City fail to walk through the door that Villa opened for them.

Leicester City 2 v Tottenham Hotspur 4

King Power Stadium 23 May 2021

Report from home by Colin Murrant

On a topsy turvy end of season Sunday, City ultimately failed to take the opportunity of reaching the promised land of The Champions League. With Villa beating Chelsea, City twice squandered a lead that would have given them the three points and qualification to Europe’s premier club competition.  City have now finished 5th in both of the last two seasons, with the same four teams finishing above them. It is clear that City are a considerable force in the EPL but, as yet, cannot quite hold onto a position in the top four of the League, a position that they have occupied in the table more than any other team over the course of the last two seasons.

City took to the pitch in next year’s kit, a most welcome return to the traditional white shorts and blue socks, and a new sponsor ‘FBS’ on the shirt. There were no surprises in the starting eleven selection although it was nice to see Morgan and Fuchs on the bench for one last time: a bench showing a host of defenders and midfielders. But, best of all, 8,000 City fans were in attendance, the first in the stadium since 9th March 2020.

The match started brightly and City’s first chance came on eight minutes when a corner kick found Soyuncu in space at the far post but his header was weak and Lloris saved comfortably. Soon afterwards Ndidi fed Maddison and his shot was cleared for another corner; as the ball came in from the corner, Soyuncu blocked off Winks and a free kick was awarded.

City didn’t have long to wait to take the lead. Vardy received the ball on the left and cut across the box; as he passed Alderweireld the striker went down and referee Taylor waved away the appeals.

It was left to VAR to review, and the referee was advised to check the VAR monitor. The review was quick in City’s favour and Vardy himself took the kick and put City ahead and up to third in the table.

Immediately after the match is not the time to reflect on City’s failure to achieve all of their ambitions, but injuries have probably been the most decisive issue and ill fortune was about to strike again. This time it was Fofana who was injured, there was no obvious reason for him being down on the grass but he was very emotional and it was clear he could not continue. This resulted in Ndidi falling back and Mendy coming into midfield.

City were less in control now but on 28 minutes Reguilon misplaced a pass and Iheanacho intercepted and was clear in the box but he slipped and fluffed his lines with a wild shot: his blushes were saved when it was confirmed he handled the ball when controlling it. Then Spurs went close when the ball found Son on the edge of the 6-yard box, with his back to goal he tried to find Kane but Soyuncu made a smart interception at the expense of a corner.

On 38 minutes, TV confirmed Mane had scored for Liverpool which left City in 4th place but it felt the real interest was what was happening at Villa Park and, from where, there was no news.

Shortly afterwards, City were back in 5th place as Spurs won a corner. The corner kick reached Reguilon whose cross hit the back of Ndidi and looped up to Son, he crossed back to Kane who volleyed past Schmeichel. Not only was this a blow to City but it was Kane’s 16th goal in 15 games against City, it was also a goal that was to win Kane the Golden Boot again.

Just before half-time City spirits were lifted again as TV brought news from Villa Park that Traore had scored against Chelsea; City were now level with Chelsea but had a slightly worse goal difference. If Villa scored twice more a draw would be good enough for City.

On 50 minutes City restored their lead from another penalty and another foul on Vardy. This time the penalty was not in question, VAR was checking the foul was in the box. Vardy despatched the shot into the side-netting with Lloris rooted to the spot. Now City were back in fourth spot and Jamie Vardy had scored the 150th goal of his senior career. Things were getting better and this time it was the crowd better informed than TV viewers as clearly radio is faster than TV and the crowd were getting excited. Villa had scored again, this time an El Ghazi penalty. City were now so close and yet so far. If City could hold their lead, then Chelsea would need to score three times.

Iheanacho won the ball on the edge of the box and wriggled his way through before shooting straight at Lloris. The good news was seeming to inspire City as they looked for a third. On 62 minutes City replaced Maddison with Ricardo which seemed to be a move to defend the lead as Maddison was playing quite well and his passes were finding holes in the Spur’s defence. Shortly afterwards Lucas and Bale replaced Bergwijn and Alli as the Londoners chased the game. 70 minutes had gone and nervousness was setting in at home and (I guess) in the stadium as the game to-and-froed.

Then it happened, Spurs pressure built and following a corner, Schmeichel put the ball into his own net as he mistimed his punch as he tried to reach the ball through a crowd of players. Although Schmeichel appealed he was fouled, the pictures showed otherwise and the ball glanced off his glove before flying into the net. City were now out of the UCL positions.

Villa Park, Chilwell had scored for Chelsea and pressure was mounting on City. How ironic that in a few minutes the emotions at Wembley a week before had been turned on their head, Schmeichel from heroics to a mistake, Chilwell from despair to delight.

On 82 minutes a significant incident as Iheanacho broke in his own half with two City players ahead of him and only one defender. As the City striker moved forward, he was cynically taken down by Winks and the chance was gone. It felt at the time that this could have been a great opportunity taken from City.

It then collapsed completely for The Foxes as Spurs, through Bale, scored two late goals. First as Kane fed him just inside the box and he shot beyond the City keeper; City’s protestations for handball against Kane in the build up came to nothing as the handball was deemed too early in the move to be of material significance: a further irony from a week ago as City probably benefitted from this same change in the interpretation of the handball law at The FA Cup Final. City were now almost certainly out of the chase and to rub salt into the wound they were almost static as Bale strolled through and passed the ball past Schmeichel, the ball coming back off the post and into Bale’s path allowing him to score easily.

City were not good enough on the day, whatever has happened earlier in the season, The Foxes failed on the day. Apart from the penalties, they failed to trouble Lloris. The disappointment of the day should not take away the fact that this is City’s second most successful season in their 137-year history. The Impact on the squad and any potential signings will hopefully not be too significant as a result of failing to qualify for the UCL.

The 8,000 City fans in attendance played their part in raising the team but in the end, like the team, the reality of the situation set in. They at least had the opportunity to say good-bye to Christian Fuchs and Wes Morgan although, I understand, the whole send-off and lifting of the FA Cup was understandably a bit flat.

So, next time we have the opportunity to see City in competitive action will be at Wembley for The Community Shield in August when, just like at the start of this season, we put our disappointment behind us and we go forward once again with optimism.

Leicester City: Schmeichel; Castagne, Fofana, Soyuncu: Albrighton, Ndidi, Tielemans, Thomas: Maddison, Vardy, Iheanacho. Subs: Ward, Ricardo, Morgan, Amartey, Fuchs, Choudhury, Mendy, Praet, Perez.

Tottenham Hotspurs: Lloris; Doherty, Alderweireld, Sanchez, Reguilon, Hojbjerg, Winks, Alli; Bergwijn, Son, Kane. Subs: Hart, Rodon, Dier, John, Lamela, Bale, Lucas, Scarlett, Vinicius

Referee: Anthony Taylor               Attendance 8,000

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