West Brom 1 City 2
Post Match Analysis by Colin Hall
A goal by England midfielder Harry Winks in the fourth minute in stoppage time brought Leicester City’s 15th Championship victory of the season to date in a tense, hard-fought contest with hosts West Bromwich Albion.
His winner came just as it appeared that City had squandered victory for the second time in four days, allowing Josh Maja to level the game for the Baggies in the 89th minute.
But as the home side surged forward in search of an unlikely winner, Kelechi Iheanacho sent Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall clear to tee up Winks, whose strike sparked joyous scenes among the visiting contingent and bench alike.
This result ensured City retained top spot in the league for at least another week, and with two home games now looming, the Foxes have a chance to extend our advantage over chasers Ipswich and Leeds.
However, Enzo Maresca will be well aware of the number of issues that need to be addressed at City’s lavish training ground during the coming days.
The most pressing of these is the need to ensure that City’s domination of possession brings more of an end product. Against Albion, as in the previous four fixtures, fans were left frustrated by long spells in which players seemed strangely reluctant to move the ball in a forward direction.
Part of the problem facing Maresca is, with Patson Daka apparently mothballed in preparation for a move away from City early in the new year, he currently lacks a central striker who is capable of competing for aerial duels or holding the ball up on the ground.
Jamie Vardy, curiously unused at a venue where he had scored in each of his previous five appearances, looked notably ill-at-ease when visiting his home city in midweek and it was no surprise to see Iheanacho restored to the line-up in his place. The Nigeria international, though, did not enjoy the best of afternoons, giving the ball away on numerous occasions and wasting the one clear chance he had after a smart turn had seen him elude the home defence.
Although summer signing Tom Cannon has now regained sufficient fitness to take a place on the bench, Maresca has decided, probably correctly, that the circumstances faced by City in recent games have not been suitable for the introduction of a young prospect, especially with the likes of Kasey McAteer, Abdul Fatawu and Cesare Casadei already in the squad.
Indeed, it was only with the introduction of Fatawu for a somewhat-subdued Stephy Mavididi after the hour-mark that City started to pose a sustained threat to the Albion goal.
After Wilfred Ndidi had finally forced home keeper Palmer into action for the first time in the match, the breakthrough arrived when Fatawu and Ndidi combined to set up Dewsbury-Hall for a header from close range.
For most of the game, it seemed that one goal would be enough to secure a win. But Albion mounted an aerial bombardment of the visiting defence in the closing minutes, aided by a series of long throws (some of which were of very questionable legality) from right-back Furlong.
As in midweek, City’s defence was punished by a lapse in composure which allowed the hosts to scramble home an equaliser. This time, though, Maresca’s men possessed enough mental resilience and character to snatch victory in the most dramatic of finales.
Time will tell as to how significant this victory – against an in-form side with the second best defence in the league and solid play-off credentials of their own – will prove to be.
But as long as key players – notably Winks and the ever-excellent Wout Faes – remain free from injury, and Maresca can continue to overcome the challenges that await him, the prospects of another league title for City seem promising.
WBA (4-2-3-1): Palmer; Furlong. Ajayi, Kipre, Townsend; Yokuslu (Chalobah 86), Mowatt (Molumby 75); Diangana (Maja 75), Sarmiento (Fellows 75), Phillips (Swift 45 + 1); Thomas-Asante. Subs not used: Griffiths, Pieters, Taylor, Pipa.
Goal: Maja (89). Bookings: Yokuslu, Mowatt.
Leicester (3-2-4-1): Hermansen; Faes, Vestergaard, Justin; Ricardo, Winks; McAteer, Ndidi (Casadei 87), Dewsbury-Hall, Mavididi (Fatawu 62); Iheanacho. Subs not used: Stolarczyk, Choudhury, Souttar, Coady, Akgun, Vardy, Cannon.
Goals: Dewsbury-Hall (72), Winks (90 +4). Booking: Ricardo.
Referee: Tim Robinson Attendance: 24 382
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.