Top Six Side = Another Point Gained

Liverpool 1 City 1

Report by Ian Bason

With none of the regular match reporters available, my first trip to Anfield saw me making mental notes throughout the trip. The selection panel of 3 in the car all agreed that given the successes against Chelsea and Man City, and having conceded 4 at Wolves, that the team selection would see the return to  the defensive midfield three against the table toppers, but this is Claude (who appears to tinker more than Claudio), so when the team was announced 3 changes to the Wolves line up, with Morgan, Simpson and Barnes all benched in favour of Evans, Allbrighton and Maddison.

The discussion over the excellent value £4 for fish, chips and mushy peas from a local chippy (which would have cost double that in the ground) was whether we could finally make a good start to a game.

We kicked off, and we instantly wondered why Allbrighton had started in central midfield and while we were busy trying to work that one out, we had a quick answer to our chippy debate, as Mane waltzed through the defence and tucked the ball in the bottom corner after 3 minutes.

For the next 10 minutes we feared more goals were to follow, with Maddison not keeping wide and Chilwell being drawn forward while being overloaded with Shaqiri plus one other, it felt like a matter of time and only a good save from Kasper from Firmino and Mane putting the ball wide meant we held on.

Then Claude switched Allbrighton to the right, Grey left and Maddison to the centre who instantly came more into the game and for the rest of the half City were the better side. Having heard the hearty rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone before kick off, City’s growing confidence resulted in a subdued home support, leading to several “Is this a library” chants from the 2,900 away contingent.

Like most top clubs, many in the home section closest to us visiting fans, came into the “tourist” category of people at the game, an observation made by the friendly nearby steward pre-match, the half/half scarves giving this indication.

At the other end of pitch there looked a good shout for a penalty when Maddison went down, but I haven’t seen a replay to know if the ref waving away any appeals was the correct decision. Another key referring decision followed when Mcguire made significant contact with Mane, and while he seemed to indicate that he didn’t see Mane coming, as the ref went for his pocket I feared a last man red card may appear, albeit it was nearer the half way line, but a yellow was shown

A few minutes prior to that booking and City were now looking the more likely to score and as we were already on our feet, as the ball came to Maddison, we were jumping as a start of celebrating when somehow his header went wide. Just as I was settling for a one goal half time deficit, Liverpool failed with several attempts to clear from a corner the last attempt was met by a powerful Chillwell header from the edge of the box which found Mcguire unmarked to tuck the ball into the corner. 1- 1 and after a poor start we started to look forwards to the second half.

Other than the half time ball competitions on the pitch, watching the groundsmen clearing all the snow in the penalty area that Liverpool would attack but not touch the other end seemed an unfair practice, although it did remove the risk of our defenders slipping over and enable better ball control, so perhaps backfired. Is it time the authorities should consider if this practice (along with only watering one end of the pitch) is acceptable?

As the second half progressed City created a number of chances, the best of which came in the 72nd minute when Gray opted to shoot having failed to look up to see Maddison who had made a good run into the box and would have had a tap in.

Claude then decided it was time to show the players his plan for game management by replacing Maddison with Choudhury who was asked to play a defensive wide right, with Allbrighton switched to the left and Gray behind Vardy. In part I suspect this was to allow Ricardo to go on forward runs with better security behind him for break away’s.

Although Liverpool had a growing level of possession as we sat deeper, there were no serious threats on goal, with one the greatest threat being another Mane run stopped by a superb sliding challenge by Choudury. City started running down the clock with late substitutions replacing Gray and Vardy with Okazaki and Iheanacho.

1-1 it finished, and more points taken from a top 6 side. Performance wise, it was Mcguire’s and Ndidi’s best showing for some time, although I would have given my man of the match to Ricardo. Is now the time to give the Evans and Mcguire partnership a run of games ?

Now the challenge is to give the 29,000+ home fans a good performance, rather than saving our best for the travelling Blue Army. Perhaps the visit of Man Utd, with the more attacking intent of their new manager, will provide a game more suited to our current squad

With the loan signing of Youri Tielemans confirmed tonight, it will be interesting to see how he is utilised in the games ahead, can he provide the additional creativity to break down the stubborn defences we struggle to beat ?

City (4-2-3-1): Schmeichel; Ricardo Evans, Maguire, Chilwell; Ndidi, Mendy; Gray (Okazaki 83), Albrighton, Maddison (Choudhury 75); Vardy (Iheanacho 89), Subs not used: Ward, Morgan, Simpson, Barnes

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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LAST-GASP GOAL SEES CITY’S SLIDE GO ON

Wolves 4 City 3

Report by Colin Hall

Leicester City slipped to a third successive defeat, as a strike by Diogo Jota deep into stoppage time gave hosts Wolves a 4-3 victory at Molineux.

After abject humiliations by Newport and Southampton in the previous two games, there was little surprise when Claude Puel again rang the changes, giving Harvey Barnes his first Premier start as well as recalling Danny Simpson and Demarai Gray to the side.

As too often this season, though, a poor start to the game left the Foxes facing an uphill task.

Wolves pressed strongly from the kick-off, with Neves forcing Kasper Schmeichel into a spectacular save within the first three minutes. But the home breakthrough was not long denied, with Jota netting from a Moutinho cross a minute later following a series of avoidable defensive errors.

City mounted a frenzied response, with Jamie Vardy being denied by home keeper Rui Patricio and Harry Maguire heading over from close range.

The hosts weathered the mini-storm, though, and extended their lead after 12 minutes with a goal that was contentious on two counts. First of all, Moutinho's corner, as TV footage confirmed, was some way outside the quadrant. Secondly, many referees would have called a foul on Bennett's overtly physical challenge on City defenders before heading home.

However, referee Kavanagh – who has featured with remarkable frequency on City's travels this season – ruled nothing was amiss and allowed the goal to stand.

To their credit, City continued to take the game to the home side in the wake of this setback, though clear-cut opportunities were few and far between. Meanwhile, Wolves continued to threaten on the break and only good work by Schmeichel prevented further additions to the scoreline.

Many travelling supporters were bemused when Puel sent an unchanged side out after the break. Yet, within six minutes of the restart, his faith was vindicated as City managed to restore parity.

Vardy, finding space for once, pounced on a loose ball to send Gray clear for a clinical, composed finish.

Then Barnes blasted the equaliser, via a deflection from home defender Coady, after a long range effort from Ben Chilwell had been blocked.

TV replays showed Barnes' shot appeared to be heading goalwards before the deflection, and the league should be as respectful to him as they would have been to, say, Harry Kane or Mo Salah in such circumstances. Although the goal was officially credited as Coady's, there is provision for an appeal, and it is to be hoped City will make use of it.

In between the goals, City were forced into a defensive switch when Maguire limped off with what appeared to be a recurrence of the knee injury that sidelined him for a month before Christmas.

This change did little to ease the wobbles that had been evident in the visiting back line throughout the afternoon, and Wolves regained the lead when Jota outpaced Wes Morgan to fire past a somewhat indecisive Schmeichel.

Once again, though, the Foxes were able to grab a lifeline, when James Maddison, on for the tiring Barnes, produced a superbly-weighted free-kick which found Morgan at the far post for the skipper to net his first league goal in two and a half years.

City, perhaps unnerved by the raucous, frenzied atmosphere, pushed hard for a winner in the closing stages when a more considered approach may have served them better.

As the game entered stoppage time, Jota looked certain to complete a hat-trick when he burst through on goal, only to overrun the ball and allow Schmeichel to recover.

But the Portuguese striker still had the final word – and the match ball to go with it – when Jimenez burst through a weak City offside trap and presented him with another chance to win the game. This time, he made no mistake.

The scoreline was a replica of that from City's only previous Premier League trip to this venue in October 2003. While the circumstances were slightly less harrowing this time around, the Blue Army still found them difficult to digest.

Results later in the day mean that despite City's current abysmal form, a 7th-place finish – and a potential Europa League place – still remains within reach.

Whether Puel can inspire his charges to rouse themselves to mount a challenge for this prize, though, remains in serious doubt.

It is more likely that, as last season, the campaign will be allowed to drift fitfully through the closing months, and that, once again, the potential within the squad will remain unfulfilled. 

Wolves (3-5-2): Rui Patricio; Bennett, Coady, Saiss; Otto, Dendoncker, Neves, Moutinho (Gibbs-White 81), Vinaigre (Doherty 73); Jimenez, Jota. Subs not used: Ruddy, Cavaleiro, Costa, Giles, Traore.

Goals: Jota (4, 64, 90 + 3), Bennett (12)

Bookings: Bennett, Jota, Otto. 

City (4-2-3-1): Schmeichel; Simpson (Iheanacho 83), Morgan, Maguire (Evans 48), Chilwell; Ndidi, Mendy; Ricardo, Gray, Barnes (Maddison 73); Vardy. Subs not used: Ward, Fuchs, Choudhury, Albrighton.

Goals: Gray (47), Barnes (51), Morgan (86)

Bookings: Mendy, Ricardo, Ndidi. 

Referee: Chris Kavanagh              Attendance: 31278

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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City thwarted by strong defence.

Leicester City 1- Southampton 2

Report by Chris Griffin

Despite playing against ten men for the second half Leicester could not unlock a battling and well-drilled defence, apart from Ndidi’s short range effort on the hour mark. By then Leicester had conceded two first half goals.

The first, a penalty, was confidently put away by Ward-Prowse after Mendy’s unnecessary and clumsy challenge on Long after ten minutes. The second came in first half overtime when Southampton countered quickly from deep. Pereira and Mendy both failed to clear and Long cut in to side foot past Schmeichel from a tight angle: the keeper’s block possibly diverting the ball into the net.

Some booing came from sections of the crowd at the final whistle and the media latched onto speculation about the future of manager Puel. When asked if he felt under pressure he replied “It’s not my concern.” On the result he commented that it was a big disappointment. “It’s difficult to accept the second goal…we had a lot of chances and opportunities. It was important to try to manage the game with intensity in our passes. It was difficult to be clinical and maybe we needed a bit more movement in the box.”

As a judgement it is difficult to disagree – except to add that as well as passing lacking intensity it also lacked accuracy. The first half saw pass after pass go astray either through under or over hitting. In the second, despite reaching the by-line time after time the ball played across the goal did not pick out a City player. Ndidi’s goal was the exception following an accurate cross from Pereira.

Even before the penalty Southampton had three opportunities. A good run by Armstrong saw his firm low shot pass wide of the post. He then had an effort blocked well by Mendy. From the resulting corner Long headed just wide. City were trying to push forward but looked vulnerable to the counter attack. One of these saw Maddison receive a yellow card for pulling back Redmond on the halfway line.

City’s play lacked cohesion. There were flashes of promise such as a surging run from Choudhury but his pass to Albrighton was overhit. On the 30th minute came City’s best chance when Maguire sent a header from a Chilwell cross flashing past the post.

Leicester won another free kick on the left touch line when Valery clattered Chilwell. Both received yellow cards: Valery for the challenge and Chilwell for his reaction. From the free kick came another near miss with Morgan’s sliding effort blocked on the line. Then Maddison crossed and again Maguire won the header but McCarthy saved. Close to half time Valery was given a second yellow for pulling back Albrighton as he latched onto a through ball outside the area.

Barnes, on return from his loan spell at West Bromwich Albion and Gray replaced Mendy and Albrighton for the start of the second half. There followed 45 minutes of total City domination of possession with Maguire spending most of the half as a supporting midfielder. It was Maguire’s long-range shot that saw McCarthy get down smartly and punched away the ball following a late deflection. McCarthy performed a similar save from a fierce Maddison effort on the 52nd minute. Maddison then had another effort blocked.

Ndidi’s goal gave some hope. Gray and Maddison interchanged some smart passes at pace before releasing Pereira whose pass picked out the unmarked Ndidi. Minutes later a really good cross from Pereira had just too much dip and swerve on it, beating both defenders and attackers as it flew close to the far corner of the net. Then Maddison whipped in an excellent cross but Vardy could not put enough purchase on his header.

Leicester had plenty of space down both flanks to attack with Chilwell and Pereira frequently in advanced positions. But the final ball too often found a defender. It was hard to understand why City persisted with high balls into the box which were easily dealt with by the imposing and tall Southampton defenders. City resorted to longer range efforts, including one from Ghezzal who had replaced Choudhury, but these were blocked and cleared. Barnes had a chance coming in from the left but – under challenge – could not get enough power and direction on his shot.

With seconds remaining City won a corner which saw Schmeichel come up into the opposing penalty area. From the corner Ndidi’s header flew just wide of the post: close, but not close enough.

Like last season City’s form at home continues to frustrate fans. At the start of play Southampton were 11 places below City and 15 points adrift. Whenever a team comes and parks the bus – although to be fair to Southampton most of their bus-parking came after they went down to ten men – City struggle.

Fans comment that Vardy lacks support from another striker but the club gives no sign of taking action on this – and JV must also be looking back wistfully to the days when he had Drinkwater behind him with the guile and creativity to provide defence splitting passes to run onto at pace. It is hard to fault the effort and energy of the players, but finding a way through the dense traffic of massed defences in home games has to be a priority

Wolves next week: no matter how good our away form – that will not be easy.

Leicester City: Schmeichel; Pereira; Morgan; Maguire; Chilwell; Choudhury (Ghezzal 76’); Mendy (Barnes 45’); Ndidi; Albrighton (Gray 45’); Vardy; Maddison. Subs not used: Simpson; Soyuncu; Iheanacho; Ward.

Southampton: McCarthy; Bednarek; Stephens; Vesetrgaard; Valery; Romeu; Ward-Prowse; Targett; Redmond (Gallagher 93’); Armstrong (Soares 57’); Long (Slattery 76’). Subs not used: Elyounoussi; Gunn; Sims; Ramsay.

Referee: Michael Oliver.     Attendance: 31,491

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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Embarrassing

Newport County 2 Leicester City 1

Emirates FA Cup – 6 January 2019

Match Report by Colin Murrant

Such is the loss in prestige of the grand old FA Cup competition, that the chat in the pub before the match was more about another away ground visited than the fixture itself. No one under 72 was born the last time City played at Newport so this was an opportunity to get another ground ticked off the 92.

The FA themselves have done their best to devalue their premier competition over recent years by spreading fixtures over four days, playing the semi-finals at Wembley, playing the final at 5.00 pm for American audiences. In fact, through play-offs and mediocre competitions, the glamour of playing at Wembley is not what it was.

On top of this the Clubs themselves put out second string teams yet still say ‘we take the competition seriously’; seriously, do you?? City are more culpable than most in this respect, whilst Fulham are facing a Premier League survival battle, City sit comfortably on 31 points and are not going to be relegated unless they endure a crash of biblical proportions.

So, as in the Carabao Cup semi-final, we were serious about the competition but apparently not that serious. There may well be an argument over resting players after the busy Christmas/New Year schedule, if that is the case then what was evident is the lack of depth to the current squad.

The firing line is non-existent without Vardy, to think in the same round of the Cup two seasons ago Musa scored a brace playing the Vardy role. Iheanacho and Okazaki offer nothing up front, the loss of any impact from the latter is now quite conspicuous. To think 3 strikers left the Club in the summer, each had their critics, but each offered more than what we have in reserve now.

Midfield creativity is sadly lacking, there was nothing yesterday until Maddison came on at half time, City were reliant on long, lofted high balls that were totally ineffective against a resolute team. Whilst we lacked such creative skills it begged the question why has Silva not been given a run in the team, same for Iborra who was in Spain securing his move to Villareal.

The new City style of play has involved the full-backs pushing forward in attack, Chilwell (not in the squad) and Ricardo (bench warming for 90 minutes) are the two that perform this role, their replacements Fuchs and Simpson cannot. Monsieur Puel, in his wisdom, decided on Sunday that he needed to change his right full back after 60 minutes.

Logically this should have been to bring on December player of the month Ricardo, but no, Albrighton was moved back.  The same Albrighton who has always looked uncomfortable in that position, including being red carded at Crystal Palace last season. Again, the decision was going to prove pivotable.

As we crossed the bridge over the River Usk, a few metres from the Rodney Parade ground, the muddy banks made one wonder what the pitch was going to be like. In all honesty, the pitch was bumpy but perfectly dry and playable, and in no way impacted the result. The stadium had an eeriness about it, the floodlights were far below what is witnessed in the Premier League, the low level of light afforded gave a somewhat subdued atmosphere to the proceedings.  In spite of this, the 1000 plus City fans who had travelled to South Wales were initially in good spirit. ‘Vichai had a dream…’ rang out from the open seating in the South stand as the match kicked off with Leicester attacking that end, surely the result was not in doubt, or so we thought.

It took all of ten minutes for the optimism to give way to doubt. Willmott outpaced Fuchs and, from the wing swung in a superb ball that Matt, easily out-jumping Morgan, headed into the net off the far post. Newport were organised, robust and put bodies on the line to thwart City. Matt had another chance for the home side but Ward saved well. City’s most threatening moment came when Fuchs made a good run and, cutting in from the by-line, laid the ball to Albrighton whose shot was deflected up and over.

Another strange decision was made when the seemingly unwanted Andy King came on as substitute in what may be his last City appearance. Having read up on previous match statistics, in 1947 Leicester last beat Newport 3-0, a certain Johnny King scored twice – the thought crossed my mind, could it happen again? Sadly No.

The chances piled up for City, most notably another Albrighton shot across goal that hit the cross bar. In the 82nd minute they got the break they wanted, following a goal mouth melee, the ball was cleared to the edge of the box. Ghezzal, running onto the ball, hit a thunderous shot into the back of the net. Immediately City’s spirits were lifted, it appeared the ultimate humiliation was avoided.

The joy lasted all of three minutes, the afore mentioned Albrighton at right back handled the ball, he offered no protest, Kavanagh pointed to the spot. All hopes were now on Ward to reproduce his Carabao Cup heroics – it was not to be. Ward dived to his right as Amond went down the middle. Hearts sank again.

Maddison offered one last chance but his effort failed to curl enough and went wide of the far post.The statistics say City had 71% possession, 24 shots, but it did not feel like that. It was total embarrassment felt by all, how can one reconcile seventh place in the Premier League with the dross served up. The gloom of the stadium was reflected in the fans.

There were very heated exchanges and arguments, some spilling over, about the lack of abilities of Ghezzal, Iheanacho, Gray and, of course, Puel: there were several Leicester fans chanting ‘He’s getting sacked in the morning’ at the end. If fans fall out with each other it is a sure sign of unrest.

In 1969 I attended the FA Cup Final, it was City’s third final in eight years. If I had known 50 years later that Leicester City would still be awaiting their next final I would have been amazed, disappointed and embarrassed – exactly how I felt Sunday evening.

Newport County: Day, Hornby-Forbes*(67), Franks, Demetriou, Neufville, Bennett, Dolan***(86), Willmott, Amond, Semenyo, Matt**(77). Substitutes: Piper**, Marsh-Brown, Sheehan, Foulston, O’Brien***, Townsend, Bakinson**

Leicester City: Ward, Simpson**(60), Morgan, Evans, Fuchs, Choudhury, Ghezzal, James***(72), Okazaki*(45),Albrighton, Iheanacho. Substitutes: Jakupovic, Soyuncu, Gray**, King***, Maddison*, Ricardo, Mendy

Referee: Kavanagh  Attendance: 6,705

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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