Burnley 1 Leicester 1
Report by Eddie Blount
A genuine contender for Goal-of-the-Season scored by Kelechi Iheanacho gave City their fiftieth league point in the current campaign and kept us in the Champions’ League places in the Premiership table at least for now. This was surely a point gained rather than two lost given City’s horrendous injury list and Burnley’s Turf Moor stadium being not the happiest of hunting grounds for us over the years. In fact if you had offered me a point before the game I would have agreed without hesitation.
City were down to the bare bones for this fixture with Rodgers deciding on three at the back, drafting Ndidi into the centre of the three and employing two more defensive midfielders in a 3-5-2 formation with Tielemans the main creative source. 0-0 looked our best bet but all such thoughts were immediately dismissed as Burnley took the lead in the fourth minute having already missed a golden opportunity when Mee headed a cross just over in the first attack of the match.
They did not have long to wait for something better when Choudhury produced a terrible pass back to Ndidi which only had the effect of putting Vydra clean through on Schmeichel for a sumptuous finish in the top corner. A bad start was surely the worst possible beginning but to their credit City weathered the early storm and should have been level after 11 minutes when of all people Choudhury had a chance to beat Pope from close in but put his scuffed shot too close to the keeper who tipped it over.
The first half continued in the same vein with opportunities at both ends: Iheanacho wide from the edge of the box, a Wood volley well saved by Schmeichel. Burnley had settled into a simple format – get the ball out wide and cross it high into the box hoping for a decent header from Wood or their centre-backs or failing that taking advantage of any ball bouncing loose from challenges in the box.
It was noticeable that City had far the worst of the 50-50 challenges against a far more physical side who have kicked sand in the face of tougher teams than City. We played a more expansive game but too many passes were sloppy or over-ambitious.
Just as I was beginning to lose heart Iheanacho produce a serious piece of magic to level the scores. There seemed no danger as Ndidi gained possession just inside the Burnley half showing the high line City were trying to play. He promptly floated a lovely through ball between their centre-backs which Iheanacho allowed to pass over his shoulder and then volleyed with his left foot dead centre into the net with Pope helplessly stranded. It only takes a second to score a goal! What a strike!
There were two further chances of note, one for each side fittingly. First Schmeichel, City’s man of the Match, did brilliantly to push Tarkowski’s downward header from close range round the post and at the other end Tielemans’ shot from a position similar to that from which he scored against Arsenal was pushed over the bar by Pope. I was surprised to learn at the interval that City had dominated possession, 72% -28% as the honours were definitely close to being even which was borne out by other statistics relating to shots on and off target.
Rodgers made no changes at the interval though probably had a strong word in certain ears. If he did it had no effect as Burnley immediately seized and retained the initiative. The pattern of their attacks remained unchanged and from yet another cross on 48 minutes Schmeichel made a great save from another Wood header, this time destined initially for the roof of the net but clawed past his left post by the City keeper’s left hand.
Minutes later he was in action again tipping Wood’s deflected shot round his right-hand post. It seemed only a matter of time before the dam was breached. It all but was on 62 minutes when a cross was cleared out of the penalty area only as far as Westwood whose powerful shot hit Schmeichel’s right post with the keeper for once helpless
Rodgers had now seen enough and Albrighton and Fofana were brought on to replace Iheanacho and Mendy with City switching to 4-5-1, a move that somewhat galvanised City who at last began to mount some attacks of their own. A Ricardo shot was deflected just over and Tielemans passed when in on the keeper when he should surely have taken the chance himself.
The 76th minute will always be remembered by City’s Portuguese youngster Tavares who came on for his Premiership debut in place of Choudhury. City went on to finish the half rather better than they had started it with Albrighton shooting straight at Pope after a good move and best of all Tielemans deflected shot beat Pope all ends up but unfortunately not his right-hand post!. Thereafter the game meandered to the by then agreed conclusion.
So a decent point given all the circumstances and one increased in value by Manchester United failing to beat Crystal Palace later the same evening. The result was certainly fair and crosses another game off the lengthy list of fixtures. Good to see Fofana back and we seemed more solid defensively after he came on. We have a decent squad but not a complete one with no adequate replacement for Maddison and Vardy in particular. We will surely struggle for goals when either or both are missing or below full fitness. This squad may be better than Ranieri’s title-winners but they could have done with some of that squad’s luck with injuries!
City: Schmeichel, Amartey, Ndidi, Soyuncu, Ricardo, Mendy (Fofana 66), Choudhury (Tavares 76), Tielemans. Castagne, Iheanacho (Albrighton 66), Vardy
Burnley: Pope, Lowton, Tarkowski, Mee, Taylor, Brownhill, Westwood, Cork, McNeil, Wood, Vydra (Rodriguez 90)
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