LEICESTER 2 MAN UTD 2
Report by Eddie Blount
The omens for this match-of-the day clash between sides lying second and third in the Premiership table were not encouraging for City fans: United had not lost to City in their last twelve encounters, they had won every away game in the league this season and had a Boxing Day win record in the Premiership of 80% compared with City’s meagre 14%.
So much for what statistics can predict as City fought back twice from being a goal down to deservedly achieve their first draw of the season in an entertaining encounter, especially by the standards of recent Boxing day matches – and beyond as those who saw totally unfancied Rotherham win 0-1 some time ago will readily testify.
The game almost had a sensational start as United pressed from the kick-off and a Fernandes cross saw Rashford head over from four yards out and dead central with Schmeichel helplessly exposed. City promptly drove to the other end and Vardy connected with a right-wing cross only to fail to keep the ball down with a half-chance which is all he sometimes needs. The game continued for several minutes in this vein with both sides looking happier when attacking than defending. This was best illustrated for United when de Gea dallied instead of putting his boot through the ball and almost presented City with a late Christmas present
After 10 minutes the game began to settle down with both sides probing for an opening without creating any further clear chances. However the opener came in the 22nd minute with more than a hint of good fortune attached. United swept down their right and the ball was crossed into the middle ostensibly for the excellent Fernandes. However the ball was two yards in front of the intended recipient who had to reach at full stretch to make any contact. This resulted in a toe-poke which could have gone anywhere but as luck had it the ball was diverted to exactly bisect two covering defenders and present the ever predatory Rashford with his second clear opportunity of the game and this time he easily slipped the ball past the advancing City keeper to give United the lead.
City to their credit kept their heads up and were level less than ten minutes later. There seemed no undue danger as Barnes received the ball just outside the ‘D’ surrounded by red shirts but the winger worked a little space for a thumping left foot shot which beat de Gea all ends up.
Minutes later Fernandes almost restored United’s lead with a glancing header from a Shaw free kick which went narrowly wide of Schmeichel’s left post. The midfielder completed a busy first half by being booked on the stroke of half-time. Not surprisingly he was to go on to be tv’s Man of the Match
The Reds had the better of the third quarter at least in terms of chances created with a fine save by Schmeichel when confronted for the third time by Rashford whose contribution was in stark contrast to his anonymous strike partner, Martial. The nearest City came to scoring came early on when a well-taken Maddison free kick was well deflected by the United wall.
Just when it seemed that City were over the worst United struck again, with Fernandes almost inevitably centre stage, moving at exactly the right moment on to substitute Cavani’s clever pass between defenders and slipping the ball past Schmeichel into the far corner.
A lesser team would have capitulated at this point with a quarter of an hour to play but City are made of sterner stuff these days and were level again six minutes later. Rogers had brought on Perez for Albrighton and he had already begun to show some threat before crossing to the well positioned Vardy whose first -time side-footed shot deflected off a defender past de Gea. From this point both sides played out an agreed draw.
For City there were significant contributions from all parts of the pitch but Barnes was particularly impressive going forward and Ndidi and Tielemans got through plenty of work in midfield whilst the back four defended stoutly to restrict United to a handful of chances. Given the run that United are on away from home City can be satisfied with a point won rather than two points lost.
Finally a word about the officials. Mike Dean is not one of the referees I most admire but this was as good a display as I have seen from him and VAR was hardly noticed which is as it should be!
City: Schmeichel, Justin, Forfana, Evans, Castagne, Ndidi, Tielemans, Albrighton (Perez 81), Maddison, Barnes, Vardy
United: De Gea, Lindelof (Tuanzebe 66), Bailly, Maguire, Shaw, McTominay, Fred, Fernandes, James (Pogba 54), Rashford, Martial (Cavani 75)
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