City’s Euro push back on the rails

Brighton & Hove Albion 0 Leicester City 2, Amex Stadium, 31st March 2018

Report by Colin Murrant

Whenever I visit Brighton for the football it is usually by train and, being of a certain age, this brings back memories of The Who and the 5:15. It is probably fitting therefore that it was at Brighton that City got their second away win a row and got their Europa League push firmly back on the rails in this hard-fought encounter.

The Amex Stadium is situated some 5 miles outside of Brighton and is 15 minutes by car (with little chance to park), a 90-minute walk or, more sensibly, a 10-minute journey by train. The match ticket includes free rail passage from Brighton to Falmer, 3 stops along the line and with direct access to the stadium. There was plenty of Leicester supporters in evidence in the City Centre before the match, many making a week-end of it but; although the sun made the occasional breakthrough, the weather was largely gloomy which was in contrast to the general optimism about the result.

City kicked off defending the South Stand where the faithful were situated. The first half was a mainly dour affair with only one shot on target. What it was most noted for was a booking for Ndidi for a foul on Kayal, this was to prove costly. Morgan had also been cautioned early on. It was about this time that City fans had stared to get irritated by the refereeing, although both City bookings were probably deserved, equally poor challenges by the home team were going unpunished, notably Bong from behind on Mahrez: Mahrez over milked the sympathy, lying prone for some time, and thus earned the wrath of the locals who booed him every time he was on the ball from thereon.

I have seen some difficult centre forwards in my time and Murray fits this bill; he was constantly pushing, nudging, taking the occasional dive and, being clever with it, getting away with virtually every infringement. He seems to get his push in early as soon as the ball is played, this unbalances the defender and gives Murray a distinct advantage: having said that, I quite enjoyed watching him, proper ‘old school’. What he didn’t do well though is finish. The best chance of the first half fell to him following a through ball from Gross, beating the offside trap, he was quickly closed down by Schmeichel, but should have scored as he sent his shot well wide of the target from 12 yards.

In fact, the only effort on target in the half came from a free kick for Leicester after Mahrez was fouled for the umpteenth time. He made a short pass to Albrighton who centred for Iborra to head goal-wards but the ball was easily caught by Ryan in the Brighton goal.

The second half started with a great Albrighton ball from deep and wide into the penalty area, Vardy in a tussle with Duffy won the ball and was lining a shot up when the whistle went for an inexplicable alleged foul by Vardy.

Play was still fairly even with little being created by either team and, after 55 minutes, Puel decided to take off the ineffective Okasaki and bring on the more positive attack minded Diabate. Now many are still on the fence with our Claude but this was most definitely one of his better days, it was his substitutes (no further ‘The Who’ connection intended) who turned the game for City as also later on Gray for Albrighton was to be decisive as City picked up their attacking intent.

There was then a series of bookings as Chilwell, Simpson and Maguire were booked in a five-minute period, Kayal of Brighton was also booked and you sensed a red card would happen. Maguire was fouled himself but the referee ignored his pleas and the ball ran to Gross who, from 25 yards out, hit a good shot that Schmeichel pushed behind although the save was more spectacular than difficult to make as the ball was not heading for the top corner.

It was Brighton on the offensive now and March went on a mazy run in the box before passing to Izquierdo who was tackled by Ndidi and Maguire simultaneously, he dived more than fell and the penalty was given. Murray stepped up and rather casually hit the ball to Kasper’s left. The keeper guessed correctly and pushed the ball away out of danger; the ball was at a good height to save but full praise to the city keeper who now has saved as many Premier League penalties as Peter his father.

This seemed to spark city and Bong was finally booked for another tackle on Mahrez that was probably deserving of a red itself and most definitely should have been his second red of the afternoon. Another foul on Mahrez by Kahal and he too escaped a second yellow. This time Mahrez took the free kick and it was headed on in the penalty are by Maguire, possession was won back by City and the ball was worked between Gray, Diabate and Maguire again before Chilwell centred for Iborra to score his third headed goal for City. What a gem this man in both boxes with his heading ability and his height in midfield.

Then followed the most controversial moment of the match as Ndidi was deemed to have fouled Duffy whose overreaction was bordering on farcical. The distraught Ndidi took some time to leave the pitch although there was no confrontation with the referee, he just fell to the ground in disbelief. It was not obvious at the time as the incident was at the far end of the pitch, but TV pictures confirmed it was a clean interception, it should have been play on and no more. The decision confirmed the inadequacies of Kavanagh individually as a referee and underlines why England cannot manage one single referee in 80 nominated for the World Cup finals. Fuchs came on for Mahrez and Chilwell moved to left side of midfield as Puel tried to secure the win.

Brighton were now desperate and had to attack more themselves, a corner from the left nearly gave them the equaliser as Schmeichel came and missed the cross and Bong failed to connect at the empty far post. 5 minutes of added on time were given and at the death City secured victory as two of the substitutes combined to set up the goal that confirmed the three points. Iborra won the ball in City’s half, fed Diabate who in turn fed the ball to Gray. Diabate ran into an off-side position in the penalty area which momentarily delayed Gray, as play progressed he beat his man and crossed to the far post where Vardy tapped in to give City the victory they just about deserved.

So, City with two back to back away wins where they have had 56% and 53% possession respectively are on the move gain and that possible seventh place and Europa League is in our hands given we play Burnley in two weeks’ time. Puel’s transformation of the City side into a team that likes possession is moving forward. The summer transfers will be one I look forward to as he has the opportunity to bring in a few of his own signings. I love the prospect of Ndidi, Silva and Iborra in the centre of the park together. But there is plenty of work to do this season and Silva’s time will probably now come against Newcastle and Burnley with Ndidi serving his two-match ban.

Now, while there is lots to like about the Brighton experience, queuing for that train back to Brighton is not one of them. So, with the bar kept open after the match, and food reduced to half price, a large contingent of City fans took the opportunity to refresh themselves, talk about the match, watch the highlights on the screen and finally contemplate continuing their short-break or, in my case, the 3-hour journey home. Amazing how good the journey home is after a win, even if it was the 7.15; and I wasn’t ‘out of my brain’.

Brighton & Hove Albion: Ryan, Schelotto, Duffy, Dunk, Bong, Locadia, Kayal, Propper, Izquierdo, Gross, Murray. Subs: Krul, Bruno, Goldson, Suttner, Hemed, Baldock, March.

City: Schmeichel, Simpson, Morgan, Maguire, Chilwell, Albrighton, Ndidi, Iborra, Mahrez, Okazaki, Vardy. Subs: Jakupovic, Dragovic, Fuchs, Silva, Gray, Diabate, Iheanacho

Referee: Kavanagh                         Attendance 30,269

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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Foxes Trust Board Profile – Steve Moulds

A bit about you:

Name: Stephen (Steve) Moulds

Current home town: Earlsfield, London

Birthplace: Leicester (East Bond St Maternity Hospital – now reduced to a blue plaque)

When did you first support LCFC? My earliest memories are of watching the 69 FA Cup final with my family. My first games were in the 70s. I remember a mid-week evening league match against Derby. A 1-1 draw and City, as I recall, conceded a goal as a result of keeping error. Wallington misjudged a ball and it bounced over his head into the net.

When did you first join on the Trust Board? January 2018 after serving just over a year as London Rep.

Why did you join? I joined the Trust from the outset as I thought it was one way we might be able to save the Club from going under. After several years of passive membership, following an appeal from the Board for help with attendance at the meetings of various national bodies (all based in London), I decided to volunteer.

What is your main role? Representing the Trust at national meetings with FSF, Supporters Direct and the Premier League. Reporting to and providing feedback on current national issues facing football and premier league clubs and, in return, representing the views of Trust members and the Board at these meetings.

If you were to say one thing about why you feel other supporters should join the Trust, what would it be? Football clubs have great significance to local communities and are a key part of many people’s lives. If you want supporters’ views to be listened to and taken seriously by your club, then join a Trust – they are recognised and listened to by clubs and the more members we have, the greater the voice.

Overview of LCFC: Exciting times. After many years of being a ‘yoyo’ club, moving in and out of the top division, I believe the current owners and senior management have serious ambition that will turn us into a regular top 5 or 6 side.

Favourite thing about the ground: Not a bad view anywhere and a great atmosphere (most of the time). I am also pleased that it remains a city centre ground.

Favourite view and/or where you sit: Being a Foxile, these days, anywhere I can get a ticket. I used to have a season ticket in the East Stand.

Favourite match & why: The million dollar question! It is always difficult to single-out one match. Maybe City v Arsenal in 97/98 – Bergkamp may have scored goal of the season but Foxes never quit – best 3-3 draw I can recall. In the year we won the league, winning by a country mile at Man City – the absolute proof that, in football, money does not guarantee success.

Favourite player of all time who played for our club: Wow! Too many to choose from given over 40 years as a supporter. I always loved the time when Frank Worthington played for us and England. Long after he had departed City and was player-manager at Tranmere, I remember a TV interview in which he said, the team were not the greatest footballers, but they all could trap the ball on the back of their necks. Sometimes, I lament the loss of such characters to the game.

Our 15/16 Season:

At what stage did you think we would win the league? Did we win the league – that wasn’t a dream then!! Seriously, when Eden Hazard equalised for Chelsea against Tottenham.

Where were you when the final whistle went at the Chelsea v Spurs game and how did you feel? I was at home. When Spurs went 2-0 up, I kind of gave up watching. After the result, I couldn’t sit, I was pacing around and getting texts and calls from mates who were on their way to the KP to celebrate – wish I had been able to get there.

Has it made a difference to you personally? City winning the Premier League has restored a bit of my faith in football that I had lost, especially at the top level.

Any other comments in relation to that incredible season? The way it appeared to galvanise the whole city – it proved to me how important football clubs can be in promoting a positive image of their locality and people. I hope, in seasons to come, we don’t forget that euphoria and unity.

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Foxes Trust Board Profile – Matt Davis

A bit about you:

Name: Matt Davis

Current home town: Leicester

Birthplace: Leicester

When did you first support LCFC? 28 April 1978 Leicester City 3 Newcastle 0 – but both teams were already relegated.

When did you first join on the Trust Board? Since I was first co-opted on 14/03/2006

Why did you join? I joined the Trust initially to help save the club …. I came up with a few ideas at an AGM and they were liked and so I was asked to join the Board – the rest is history!

What is your main role? Vice Chair & Press Officer

If you were to say one thing about why you feel other supporters should join the Trust, what would it be? It has changed through the years e.g. initially it was to help save the club …. but now it is a collaborative voice in a world where the riches of the Premier League itself and then the TV Companies mean the fans are rarely even considered.

Our Trust along with other Trusts from other clubs are constantly working together through the Umbrella organisations of Supports Direct and the Football Supporters Federation on key issues of common concern such as kick off times and dates, away ticket pricing etc.

Overview of LCFC:

Favourite thing about the ground: Not a lot really, I preferred Filbert Street for atmosphere – but a view of the pitch that isn’t obstructed by pillars and fairly decent leg room are two obvious bonuses!

Favourite view and/or where you sit: The view from the centre line exec box is good I’m sure (!), but you can’t beat the atmosphere from L1 and the Kop when on form it’s great …. but personally I am more than happy with the view from the family stand as are my two children!!!

Favourite match & why: It isn’t a Leicester Match – it was when Chelsea beat Spurs to give us the title – purely because it was something I never even dreamt of happening in my lifetime!

Favourite player of all time who played for our club: Gary Lineker mainly because of the way he has never hid his first love for the club.

Our 15/16 Season:

At what stage did you think we would win the league?

Only when it actually happened – because me saying or thinking anything else would be ‘the kiss of death’ knowing the way my predictions go!

Where were you when the final whistle went at the Chelsea v Spurs game and how did you feel?

Watching it at a friend’s house (thanks Sonia & John!) – both my wife and I did the obvious thing at the final whistle … along with several thousand others – we got in the car and partied into the night at the stadium!

Where were you when we were presented with the trophy and how did you feel? In the family stand.  I remember singing like never before in the concourses and in the stands – an atmosphere that I never thought I would witness … and with Bocelli singing it was even more surreal.

How has Leicester winning the league changed the perception of the club? Everywhere you go (Spurs fans being an exception) people want to talk to you about it and say how brilliant it was for us and for football as a whole. 

Just as one global example though, I did three interviews for CNN that went out to 200 million households in 190 countries …. our beautiful City was well and truly on the map!!! (and of course the viewers soon learnt it was pronounced Leicester not Lie-Chester!)

Has it made a difference to you personally? Yes, it has made me even more immensely proud of my club than I thought possible.

Any other comments in relation to that incredible season? The party in the park to celebrate will be in my memory for the rest of my life – it was so brilliant!

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SO NEAR AND YET SO FAR

LEICESTER CITY 1 CHELSEA 2 (after extra time)

Match Report by Paul Weston

It is still fresh in my mind since Sunday. Kasper Schmeichel went rashly for a standard Kante cross, punched thin air and substitute Pedro (one of the smallest men on the pitch) headed into goal in extra time. The noisy crowd were stunned and City’s dream of FA Cup silverware disappeared for yet another year. Frustration and disappointment became worse when we learned that, if we had beaten Chelsea, then our opponents would have been Southampton in the semi-final. Ah well…

The omens before the match were good. Chelsea had had a tough match against Barcelona and City had a clear week of warm weather training to prepare for the match. It was a freezing night at the King Power and there was a lively atmosphere in the crowd.

Puel picked the same team which started the West Brom match, with Iheanacho supporting Vardy and Iborra in midfield. Chelsea picked a strong team, although Danny Drinkwater did not even have a place on the bench. I wonder whether he feels if his move to Chelsea has been a success so far?

After a bright start City started to drop back into their recent slow passing sideways and back mode which at times seems rather pointless and frustrates the crowd. One can see what Puel is trying to achieve but has he got the right players to play his way?

Vardy, although looking sharp, was becoming isolated and we were not pressing as much as we could from the front. City were giving too much space to Moses and Alonso and, although Chelsea were also giving room to Chilwell and Simpson on the flanks, they frequently failed to deliver decent crosses. When they did there often was one attacker surrounded by three defenders.

However, City had a great chance to score late in the first half when Iheanacho broke forward with Mahrez in support. His pass was abysmal to Mahrez who had to double back and then, when surrounded by three Chelsea players, lost the ball which was played quickly to Willian. Both Chilwell and N’Didi then had the chance to either tackle or foul Willian to stop the move. Neither happened and the ball was passed to Morata who took his chance really well so, instead of winning 1-0, City were 1-0 down going into the half time interval.

City upped the pace and pressed more in the second half although I would have liked to see Okazaki on earlier rather than 30 minutes from the end. His endeavour immediately had an effect, replacing Iheanacho who had faded in the first half. Vardy had a great heading chance which he got completely wrong.

However, as time ticked by, Mahrez was fed the ball by Ndidi and he dribbled his way to the by line and crossed. Both Vardy and Iborra (twice) had shots blocked before Vardy slammed the ball in. 1-1 and game on! Diabate was also brought on later than I would have liked. His drive and creativity forward were just what we needed.

The match then went into extra time and possible penalties. It felt like the momentum was with City but I was dreading penalties- never our strong point! City were on the front foot but gaps were starting to appear at both ends. And then the Pedro goal happened from nowhere and City were 2-1 down.

Chelsea then unashamedly wasted time afterwards at every opportunity. The referee pointed to his watch to show that he was aware of the time wasting (or perhaps he was showing us that he had a nice watch!). We thought that he was adding on time for time wasting. How wrong we were! One minute only additional time was added to the boos of an incredulous crowd and City players alike. It should have been 5-6 minutes at least and cut short the end of the match as City pressed forward for an equaliser.

It was a frustrating end to a close match which was decided by two City errors and not Chelsea’s superior play. On reflection there were both positives and negatives to take from the match.

Vardy looked sharp but often was left unsupported; Iheanacho cannot fulfil the Okazaki role; Albrighton worked his socks off, often covering for Chilwell’s errors in defence; Simpson tried manfully but he does not look capable of being an attaching full back; Mahrez is better cutting in from the wing rather than feeding the ball to Simpson; N’Didi won so many tackles but cannot play a really creative pass; Iborra seemed to fade in the match after starting well; Morgan and Maguire looked strong in the middle but both were caught out by Morata.

Schmeichel has often been a saviour for City but he has had only an average season. Worryingly, his flaws at crosses, freekicks, corners, which are well known, have not been eradicated. His distribution, which used to be a strength, has deteriorated so that we frequently immediately hand possession to the opposition. The lack of pressure on Schmeichel from a high quality understudy goalkeeper must be addressed by Puel as well as both full back positions.

The next challenge for City is to regain momentum after the international break and secure 7th spot in the league and Europe could beckon again. It is important that this season does not fade away after this FA Cup disappointment.

Leicester: Schmeichel, Simpson, Morgan (c), Maguire, Chilwell, Ndidi, Iborra, Mahrez, Albrighton, Iheanacho, Vardy. Subs: Hamer, Fuchs, Dragović, Silva, Gray, Okazaki, Diabaté.

Chelsea: Caballero; Azpilicueta (c), Christensen, Rudiger; Moses, Bakayoko, Kante, Alonso; Willian, Morata, Hazard. Subs: Eduardo, Cahill, Zappacosta, Emerson, Fabregas, Pedro, Giroud.

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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A return to form or another false dawn?

West Brom 1 Leicester 4

Report by Kate Thompson

I remember hearing a Leicester supporter on Radio 5 live many years ago, saying that all Leicester supporters had their optimism gene surgically removed at birth!  He wasn’t altogether wrong and supporting this team for so many years makes you wary of looking too far forward. 

I went to this game fearing the worst and this was not dissipated by the indifferent start.  Claude Puel made five changes, two of which I was unconvinced by.  Ben Chilwell is great going forward but surely his first job is as a left back and I’m afraid he was at fault for West Brom’s goal.  In my opinion, Fuchs is a safer bet. 

Gray is undoubtedly talented but he needs to learn that it is a team game and the best option is rarely to have a shot himself unless he is confident that he can score. Simpson was no surprise, likewise Okazaki, and I was pleased to see Iborra come back into the team.  However, I was also pleased last week that Silva played, but sadly he had an indifferent game and was not even in the squad for this game.

When Rondon scored in the 7th minute my heart sank, but this time the outcome was very different.  Having said that, had Schmeichel not acrobatically tipped a goal-bound shot onto the bar before we equalised, we might not have seen what turned out to be a comfortable win. 

The equaliser, described as a thing of beauty, was probably one of the best goals Vardy has scored; Mahrez put a peach of a long pass over his shoulder and without looking at the goal Vardy scored – with his left foot! – into the bottom right-hand corner. 

Like most Leicester fans I imagine, I needed to watch it later on television to appreciate what a remarkable goal it was.  On ‘Match of the day’ on Saturday evening Frank Lampard was eulogising about it and said it was one of the best goals he had ever seen.  And it was scored by little old Leicester!

We managed to go in at half-time without conceding but the second half was totally different.  In the 62nd minute Iheanacho put a delightful pass through to Mahrez who dinked the ball over Foster in the West Brom goal to put us in front. 

The West Brom players’ heads went down although I thought they tried to the end, and it was no surprise when Iheanacho scored himself in the 76th minute.  The rout was completed by Iborra scoring in added time. 

It was interesting that the last two goals were headers and it was refreshing to have two tall players who could make the most of the numerous crosses, especially from Albrighton (on as sub for Gray in the 67th minute).

OK, West Brom looked a beaten side long before the end, but how many times have we seen teams in a similar situation frustrate the Leicester players?  Most of them came out of the game with credit, although Okazaki had a disappointing return and it was no surprise when he was replaced by Iheanacho in the 60th minute.

The final substitution was Diabete for Mahrez in the 88th minute, perhaps because the latter had picked up a yellow card (as had Vardy and Ndidi).  My hope is that this display will give them confidence to win against our nemesis Chelsea next Sunday and progress to the semi final of the FA Cup.

Leicester:  Schmeichel, Simpson, Morgan (c), Maguire, Chilwell, Iborra, Ndidi, Mahrez, Gray, Okazaki, Vardy. Subs: Jakupović, Dragović, Fuchs, James, Diabaté, Albrighton, Iheanacho

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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