LCFC 1 v 1 Brighton & Hove Albion
Report by Stuart Dawkins
So soon after that insane last 80 seconds against Spurs (Spurs of all people!) the mood amongst the fans before this match was wary, if not worried. Brighton have been a good team for a couple of years and if they could learn to score as many goals as their play merits, they could be very good indeed. This was not going to be an easy game, but it ought to be a lively one.
Given City’s list of absences, the team was probably what most would have picked, with a back four and a place at right-back for Justin. Ghana’s disappointing performance in the Africa Cup of Nations meant a welcome return for Amartey – who has gone from occasional cover to key defender due to City’s injury list. One minor gripe: why has the scoreboard and announcer stopped naming Leicester’s substitutes in the pre kick-off announcements?
Leicester started well, which calmed the nerves somewhat. It was a lively first half, and one which City had much the better of. Justin played a big role, getting forwards a lot – something that has been missing from the full backs since Pereira’s injury.
Lookman was looking lively, although he was guilty of squandering the best chance of the half when a Maddison through-ball left him one-on-one with Sánchez, but the big ‘keeper saved.
It was encouraging that Leicester were looking sharper and stronger in 50:50 challenges, winning more than their fair share. The biggest concern against Spurs wasn’t the way it ended – although that was concerning – but the way that the Spurs midfield had simply been stronger than City for the entire match. A first half in which City had a dozen shots on goal, three times their opponents was both a fair reflection of the game and also a positive step by a team in need of a stabilising performance.
This time, it was Leicester’s turn to score a quick goal from the kick-off. Maddison made progress, a couple of chances were blocked in the Brighton box and Daka poked in the rebound. Daka is looking more and more a Vardy-alike; even in games where he has little of the ball, he still works hard and his ratio of goals to chances is good.
Surely now, that would steady any doubts in the City camp? Keep doing what they were doing, and they could get a result here? But, no. As so many times this season, City looked a different team once they had the lead. They played deeper, they were hesitant, they lost the 50:50 balls. This always felt like it was going to be a transitional season for Leicester after half-a-dozen years of punching well above their weight. Given the significant list of injuries – particularly to defenders – making progress this year was not going to be easy, but the number of times the team have deteriorated when in the lead is getting quite worrying. Even a two-goal advantage is leaving fans edgy, and a one-goal lead has many of them permanently on their edge of the seat.
Brighton pretty much took control of the game. The shots-on-goal stats were reversed from the first half, and if Brighton had a convincing and regular goal scorer, City would have been in trouble. Brighton had brought on the speedy Lamptey and the ever-reliable (against Leicester, anyway) Welbeck in search of an equaliser. Rodgers replaced Barnes with Albrighton after about 70 minutes, moving Justin into a reshaped back three. Even before that change, City were playing too deeply, after it there was very little forward threat at all from the home team.
Eventually, the amount of possession in Leicester’s box did lead to the equaliser: almost inevitably a right-wing cross for a straightforward Welbeck header in the 82nd minute. The Brighton players rushed the ball back to the half-way line and played out the rest of the match as if they not only wanted to win it, but thought they could. A piece of Schmeichel magic in the 87th minute meant that they did not, and City held on for the point.
A point against Brighton is not that bad a result – given City’s injury and missing list (etc, etc) – but the worrying thing is the regularity with which they are retreating into their shell when ahead. The team are capable of, and still are, creating and scoring great goals. They are just going through a long phase of appearing as if they have forgotten how to win games regularly. It may be fatigue (the limited number of players available must have a toll), it may be tactics, it may just be one of those things, but it is costing the team results.
I’m pretty sure they will still finish comfortably in the League, and who knows, the Europa Conference League may provide a route into the Europa Cup next season. But let’s hope that this current sense of déjà vu can change.
There are positives. Justin played well. The back-line was pretty solid under pressure. The recent re-shaping of the defence for corner kicks seems (touch wood) to have resolved that particular weakness. Let’s hope the winter break, players coming back from injury and Africa and the stimulus of a cup tie against Forest can break the team out of this soon!
Schmeichel, Justin, Amartey, Söyüncü, Thomas, Tielemans, Dewsbury-Hall, Lookman, Maddison, Barnes, Daka
Albrighton, Ward, Pérez, Choudhury, Vestergaard, Daley-Campbell, Soumaré, McAteer, Brunt
Brighton & Hove Albion
Sánchez, Veltman, Webster, Burn, Cucurella, Alzate, Groß, Mac Allister, Moder, Trossard, Maupay
Lamptey, Dunk, Lallana, Scherpen, Welbeck, March, Caicedo, Roberts, Leonard
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