Leicester City 2 v 0 Watford
Report by Stuart Dawkins
Watford visited the King Power for an unusual 7.30pm kick-off on an unusual Wednesday evening, courtesy of Amazon’s entry into the live broadcasting of football matches. The communication of the earlier start seemed to go well, and the ground was – as ever – full by the kick-off.
Watford this season seem to be a bit of an enigma. On paper they look a more-than decent side and, having seen them on TV a few times, they seem capable of playing well too – yet they languish at the foot of the table with only nine goals scored all season. Would the return of their talisman Troy Deeney to the starting line-up signal a change in fortune?
Rodgers has intimated that he would use more of the squad to get Leicester over the run of games in December. The only change for this match was enforced, with Fuchs replacing Chilwell who has a groin injury.
Leicester started well, and Perez could have done better with two chances within the first five minutes (albeit one would have been disallowed for offside). Eventually, though, Watford got more organised, with a disciplined 4-4-2, with Deeney and Deulofeu leading the line. The first half had much of the feel of the very recent home game against Everton: City looking the better side yet without creating many clear-cut chances, the opposition time-wasting, well organized, but with a possible threat on the break.
Barnes was lively, creating a couple of good chances for himself, one of which was blocked by Foster, the other was shot wide. Vardy was rather harshly booked for diving in the penalty box, when the VAR replays clearly showed that his foot had been caught by the defender. Watford broke three-versus-two midway through the half, and Pereira did brilliantly to get back and make a tackle in the box to neutralize the chance.
Otherwise, it was a typical patient Leicester performance against a team who tried to get the ball ‘up to the big man’ (Deeney) – a tactic easily foiled by Söyüncü and Evans, or to try to get to the pacey wing-men, who were very well dealt with by Pereira and Fuchs.
All of this led to no score in the first half.
As often seems to happen, City started the second half with a marked increase in pace and intensity. It took Watford a good ten minutes before they had any grip in the second half, during which City simply dominated the game.
The key turning point occurred after Watford had stabilised. A City corner was only partially cleared back to Maddison, as his send cross was hit, Masina caught Evans full in the face with a flailing hand. It was not a violent act, but it was definitely in the ‘would be a free kick anywhere else on the pitch’ territory and so was, rightly, given as a penalty by both Craig Pawson, the referee, and the VAR-check.
Vardy coolly stepped up to score from the spot to extend further his almost unbelievable run of scoring under Brendan Rodgers.
City remained the better side for the rest of the match, although there was a period when Fuchs – who had an excellent first half – seemed to be regularly out-paced by the very quick Saar. Rodgers continued his recent spate of intelligent substitutions by bringing on James Justin for his Premier League debut, switching to a back three with the equally pacey Justin acting as wing-back to cover Sarr. Despite being brought on for defensive reasons, Justin’s first substantive act was to carry the ball for over 50-yeards into the opposition half, an attacking attitude that continued throughout his cameo performance.
Rodgers’ other substitutions were interesting, too. At nil-nil it might have seemed the easy option to try to repeat the trick used against Everton, by bringing on the new man-of-the-moment Iheanacho; instead Rodgers replaced Perez with Praet at half time, and then Tielemans with Choudhury. Praet looked his usual very competent self, and whilst Choudhury did not settle into the game as well as he can, he did not do a lot wrong.
City created a couple of other decent chances, but Foster was able to deal with them, and as five-minutes of additional time was signalled, it looked as though we would simply see City play the game out for a one-nil win.
Watford, however, finally began to string a few passes together and managed to fashion their one-and-only shot on target, but it was a scuffed effort easily saved by Schmeichel.
As we awaited the referee’s whistle, Justin grabbed himself an assist on his Premier League debut, with a nice flicked header to Maddison, who barged through two challenges from Watford defenders before sliding the ball past Foster to make it two-nil with practically the last kick of the match. The score was a good reflection of the balance of play, but Watford’s defence had made Leicester work pretty hard for it.
And Watford? They looked a better team than ‘bottom of the league’ implies in every department except one: they never looked close to scoring a goal – even with Deeney (who was mostly anonymous). By contrast, the current Leicester team is able to create regular chances and has players – most notably Vardy – who are more than capable of scoring from them. The fact that is backed up by the division’s best defence adds up to a continuation of this remarkable season so far: seven top-flight wins in a row and second place in the Premier League.
A final mention should go to the group of around one hundred school children in the family stand who kept up a near-constant barrage of noise in support of City for the entire match. I don’t know who you are, but well done!
Leicester City: Schmeichel, Ricardo Pereira, Evans, Söyüncü, Fuchs, Ndidi, Pérez, Tielemans, Choudhury, Maddison, Barnes, Vardy. Subs: Justin, Morgan, Albrighton, Ward, Iheanacho, Choudhury, Praet
Watford: Foster, Femenía, Mariappa, Cathcart, Masina, Sarr, Doucouré, Capoue, Hughes, Deeney, Deulofeu. Subs: Gomes, Chalobah, Gray, Quina, Success, Dele-Bashiru, Foulquier
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