Burnley 2 Foxes 1
Match Report by Graham Tracey
For the second week running, we lost a game in which we scored first, and in doing so missed an unbelievable opportunity to cement our credentials for a Champions League berth after our rivals’ poor results on Saturday.
Despite their keeper Pope being man of the match, given that we had the match effectively won twice (once at half time, and again when Vards had the ball on the penalty spot at 1-1), and the very limited ability of Burnley as a top flight side, this defeat hurt me as much as any since the Newport shambles. To make matters worse, working in Burnley with an office full of Turf Moor season ticket holders, I can look forward to revisiting this defeat regularly until my retirement.
The side selected by Brendan continued to reflect our past and upcoming schedule, but looked strong enough to overcome the goal-shy Clarets. Chilwell was rested for Fuchs, and Mendy leap-frogged Hamza for the holding berth while we try to plough through Ndidi’s absence. Tielemans had another rest, with Praet again chosen for the game time he craves and indeed deserves.
Within seconds, there was reason to believe this would be a comfortable afternoon, as Vardy fed Barnes who produced a weak finish from inside the area. Powderpuff shooting was unfortunately a theme of the day.
Our strongest attacks came via Barnes and particularly Ricardo, but other players were having off days where the ball would not quite stick or run for them. Perez, Vardy and particularly Maddison were in this category, with Madders often ending up on the ground, sometimes with a free kick, but none within shooting range.
In contrast, Burnley relied on diagonal balls into the box to Wood, an old school tactic which we should back ourselves all day long to mop up. Their most skilful player (and perennially Leicester linked) Dwight McNeil was kept quiet, with Hendrick being their most noticeable player.
The important first goal came after the half hour mark. Praet won the ball in the centre circle (cleanly but enough to spoil the enjoyment of celebrating as it is the sort of thing VAR has overturned) and Barnes (helped by Vardy’s decoy run drawing defenders) drove past their defence and finished low with his right foot through Pope’s legs. It was a great goal and hopefully will give Harvey the confidence boost he needs in this one area of his game (finishing) that needs improvement. It will have been a bitter blow for Burnley fans, who had told me that his Leicester-born Dad Paul once scored 5 in a game for them against Stockport.
Listening to interviews with Burnley players afterwards, I was surprised to hear that they felt they had played their best in weeks in the first half. We were in control, and came out strongly in the second half, with Pope reacting at full stretch from Praet’s angled shot.
However, even limited opposition can exploit set pieces, and Burnley’s delivery from corners was worrying Schmeichel all afternoon. Mee rose at the far post, and although Kasper reached to palm out the header, the law of the ex was enforced as Chris Wood knocked it over the line from a yard out
I still felt we could win the game again after this kick in the backside, despite the home crowd coming to life. The game hinged on a role reversal of this fixture in the Great Escape season, where they missed a penalty and we proceeded to score the winner. This time, Barnes was dragged down by Mee when played in for a clear penalty. As to my eye there was no effort to play the ball, I felt that a red card could have been produced.
Anyway, I was confident that Jamie would bury the spot kick, but he put it at a nice height to Pope’s left, and the tall keeper was able to parry the hard shot away. It was fizzed back in but Barnes just missed it sliding in at the far post.
Unlike at West Ham over Christmas, we would now pay the price for missing a penalty. Another diagonal ball was miscued by Evans for Westwood to smash home from inside the area. We still had another chance when Vardy was put through, but Pope stood tall to block a ferocious strike with his chest. I recall he also had a fine game in a Puel defeat here two seasons ago. And while the day will come when Kasper scores from a stoppage time corner, this was not the day.
All the season’s endeavours suddenly feel at risk of slipping through our fingers. Winning has suddenly become like climbing Everest rather than shelling peas. I doubt that complacency is an issue, but confidence and fatigue are clearly playing a part. Mendy was competent today but not the force of Ndidi. Top four and at least one trip to Wembley remain within our gift and I am not minded to splash the cash on players no better than we have now – let’s learn from this lesson!
LEICESTER: Schmeichel 5, Pereira 8, Fuchs 6, Soyunco 6, Evans 5, Mendy 6, Barnes 8, Praet 7, Perez 5, Maddison 6, Vardy 5. Subs used: Ihenacho, Tielemans, Subs not used: Justin, Morgan, Ward, Gray, Allbrighton
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