfortunate not to have a simple chance to put City ahead again when their keeper fluffed a clearance under pressure from the striker but the ball rebounded off the falling Vardy and went straight to the keeper lying prone on the turf. Bournemouth profited but briefly from this piece of good fortune before conceding a crucial second goal.

Vardy, inevitably, was released in the penalty area and worked his way along the goal-line, losing the ball in a challenge but characteristically regaining it in a flash before squaring across goal for the alert Tielemans to poke into the right corner of the net from close range. You need a cool head in such circumstances to find the killer pass and Vardy obliged in spades – an excellent lesson for younger players like Barnes and Gray for example.

City were rather more dominant in the second half, organised in defence with Evans and Soyuncu again outstanding, and ever dangerous when the ball went anywhere near Vardy. Incredible when you think he was on the pitch for the whole midweek game at Newcastle. Today he was the heart- beat of this team. He thoroughly deserved the clinching goal which was a toe-poke from close range as the ball sped across the six-yard box.

Bournemouth never gave up but they were ultimately found wanting and City saw the remainder of the game out with Schmeichel untroubled apart from having to push a shot from outside the area around his left-hand post. Seven minutes of added time passed without need for anxiety

The seven extra minutes were largely due to the two VAR referrals in the second half, both some way down-field of where I sit. The first was the possibility of a red card for a tackle by Tielemans which aroused little passion at the time and frankly came as a surprise to most spectators. The call went Leicester’s way but shortly afterwards a Bournemouth player fell in the box under a challenge form Soyuncu and VAR swung into action a second time. The referee, a newcomer to the Premiership, had had a good game and promptly booked the falling player for diving. It seemed to me that there was minimal contact which the player tried to maximise, going down far too easily. Again VAR endorsed the judgment of the referee.

Like most others I am generally in favour of VAR, especially in matters of fact but it is not working well where it is a matter of judgement. I am particularly concerned that the emotional release when your team scores has to be restrained whilst you wait to see if VAR is going to be involved

So a good start to the 2019-29 season which would get a whole lot better fi we can get something out of Maguire’s men next time out

City: Schmeichel, Ricardo, Evans, Soyuncu, Chilwell, Ndidi, Tielemans, Albrighton (Gray 64), Maddison (Fuchs 86),Barnes (Choudhury71), Vardy

Bournemouth: Ramsdale, Smith (Ibe 64), Mepham, Cook, Ake, H Wilson (Solanki 64), Billing, Lerma, King (Surnam 79), C Wilson

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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