FULHAM 0 LEICESTER 2
Report by Eddie Blount
How fortunes change! In November Fulham snatched all three points at the King Power with a surprise 2-1 win but since have failed to secure a maximum whereas City managed a decent unbeaten spell ending only in their last match with another home defeat, this time to Leeds. If recent form saw the away side as likely winners we have to set against that the fact that City’s last win at Craven Cottage came in 1983!. However the form book proved to be a reliable guide to the outcome of this match as City tore up the history books with a comfortable and deserved victory.
As expected Ricardo started for the injured Castagne and Soyuncu similarly for Fofana whilst Choudhury was given a run-out in place of Mendy with Iheanacho leading the line, Perez moving to wide right relegating Albrighton to the bench. We will have to get used to such changes as the games come thick and fast as the reward for success.
The match started at a slow tempo with Fulham pressing high and effectively but it soon became clear that a more open contest would ensue. After 9 minutes an optimistic Maddison shot was easily saved by keeper Areola. Little did we know that this would be one more shot (as opposed to headers) on target than Fulham would manage in the whole game. They might have equalised almost immediately but Mitrovic failed to make a decent contact when excellently placed and his feeble effort was blocked by Justin who went on to have another fine game and whom I would not swop for Ben Chilwell by the way.
Straight down to the other end and Barnes should have done better than to shoot over when set up nicely by Ricardo. It mattered not however as within four minutes City had taken the lead with a brilliant but simple goal. Maddison’s superb cross was headed firmly and unstoppably by Iheanacho past Areola for that rare beast, a City headed goal. It was all over so quickly bringing to mind Brian Clough’s famous maxim that it only takes a second to score a goal.
They might have equalised almost immediately but Mitrovic failed to make a decent contact when excellently placed and his feeble effort was blocked by Justin who went on to have another fine game and whom I would not swop for Ben Chilwell by the way.
There was only one side in it for awhile and even Soyuncu got in on the act; first hammering a low shot from an angle against the keeper’s legs and later heading home from close range only for it to be disallowed for a pretty minor push given the shoving that goes on in penalty areas these days.
After 42 minutes we were treated to a unique event in this match anyway as Fulham had their sole effort on target – a good Tosin header, inevitably from a corner, very well tipped over by the alert Schmeichel. If we are to have the success which is within reach we must solve the chronic aerial weakness we suffer from, which means prioritising the signing of some taller players!
Ironically just as Fulham had their best moment of the game City swept downfield to settle the match with an exquisite goal. Justin inside his own half to Iheanacho just inside theirs followed by a lovely half -turn by the forward and an even better pass to release Maddison. Had this been Vardy he would have been away but Maddison is not quite as quick and was caught just inside their box. He did well to keep possession and was rewarded when Justin arrived in support. A shrewd short pass to the full back who waltzed round the keeper and rolled the ball home. Match over as it turned out so it didn’t matter when Barnes squandered another good chance, the keeper saving his shot with his legs just on half time.
Fulham made two changes at the interval and one of the substitutes, Cavaleiro, soon shot wide from the edge of the box following their best passing movement of the game. City had the better of the next quarter and twice had the ball in the net only for both efforts to be rightly disallowed for offside. In both cases the finishes, by Iheanacho and Ricardo deserved better.
After 75 minutes Barnes was replaced by Amartey a sure signal from Rodgers that the shutters were coming down and City were managing the game to its conclusion. The managing was so effective that I totally relaxed and was able to thoroughly enjoy the last few minutes as it became even more apparent that Fulham had no attacking edge whatsoever! On this form they will be relegated.
Manager Scott Parker made an interesting comment after the game when he declared that Fulham’s season would not be defined by matches against sides like Leicester, Man Utd and Liverpool but against lesser mortals. Nice to be included in such company as Saint Gary commented!
One or two things we learned from this match: Ricardo and Soyuncu are close to getting back to their best; Iheanacho leads the line more effectively than Perez whose best position is probably as a replacement for Maddison, Choudhury needs to get better at reading the play rather than reacting to it, Justin has a chance of international selection before too long, Amartey is a useful squad member.
So three more points, a win without the talisman and up to third in the league. At my age I can be forgiven for sometimes wondering if I’ve died and gone to heaven!
City: Schmeichel, Ricardo, Evans, Soyuncu, Justin, Choudhury (Mendy 60), Perez (Albrighton 60), Tielemans, Maddison, Barnes (Amartey 75), Iheanacho
Fulham: Areola, Aina, Andersen, Tosin, Tete (Cavaleiro) 46, Reed, Zambo (Lemina 46), Robinson, Loftus-Cheek (Decordova-Reed 70), Mitrovic, Lookman
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