LCFC 2 v 1 Atalanta
Report by Stuart Dawkins
City maintained their strong pre-season showing by defeating a more-than-decent Atalanta side – who had finished third in Serie A – on a warm Friday evening. It provided the home fans with the first chance to see Pérez and what will probably be City’s First XI (barring, perhaps, the return of Ndidi after his period at the Africa Cup of Nations) playing in Rodger’s preferred 4-1-4-1 formation.
The 7.30pm kick-off clearly caught a few people unawares, including me! The fact that such an unusual proportion of the crowd was going through the Media and Corporate Hospitality entrances lead to a queue of around 100 people after the match had kicked off. I suspect there are a couple of lessons for the Club to learn there, but everyone was in a good pre-season mood and no real harm was done.
The stadium was around half-full, and one noticeable fact was how popular the new pink shirts appeared to be. Obviously, blue home kits dominated the crowd, but there were plenty of pink ones on show, too.
Having got into the ground, two minutes late in my case, it appeared as though City’s players had not really understood the 15-minute earlier start either. City’s slow starts were a common feature last season, which we hope will not be repeated this, but for the first 25 minutes of the match, Atalanta looked sharper across the pitch. Atalanta looked a physically big side, and their pressing in midfield was too fast for City at times.
City also looked repeatedly vulnerable down on the right-side of their defence. This may be an understandable ‘settling in’ issue, with Pereira and Pérez forming a new partnership there. Chilwell was uncharacteristically out of position a couple of times, and the City midfielders did not hold onto the ball at all well. Atalanta created a couple of good chances, notably on their left wing, but one was fired wide and Schmeichel saved the other. The Centre-back partnership of Evans and Söyüncü was looking steady.
Approaching the half hour, City began to come into their own. A Maddison free-kick and a couple of short-corner routines looked threatening and on the half-hour mark Evans headed over from a corner. They also created other chances before the half-time whistle blew with City looking the better and more creative team.
Atalanta had all their substitutes warming up at half-time, City none of theirs, and Atalanta made four substitutions whereas City kept the same eleven players on the pitch for the re-start.
City created chances from the first minute, with Maddison, in particular, looking threatening. Söyüncü played a great long ball to Chilwell, but his cross was just missed by City’s attackers, Pérez had a one-on-one with the keeper saved and then Vardy and Pérez linked well to create a chance for Albrighton that was headed over.
As the sun set, a new problem appeared for the fans. Apparently a new ‘state-of-the-art’ floodlight system is being installed at the King Power Stadium. It was not ready for this match, however, and the temporary floodlights used were poor. It became increasingly difficult to see what was happening at the far end of the pitch and eventually many fans were waving their phone-torches in an ironic way. It did not seem to be a problem for the players, however.
In the 61st minute, City got the lead they deserved, and it was debutant Pérez who scored it. He took possession outside the box, cut in to the left and then curled a left foot shot around the keeper into the far post: a very cool finish and a good way to introduce yourself to the home crowd.
Atalanta made three more substitutions as Brendan Rodgers made his first change of the evening replacing Chilwell with Fuchs. A few minutes later. Maddison and Albrighton were taken off, and it was Barnes and – to the surprise of almost everyone – Silva who came on. Silva got a good reception from the crowd, recognising what a difficult couple of years he has had through no fault of his own.
In the 75th minute, Fuchs’ long-throw ability led to a goal in an unusual way. His throw-in was from the half-way line, but it went directly to Vardy who was behind the Atalanta defensive line. Vardy collected the ball and calmly beat the keeper to roll the ball into the goal and make the score 2-0.
Pérez was replaced by Gray, gaining warm applause from the City fans. He had started hesitantly, losing the ball a few times in midfield early on, but his attacking qualities were clear to see, and he took his goal very well.
City continued to press, with one bullet-shot from Fuchs being denied by an offside decision. At least that is what I think happened as, in the gloomy lighting, no-one in the section I was sitting in could tell if the ball had gone into the net or the side netting. Atalanta continued to make substitutions. Indeed, by full time all eleven players had been switched, bar-one.
In the 90th minute, Atalanta were given a penalty when Pereira clipped an attacker’s foot following a good move by the visitors. Muriel duly beat Schmeichel to make the score 2-1, which was probably a pretty fair result given the balance of play in the match overall.
City played well, against more-than-competent opposition, although as often happens, Atalanta got less good as they swapped and changed with multiple substitutions. City’s central defenders started the post-Maguire era with good games and City also looked a real threat going forwards. There probably needs to be more work on ensuring that Pérez’s attacking prowess does not lead to gaps defensively on his side of the pitch, but that can be worked on. Overall, Brendan Rodgers must be pleased with pre-season progress. Now it’s time to bring on the real games!
City: Schmeichel; Pereira, Evans, Söyüncü, Chilwell (Fuchs, 62); Choudhury; Pérez (Gray, 76), Tielemans, Maddison (Silva, 68), Albrighton (Barnes, 68); Vardy.
Unused subs: Ward, Justin, Morgan, Benkovic, Mendy, King, Iheanacho.
Atalanta: Gollini (Sportiello, 90); Castagne, Hateboer (Reca, 87), Djimsiti (Okoli, 90), Masiello (Ibanez, 65), Gosens (Palomino, 45); De Roon (Pessina, 62), Malinovskyi (Gomez, 45), Freuler (Pasalic, 45); Ilicic (Barrow, 65), Zapata (Muriel, 45).
Unused subs: Rossi, Colley.
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