City 3 Brighton 0
Report by Colin Hall
Leicester City produced their best home Premier League performance of the season so far during a 3-0 win over Brighton and Hove Albion.
Such a convincing victory surprised and delighted many of the fanbase, who expressed fears before the game this fixture could become yet another banana-skin for a team who hadn’t always done themselves justice on home soil in recent weeks.
However, with James Maddison twice finding the net during his most convincing display in a City shirt for some time, and Jamie Vardy taking his goal tally to 12 for the campaign, these doubts were dispelled in no uncertain terms.
Brendan Rodgers largely kept faith with the team that had scrambled a win over basement club Sheffield United in the previous league fixture, with the only change to the starting eleven coming in midfield, where Wilfred Ndidi replaced Papy Mendy.
The game began in a torrential downpour, quite the contrast from the sweltering conditions in which the sides had last met six months ago. Both teams signalled their intent during the early exchanges to avoid the turgid, goal-free stalemate they had produced on that occasion.
After City had forced a series of corners, and Marc Albrighton had brought visiting goalkeeper Ryan into action, the Seagulls responded with a number of quick counter-attacks, in which Kasper Schmeichel produced two fine saves to deny Welbeck and Jahanbaksh.
However, the visitors’ eagerness to go toe-to-toe with City would prove their undoing. Rodgers quickly noted Brighton’s vulnerabilities down both flanks and encouraged his team to exploit them as often as possible.
The Foxes came agonisingly close to taking the lead after an Ayoze Perez cross caused panic in the visiting defence, but Vardy’s close-range shot from a tight angle struck the post and bounced clear.
Minutes later, though, the deadlock was broken after Vardy laid a James Justin cross into the path of Maddison, whose 20-yard drive took a slight deflection before beating Ryan at his near post.
With Justin now marauding down the right wing at will, City were able to carve out chances on a regular basis. Perez and Vardy both came close to extending the lead before the Foxes frontman converted a cross from Justin shortly before the break.
Lineswoman Sian Massey-Ellis, one of this league’s more respected match officials, ruled that Vardy had beaten the Brighton offside trap. However, an agonising two-minute wait ensued while her decision underwent a VAR review.
Eventually, word was received that her verdict was deemed correct, and Vardy could celebrate his 10th league goal of the campaign, thus becoming the first City player since Mike Stringfellow in 1968 to reach double figures in six consecutive seasons.
Almost from the restart, the home side put the game even further out of Brighton’s reach, when Perez and Vardy teed up Maddison to bamboozle the visiting defence and curl home the most exquisite of shots past the despairing Ryan.
As in the midweek Europa League game, City were able to coast through the second half, secure in the knowledge that victory was already secured. Brighton produced plenty of endeavour, but scarcely mounted a worthwhile threat to Schmeichel.
Indeed, City could have added a fourth when a superb Maddison run gave him the chance to complete a glorious hat-trick, only for him to send the feeblest of shots into Ryan’s grateful arms. The keeper was rather more extended, though, when turning away a fierce long range drive by Christian Fuchs.
The only blemish to the Foxes’ evening came when Jonny Evans collected a yellow card, his 5th in the league this season, ruling him out of the Everton game in midweek. Was this a tactical move to ensure he will be available for the crucial clashes with Tottenham and Manchester United? Only he and Rodgers would know that.
Nevertheless, the result lifts City into 3rd place in the league, within a point of leaders Spurs, whom we visit next week. The quality on display even persuaded media pundits to discuss the prospect of another title challenge.
Is this likely? Probably not – this team has faced (and failed) too many tests of character during 2020 for that to happen. But there is enough talent within this squad, fitness permitting, to make this season a memorable and successful one.
Meanwhile, we can only hope that at some stage during 2021, the pandemic will finally clear, thus paving the way for Foxes to be readmitted to our beloved stadium and give the team the acclamation it deserves.
City (3-5-2): Schmeichel (c); Fofana, Evans, Fuchs; Justin, Ndidi (Mendy 80), Tielemans, Maddison (Praet 74), Albrighton; Perez (Barnes 62), Vardy. Subs not used: Ward, Morgan, Ünder, Iheanacho.
Goals: Maddison (27, 44), Vardy (41)
Booked: Evans, Fuchs.
Brighton (4-3-3): Ryan; Veltman, White, Dunk, Burn; Bissouma (Mac Alister 72), Groß, March; Maupay, Jahanbaksh (Alzate 55), Welbeck (Connolly 62). Subs not used: Steele, Webster, Pröpper, Trossard.
Referee: Martin Atkinson VAR: Jonathan Moss
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