LIVERPOOL HAVE EDGE IN FIVE-GOAL THRILLER

CITY 2 LIVERPOOL 3

Report by Eddie Blount

Liverpool extracted deserved revenge for their Cup defeat earlier in the week at the same venue with a polished display of forward power which was irresistible at times particularly in the first half when they surged to a two-goal lead which could easily have been more.

From the start it was clear that City had a stern task on their hands. Going forward Liverpool were quicker, stronger and more creative, Coutinho inevitably to the fore in that last department. Before taking the lead in the 15th minute Can had struck a post with a ferocious shot from 25 yards, the ball rebounding instantly to the onrushing Salah who blazed wide of a gaping net.

Salah made immediate and full amends almost immediately taking advantage of a wonderful cross by Coutinho to head in at a sharp angle at the far post. Chilwell, who overall had a good game, lost his marker on this occasion as the regular left back, Fuchs, has also been prone to do this season.

One down very soon became two! Given that City play 4-4-2 as opposed to the 3-5-2 generally played by the top teams the loss of possession anywhere near centre midfield can be disastrous and so it proved when a City attack broke down leaving the cover stranded as the Reds poured forward. Ndidi, who toiled manfully throughout, almost got back but committed a yellow card foul, one for the team as they now say, five yards outside the box.

Around me there was unanimity that this would be fatal as Coutinho shaped up to deliver the inevitable coup de grace. It was like watching a medieval executioner polishing his axe. The free kick when delivered was well up to expectations and curled unstoppably into the far corner at great pace. Two down after 23 minutes – some sides would have crumbled but City stubbornly refused to bend the knee.

They had already showed that Liverpool were predictably vulnerable at the back -they are great going forward, much less so at the other job! At 0-0 Albrighton, a great trier throughout, had released Vardy whose shot was pushed away by the keeper, the ball lobbing away to Mahrez whose volley went over when it should have gone under. More on Mahrez later.

After the initial shock of going two down City – and the fans – rallied and began to get at least an equal share of the game. Vardy, a one-man attacking machine, harassed Mignolet into a poor clearance, leaving Okazaki with an untenanted goal though some distance out. I’ve seen these go in but the tame effort deflected off the keeper for a fruitless corner. Nonetheless City were encouraged by the weaknesses of Liverpool’s defending and a little spell of pressure on the verge of half-time paid dividends.

Mahrez’s corner caused the entire Pool defence, keeper included, to advance beyond the six-yard box leaving a chasm into which the battling Maguire sent a gentle header. The ball almost certainly would have been hacked away but Okazaki with a trademark toe-poke put City back in the game. We all spent half-time scratching our heads and wondering how we were still in the match!

The confidence of the late goal re-enthused both team and fans and City raised their game early in the second half without creating a really clear chance, Inevitably there is an element of risk in chasing the game and mistakes are likely to be punished by a good side. Thus it was. Maguire won possession well but with no cover behind him chose the wrong option of a dribble when a hoof was all that was required. It was all over in a flash but it decided the match as it turned out. Liverpool ran at City with four against two, eventually giving Henderson a simple chance to re-establish a two-goal margin.

Now we were to see City at their best! Albrighton’s long cross was volleyed magnificently by substitute Gray, pushed out by Mignolet but only to Vardy who duly headed into the empty net. If ever a striker deserved a goal…. Liverpool were unnerved by City’s refusal to accept defeat, rather like a boxer who is continually floored but keeps getting back up and knocking the other guy down! Immediately the 3-1 of moments before should have been 3-3 as Vardy stormed after a through ball only to be downed by the onrushing keeper for a clear penalty.

Vardy is not a natural penalty taker and although his effort was well struck it was far too close to Mignolet who pushed it away comfortably. The action was not over as the ball was returned to the box for a defender to handle, albeit inadvertently. TV replays showed a clear movement of hand to ball. The referee was understandably reluctant to give two penalties so close together and needed help from the West stand linesman who only flagged for ball out of play throughout the match. He had a clear view of the offence but predictably did nothing.

It seemed that this would be City’s last chance to get back on terms and so it proved so that a really spirited performance ultimately went without reward. Unfortunately I have to disassociate  Mahrez from the ‘spirited performance.’ This was by some way the worst I have seen Mahrez play. I cannot readily believe it was due to lack of interest, though running round the airports of Europe to secure a move smacks of some lack of commitment, so I prefer to see it as a loss of confidence, a theory lent further credence by the speed with which Mahrez left the pitch, surely a Premiership all-comers best.  Whatever, he was a passenger yesterday and Shakespeare must pick up his quill, scratch his name from the team-sheet and check whether you spell Gray with an a or an e. It was noticeable that City maintained parity with the Reds after the substitutions. On that score a little mention for Iheanacho who showed up well after his late introduction..

No report on this game should omit a comment about City’s midfield. Ndidi and King were over-run at times. The former battles brilliantly for every loose ball though more enthusiastically than skilfully but lacks the creative passing gene. King will keep going to the end but lacks the strength of top Premiership midfielders. The injury to James, regrettably not unpredictable, has left us threadbare in this vital area and the loss of form of Mahrez has left a situation in which three are often competing with five. This cannot go on unchecked!

City: Schmeichel, Simpson, Morgan, Maguire, Chilwell, Mahrez (Gray 60), King, Ndidi, Albrighton (Slimani 79), Okazaki (Iheanacho 74), Vardy

Liverpool: Mignolet, Gomez, Lovren, Matip, Moreno, Wijnaldum, Henderson, Can (Milner 74), Salah, Coutinho (Oxlade-Chamberlain 78), Firmino (Sturridge 64),

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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“Fresh legs” on Filbert’s Birthday

City 2 v Liverpool 0 – Carabao Cup 4th Round

Report by Stuart Dawkins

The rotation of players for cup competitions has become, for good or ill, a commonplace in the Premier League era.  Jurgen Klopp, with his excellent command of the English language, stated in advance of this match that this his plan was not to play a weakened team, but to allow ‘fresh legs’ an opportunity to play.  In the end, the ‘legs’ which counted in this match were those of two players – Philippe Coutinho and Shinji Okazaki.

Congratulations should go to the commercial team at Leicester: a full King Power stadium for a League Cup match shown live on TV suggesting that they got ticket pricing just right.  There were a fair few Liverpool fans in ‘home’ seats, but the match was played in a good spirit on and off the pitch and the Liverpool faithful in the Away end kept up their support for the Reds even as the match turned against them.

The clap banners were dedicated to Filbert Fox - 19 September 2017 being, to the very day, the mascot’s 25th birthday – and included his career stats to date.

Liverpool lined up with Coutinho playing and a debut for Oxlade-Chamberlain.  If nothing else, that made their team looked stronger on paper than City’s, which included debuts for Iborra and Dragovic.  Hamer continued to be preferred over Jakupovic and the unlikely pairing of Ulloa and Slimani started up front.

For the second match in a row, City were poor, bordering on very poor, in the first half.   Other than lumping the ball up to the big men, who generally did not connect with it, there seemed to be no plan.  The midfield gave the ball away too frequently and Coutinho looked several classes above anyone else on the pitch.  His threat led to full-back Robertson getting numerous chances to make dangerous crosses, and it was only luck and a lack of finishing sharpness that stopped City being two or three goals down by half time. 

Gray made a few attempts to be creative, Albrighton worked tirelessly, but almost always defensively as Coutinho ran rings around the home team.  The relationship between goal-keeper and defenders looked hesitant, and the City midfielders found it hard to find a blue shirt, as Liverpool looked quicker and more purposeful.

Yet, somehow, half time was reached with the match goal-less.

For the second half, Klopp decided to replace Coutinho with Woodford – presumably to keep the former’s legs ‘fresh’ for the weekend.  As a result, Liverpool were less fluid in the second half, lacking the creativity and threat they had in the first.  The match was more balanced, and then Ulloa got a strange injury.  He made a routine-looking defensive header.  The ball must have connected with his head awkwardly, as he immediately collapsed in a dazed heap and was replaced by the ever-fresh legs of Shinji Okazaki.  Ulloa is generally a tireless worker for the City cause, but I’m sure even he would admit that this was not one of his better matches, achieving little of note.

Within seconds of his arrival, Okazaki’s speed and determination began to pay dividends.  His first touch of the ball was a quick tackle which sparked a City attack.  Suddenly, it was City who looked the better team.  Liverpool were making niggly fouls to break-up City’s counter-attacks.  Referee Stuart Atwell seemed reluctant to show yellow cards to either team and so midfielders on both teams resorted to pulls and trips to break up play.  By the time he finally showed a card – to Liverpool’s Grujic – it was for that player’s fourth or fifth foul, three of which would probably have been bookings most days. 

City’s first goal had a bit of good fortune, and a lot of sloppy defending.  A Leicester corner in the 65th minute was easily cleared, Chilwell simply chipped the ball back in the air and Leicester players were queuing up unmarked to head it: Morgan headed across, Iborra headed it down, Okazaki controlled it and poked a weak-ish shot which deflected off a defender beyond ‘keeper Ward’s right hand.

Klopp responded by replacing Wijnaldum with Ings.  It made little difference.  City were now playing the better football, and the Liverpool players seemed to become visibly dis-heartened.  Klaven was booked for an accidental, but nonetheless rash elbow on Okazaki.  City were doing everything more quickly, and attacking with pace. 

That approach reaped further rewards in the 77th minute.  Okazaki and Slimani exchanged passes, then the Algerian striker put his head down, brushed aside the Liverpool defence and hit a near-perfect drive from the edge of the box into the far-left corner.  It was a very good goal.  Prior to the goal, Slimani had – as ever – run and chased hard, but largely ineffectively.  This was, however, a striker’s goal of the best quality.  I do hope that scoring it will increase his confidence, as his finishing has often been suspect in previous games.

The game was now over as a contest.  Liverpool attempted to keep going, but their passing became more ragged and even the irrepressible Klopp simply sat down on the bench, presumably trying to work out how such a dominant first half for his team could turn into such a comfortable victory for Leicester.

Shakespeare took the opportunity to give Choudbury his first-team debut, replacing Ndidi in the 82nd minute.  Iborra was, correctly, booked for dragging back a Liverpool mid-fielder, Gray forced a good save from Ward and came within inches of providing a perfect cross for Slimani to score another.  It was all straight-forward for City.

The positives from the game must include, of course, the result itself.  Dragovic looked solid.  Iborra looked like a captain – gesturing to his team-mates and organising.  His first half performance was patchy, but by the second he had become a strong presence in midfield (and he is a strong presence physically, dwarfing even the City centre backs).  Gray played well.  He would have been disappointed at the quality of a couple of his shots, but he created a threat all game.  Okazaki was outstanding.  For the second match running, bringing him on as a substitute transformed Leicester and it was right that he became that rare thing: a Sky TV Man of the Match who had been on the field for only just over half an hour.

Even allowing for the fact that this was not City’s strongest team, the main negative is that, for the second match in a row, there did not seem to be an effective game plan for the first half.  The team’s resilience and spirit can be applauded for recovering in each match, but if City are to achieve anything meaningful this season, they must begin to play as well as they can for the whole 90 minutes, not just for some of them.

Leicester: Hamer, Amartey, Morgan, Dragovic, Chilwell, Albrighton, Ndidi, Iborra, Gray, Ulloa, Slimani. Subs:  Iheanacho, Musa, Jakupovic, Okazaki, Mahrez, Benalouane, Choudhury

Liverpool: Ward, Flanagan, Gomez, Klavan, Robertson, Wijnaldum, Henderson, Grujic, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Solanke, Coutinho. Subs Karius, Milner, Moreno, Ings, Markovic, Woodburn, Alexander-Arnold

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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Worrying signs

Huddersfield 1 City 1

Report by Kate Thompson

I hadn't worried that we were only just above the relegation zone, as we had had some difficult matches, but this lacklustre display against Huddersfield was more concerning.  As Shakespeare said, they played in the way we normally play and did it very effectively. 

Frankly, we were awful in the first half although Schmeichel was rarely troubled, so full credit to the defence.  Huddersfield were quicker to every ball and harried and hustled City so that they struggled to get out of their own half.

The Huddersfield goal came almost immediately after the restart and Depoitre out-muscled Maguire, one of the most reliable of defenders so far.  Somewhat surprisingly we equalised almost immediately as King was brought down in the box and Vardy slammed the ball into the net, right in front of the City supporters.  Note to Riyad Mahrez - that's how to take a penalty.

Huddersfield thought they had scored again not long after but it was ruled out for offside.  It was impossible to say as it was the far end from where we were, but it appeared from reports that it was a debatable decision.  For once Jonathan Moss was kind to us! 

In the 70th minute Mahrez burst into life and put a lovely low cross into the box, only for Vardy to miss an easy tap-in from close range.  That would have been rather a travesty but we would have taken it!  Gray, who had come on for Albrighton in the 65th minute went down in the box, but it looked like a dive and was rightly waved away.

The starting line-up showed three changes - King for the injured James, Ineacho for his first start and Ben Chilwell for Fuchs whose eye had been damaged in a freak accident in training.  The midfield was frequently over-run and Ndidi had a poor game; we must however remember how young he is - he will make mistakes but as long as he learns from them he will be alright. 

I agree with those who are saying we need three in midfield and the fit again Iborra would add a bit of stability to the engine room of the team.  Ineacho worked hard but with only a few glimpses of his ability.  We need to give him time, a rare commodity in the modern game.  He was replaced by Okazaki in the 69th minute. 

The final change was Slimani for Vardy, which had a few scratching their heads until it emerged that Vardy had a slight groin strain.  Slimani continues to baffle me - he doesn't look like an athlete and at one point he appeared to be asleep! - but he has scored some important goals. 

Although he is an U21 England international - and speaks beautifully! - Chilwell doesn't inspire the same confidence as Fuchs and he had his hands full in this match.  As for the rest, for once I agree with Ian Stringer about Andy King.  He still has a role to play for this team but because he is not flashy - one of the few players not to have a tattoo, so far as I can see! - his hard work frequently goes unnoticed. 

So it was a fortunate point but as one of the contributors to Radio Leicester said, we only got a point away against Bournemouth in the title-winning season, from a Vardy penalty, so we don't need to press the panic button yet.

Leicester City: Schmeichel, Simpson, Morgan (c), Maguire, Chilwell, Mahrez, Ndidi, King, Albrighton (Gray 65), Iheanacho (Okazaki 68) Vardy (Slimani 82). Unused Subs  Hamer, Amartey, Iborra, Ulloa,

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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TOO LITTLE TOO LATE

LEICESTER CITY 1 CHELSEA 2

Match Report by Paul Weston

It seemed like the season has started again when I approached the KP stadium on Saturday. The distractions of the transfer window and international break made me wonder what team would be selected and what would be our approach in taking on the Premier League champions Chelsea.

The team Shakespeare selected was interesting. Okazaki did not even make the bench, presumably because of jet lag and Slimani was selected to partner Vardy instead of Iheanacho. Otherwise it was the same team that fought valiantly against Man United. Mahrez was selected despite spending a lot of time waiting in airports for bids. Drinkwater looked on from the Chelsea bench (how many games will he play?). Silva, whom we have signed as a replacement and apparently pay his wages yet are not permitted to play, watched from the stands. I have no idea who is to blame but it is a farce and needs to be resolved quickly.

The match started with City playing quite slowly and cautiously and Chelsea looking confident in possession. Alonso and Moses were being given a lot of space on the flanks. Morata nearly stole in for a goal when played in down the middle. However, our defence looked strong and Wes Morgan put in some strong blocks.

Our midfield, although striving manfully, were struggling to create anything. The Slimani/Vardy combination was just not working, and never has worked in my opinion, and the team seemed somewhat disjointed, often losing possession quickly. However, City’s first chance came when Vardy’s first time shot from a typical Mahrez pass slid wide of the goal when he could have done better.

Then the key point in the match happened. City broke fast with Mahrez, and Slimani and Vardy alongside against a retreating Chelsea defence. Mahrez passed to Slimani whose shot was saved by Courtois. We shall never know whether Vardy would have scored, given the opportunity, but I know on whom my money would be!

Chelsea scored soon after when a fairly innocuous cross from the right was glanced in by Morata who got on the wrong side of Morgan. It looked a fairly soft goal and came from nowhere.

Not much else happened in the first half which ended with City 1-0 down and left to muted applause. Chelsea looked comfortable and City were not moving quickly enough or passing accurately to make inroads.

Shakespeare also decided something had to change and made two changes at half time. Slimani was replaced by Gray and Albrighton somewhat surprisingly replaced by Andy King. This was a good chance for Gray to show that he is a good as he thinks he is.

However, despite the substitutions, nothing really changed until City left Kante completely free in the middle and he decided he might as well have a shot. It was a long way out and the shot was not fierce yet somehow ended up the corner of the net. I think midfield, defence and Schmeichel were all culpable. Another soft goal had been conceded and City were 2-0 down.

The tempo of the match changed completely when, after a move by Gray, Vardy cleverly dashed in front of Courtois who brought him down for a rather dubious penalty. Vardy smashed it down the middle. 1-2 and we had a match at last.

City upped the pace in a frenetic last half hour and Fuchs in particular did his best to make things happen by pushing forward at every opportunity. Crosses bombed in from both flanks but often the final pass went astray, with Mahrez sadly often the culprit. Iheanacho was brought on late for James as City went for it but it was all too late. This left the midfield exposed and Willian nearly scored close to the end as he and Hazard looked an immediate threat.

The match ended with a feeling of frustration. There is no doubt that Chelsea have world class players with the luxury of players like Hazard and Willian coming on from the subs bench. However, City could, and should, have got something from this match if they had played with the same intensity as in the second half.

City fans look with trepidation as the team sits close to the bottom of the league after admittedly a tough start to the season. Okazaki, Huth and Iborra need to be fit for selection, Silva registration resolved and then the next matches against Huddersfield and Liverpool will become a critical benchmark for the season ahead.

Leicester City: Schmeichel, Simpson, Morgan (c), Maguire, Fuchs, Mahrez, Ndidi, James (Iheanacho 77), Albrighton (King 45), Slimani (Gray 45), Vardy. Unused Subs  Hamer, Chilwell, Amartey, Ulloa

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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Board Profile – Stuart Dawkins

Name: Stuart Dawkins.

Current home town:  Leicester.

Birthplace:  Leicester.

When did you first support LCFC? I went to my first game in the 1969/70 season – although I remember watching the 1969 FA Cup Final on TV.

When did you first join on the Trust Board? 2011.

Why did you join? I joined the Trust at the time the Club was in Administration.  I had been writing match reports for the Trust website for a couple of years before I volunteered to join the Board.  Supporters Trusts play an important role in trying to ensure that the governance of football is as good as it can be.  Professional football is an important part of life for many people, trying to ensure that it is run in a manner that reflects supporters’ needs is important.

What is your main role? I tend to look after matters where there are links with politics – for example I drafted the successful application for the King Power Stadium to be added to the Asset of Community Value register.  I also tend to be the one who sub-edits documents – so if there are any typos or grammatical errors in this piece, I will have failed!

If you were to say one thing about why you feel other supporters should join the Trust, what would it be? The current ownership of Leicester City Football Club has been positive and generally responsive to supporters’ views, but the experience at other clubs shows that is not always the case.  Having a strong, representative Trust membership helps with our interaction with the Club.  We have regular liaison with the Club at various levels, from Chief Executive downwards, and are always happy to raise and discuss issues which are important to our members.  Finally, the existence of an active Trust at the majority of clubs – including in the Premier League – helps lobbying on national issues, too.

Favourite thing about the ground: I can walk to it from home, and there are great views from everywhere in it.  The noise that can be generated is phenomenal.  I know people talk about the loudness of the home Champions League games, but I still think the roar when Ulloa scored the winner against Norwich a couple of seasons ago the loudest thing I have ever heard at a football match.

Favourite view and/or where you sit: Block J1, about half-way up.  I have been in that area since the ground opened.  I like the view from around the half-way line for home matches.

Favourite match & why:  This is really hard, as many in the Premier League-winning season stand out, as well as the Champions League games, of course.  The 5-3 game against Manchester United was special.  However, my absolute favourite was the 3-3 draw at Filbert Street against Arsenal in the 1997/98 season.  Arsenal were coasting to a 2-0 win, before three goals were scored in injury time – including Bergkamp’s goal of the season!

Favourite player of all time who played for our club:  There have been so many over the years that I am not sure I have an absolute favourite. 

Our 15/16 Season:

At what stage did you think we would win the league? When Hazard equalized for Chelsea against Spurs.  For much of that season, I thought Leicester were the best team in the league, but in the final few games prior to that match Spurs were looking the better team; I expected them to win all the games in their run-in and feared City might falter.

Where were you when the final whistle went at the Chelsea v Spurs game and how did you feel? Watching it at home on TV.  I felt stunned really … the whole season seemed so unreal.  My girlfriend and I had already shared a bottle of wine during the match.  When it finished, we opened a bottle of bubby and watched pretty much the whole match again in shock!

Where were you when we were presented with the trophy and how did you feel? In Block J1, amazed at how much heat is generated by those fire-cannon gizmos.  I felt proud of the team and what it had achieved.  I thought that whole day was well organised – walking around the ground seeing all the people from many nationalities just wanting to be there despite not having tickets, the Andrea Bocelli introduction, the fact that the biblical rainstorm did not happen whilst the fans were getting to the ground nor during the post-match celebrations.  It was a special afternoon.

How has Leicester winning the league changed the perception of the club? It has clearly lifted the profile of the club immensely.  It also lifted the profile of the City, particularly coming so soon after the Richard III discovery.

Has it made a difference to you personally? It resulted in mini-holidays to Porto, Seville and Madrid.  It significantly increased the number of away matches I attend: partly for the buzz of visiting as ‘Champions’, partly to get my Away Points topped-up for the Champions League games. 

Any other comments in relation to that incredible season? It still seems unreal.  I would love there to be European football in Leicester again soon.  The feeling in the town centre on home match days was really good.  My favourite memory, however, was of the celebration party on Victoria Park.  I have never seen (pretty much) all of Leicester gathered together in one place before: all ages, colours, creeds and nationalities each involved in a positive, uplifting experience.  It is amazing that the game of football can have such an effect

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