LEICESTER CITY 1 BIRMINGHAM CITY 0
Match Report by Paul Weston
Let’s face it – even diehard City fans were not too optimistic before this match based on recent performances. The Norwich match had been a great disappointment and VAR had not been on our side in either that match or in the defeat against Manchester City. The FA Cup provided a great opportunity for the team to get back on a winning track and for some of our players who had lost their form in the early part of the season to regain their energy.
Rodgers picked a strong side (please note Claude Puel!). Vardy was missing with yet another muscle injury and we hoped that he soon can come back to lead the line as only he can do. Albrighton and Gray were selected on the wings. Otherwise the side was the same as against Norwich.
It is fair to say that the first half was a great disappointment. Birmingham’s defensive shape was good, with their players stronger and taller than City’s, and our play was ponderous and predictable. All too often the safe pass was made instead of the one touch movement forward which highlighted our early form this season. What is the point of 80 per cent possession if it is backwards and sidewards only and creating no chances?
City’s midfield players were frequently knocked off the ball and the final pass close to the penalty box was poor. Birmingham broke forward on the counter attack quickly and looked dangerous without creating clear chances. Corners and free kicks seemed their best chance of a goal.
After a dour 0-0 first half City upped the pace, won more second balls and passed better. The crowd responded with encouragement. The hard working Albrighton and Ricardo started to link better and move into attacking positions.
However, on the left, there was much less creativity as Gray continued to have one of those games he has sadly become known for – poor control, knocked off the ball, poor passes, no crosses from the by line and no shots (you will guess I am not his greatest fan!). Consequently, the potential link up with Chilwell was not working.
In the middle Praet, my man of the match, was emerging as the driving force and linking up with Ndidi. Maddison played in fits and starts but started to become more prominent. Johnny Evans missed the first good chance, heading over the bar when seemingly clear of his marker. Iheanacho had a shot saved and Maddison drove forward but his rising shot clipped the top of the bar. Tielemans came on for Ndidi and Barnes for the disappointing Gray.
The link up with Barnes and Chilwell than started to make a difference. Just as we thought extra time and penalties looked likely Chilwell stormed forward. His cross evaded everyone in the centre. Albrighton bamboozled the defence with a lovely cross into the middle and Ricardo headed into the corner of the goal past Camp, despite being closely marked by a taller defender. I have no idea why Ricardo was in the centre at the time but just as well he was. It was a good goal and with only eight minutes to go until full time City played the possession game.
City, however, allowed themselves to be pushed back. Birmingham belatedly pressured the defence and last-minute panic set in, culminating in Chilwell blocking a shot close to the goal line. Soon after John Moss signalled full time and we all breathed a sigh of relief as we went through into the quarter finals (against Chelsea we learned later). City deserved to win, even though they won “ugly”, but there are still areas for improvement. Maddison, Gray, Iheanacho, Albrighton and Chilwell in the first half were all below par and too few chances were created.
The Villa match at the King Power looms closer. Let’s hope that this win enables City to surge towards the end of the season, and hopefully a Champions League spot, with renewed vigour.
Leicester: Schmeichel, Ricardo Pereira, Evans, Söyüncü, Chilwell, Ndidi (Tielemans 60). Albrighton, Praet, Maddison (Choudhury 84), Gray (Barnes 66), Iheanacho. Subs (unused) Justin, Morgan, Ward, Pérez
Birmingham: Camp, Colin, Clarke-Salter, Dean, Pedersen, Harding (Gardner 71), Kieftenbeld (Montero 84), Sunjic, Mrabti (Crowley 84), Jutkiewicz, Hogan. Subs (unused) Roberts, Trueman, Boyd-Munce, Burke
Referee: Jonathan Moss Attendance: 27,181
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