City 1 Leeds 3
Report by Colin Hall
Leicester City slumped to a FIFTH home defeat of the Premier League season, as visitors Leeds United took the points with a 3-1 victory which ended the hosts’ nine-match unbeaten run in all competitions.
Once again, the Foxes were outbattled and outthought on their own turf, squandering the chance to move within two points of league leaders Manchester City.
And once again, Brendan Rodgers found himself outwitted by a visiting manager, as veteran Argentine boss Marcelo Bielsa produced a game plan which successfully targeted – and exploited – vulnerabilities in the City side.
Rodgers made just one change to the starting line-up, recalling Papy Mendy for the injured Wilfred Ndidi. In retrospect, this might not have been the best of calls, as several City players found the exertions of the past month to be taking their toll on them.
In contrast, the Leeds side – reinvigorated after a recent 10-day break – looked sharper and hungrier for long spells, eager to avenge a 4-1 hiding handed out to them when the sides met at Elland Road.
However, after a low-key opening to this encounter, City had looked to continue an impressive run when taking the lead through Harvey Barnes.
The winger enhanced his international prospects in front of watching England coach Gareth Southgate with a fine finish after an exchange of passes with James Maddison.
On many occasions this season, scoring the opening goal has given City the impetus to move through the gears and take an iron grip on games. This didn’t happen here, though.
The home side’s next attack saw Maddison carelessly concede possession, enabling Leeds to mount a swift counter-attack, which saw Bamford sending Dallas clear to net an equaliser.
As the frenzy continued, Ayoze Perez thought he had restored City’s lead, only to see his goal chalked off for offside. Meanwhile, at the other end, Kasper Schmeichel – yet to win in four home clashes against his former club – was forced to make a string of saves to stop the visitors from going ahead.
The City boss was forced into changing both the formation and personnel in a bid to recover the initiative, bringing on Ricardo Pereira for the injured Timothy Castagne and Caglar Söyüncü at the interval for the ineffective Marc Albrighton. The return of the two internationals proved to be one of the few high spots of the afternoon for the Foxes fanbase.
City started the second half strongly, with James Justin having a shot blocked and Wesley Fofana having a strong penalty claim denied when TV replays clearly showed his shirt being pulled by visiting defender Cooper. Indeed, the spoiling tactics in which Leeds teams have specialised for generations were much in evidence for a while as they struggled to keep City at bay.
But the turning point of the game came with twenty minutes remaining, when Raphinha seized upon wayward clearance from Jonny Evans and sent in Bamford to fire past Schmeichel.
During the next ten minutes, the Foxes mounted an onslaught on the visiting goal, with Leeds keeper Meslier turning away efforts by Perez and Mendy, while Evans blasted wide from point-blank range after Söyüncü flicked on a Maddison corner.
However, when Fofana was forced off with a thigh injury – which it was later revealed will sideline him for the next month – the home storm subsided. Only a desperate Ricardo clearance from under his own crossbar, in the wake of yet further chaos at an opposition setpiece, prevented Leeds from extending their lead.
Minutes later, though, the destiny of the game was finally sealed when a weakly-delivered Maddison free-kick was turned into a rapid visiting break. Bamford, once again clear on Schmeichel, this time set up Harrison to tap the ball into an empty City net.
The nature of this latest defeat will inevitably raise concerns about whether this squad is sufficiently robust to withstand the physical and mental challenges which loom in three competitions during the coming weeks.
Sadly, the addition of Castagne and Fofana to an already-significant injury list, plus the failure to secure additional signings during the latest transfer window, will not exactly banish fears among the Blue Army that City will, as last season, fall short of their targets.
Rodgers may be forced into taking some tough decisions about priorities in the near future.
City (4-5-1): Schmeichel; Castagne (Ricardo 37), Fofana (Ünder 80), Evans, Justin; Albrighton (Söyüncü h/t), Mendy, Tielemans, Maddison, Barnes; Perez. Subs not used: Ward, Amartey, Fuchs, Thomas, Choudhury, Iheanacho.
Scorer: Barnes (13)
Leeds (4-1-4-1): Meslier; Ayling, Cooper, Struijk, Alioski; Phillips; Raphinha (Costa 80), Rodrigo (Klich 21), Dallas, Harrison; Bamford. Subs not used: Casilla, Davis, Cresswell, Hernandez, Poveda, Shackleton, Roberts.
Scorers: Dallas 15, Bamford 70, Harrison 84.
Booked: Ayling, Klich, Dallas.
Referee: Chris Kavanagh VAR: Mike Dean
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