FA Charity Shield – Man City 0 Leicester 1
Report by Colin Hall
An 89th-minute penalty by Kelechi Iheanacho against former club Manchester City was enough to clinch the Community Shield – the first major honour of the 2021-22 season – for FA Cup holders Leicester City.
The strike ensured the Foxes’ THIRD victory in four months at Wembley – all by the same 1-0 margin, and doubling the club’s previous number of victories at the national stadium.
And while the Premier League champions were some way below full strength, Pep Guardiola was still able to field a starting line-up valued considerably in excess of that available to Brendan Rodgers.
Leicester made one change from the side that had begun the tarnished midweek victory over Villarreal, with Daniel Amartey replacing the grievously-injured Wesley Fofana.
While there were some pre-match misgivings within sections of the Foxes fanbase about the Ghanaian’s capability to fill such shoes, Amartey had played key roles in previous victories against these opponents, and would go on to do so again here.
The first significant goalmouth action came after seven minutes when Kasper Schmeichel, another Fox facing previous employers, turned over a Gündogan free-kick.
However, this was followed by a series of efforts at the other end, with opposing keeper Steffen denying Jamie Vardy twice and Ayoze Pérez.
With both Harvey Barnes and Ricardo Pereira prominent in attacks, the Foxes were not afraid to take the game to the Champions League finalists.
And their efforts nearly brought due reward just before the break, when a Barnes cross found Vardy unmarked at the far post, only for the striker to send his shot back across goal, allowing Steffen to push the ball against the post and away to safety.
The tempo continued into the second half, but former Fox Mahrez started to exert a greater influence on proceedings, sending a free-kick narrowly over Schmeichel’s crossbar after an incident which saw debutant Ryan Bertrand earn a yellow card.
Minutes later, though, Mahrez should really have put his side ahead, after a blocked Ricardo shot brought a swift counter-attack which sent the winger clear on goal. Fortunately for the Blue Army, though, he rushed his shot and blazed high and wide of the target.
Leicester responded well to this scare, with James Maddison and Barnes both coming close to opening the scoring.
The first substitution of the game saw Guardiola’s introduction of record signing Grealish, who received a predictably hostile reception from Foxes recalling his history (and histrionics) in a series of appearances for Aston Villa prior to lockdown. However, on this occasion, he looked well short of match-fitness and was consequently a peripheral figure in the game.
A series of further changes followed from both sides during the next fifteen minutes. It was pleasing to note the hunger and desire among all of the Leicester replacements, who were clearly eager to make the most of their appearance at Wembley. None were overawed – or overshadowed – by the illustrious opposition.
As the prospect of a penalty shootout loomed, the Foxes made the breakthrough in the closing minutes. Iheanacho dispossessed Aké in his own area to set up strike partner Patson Daka, whose shot was blocked by Steffen. However referee Tierney noted a foul on Iheanacho by the opposing defender, and awarded a penalty to Leicester.
The Nigerian had previously enjoyed mixed fortunes from the spot on pre-season matches. On this occasion, though, his shot carried too much power for Steffen to stop it from hitting the back of his net.
Leicester were able to see out the remaining minutes without due alarm and the final whistle brought joyous scenes among fans and staff alike. As in May, the post-match celebrations were extensive and the club chairman featured heavily within them.
There were, though, two disappointing aspects to the occasion. The attendance barely reached half-capacity and did not reach anywhere near the numbers usually associated with such a showpiece occasion. Perhaps the requirements associated with the ongoing pandemic may have deterred many fans on both sides from making the journey to Wembley.
What was far more troubling, though, was the boorish behaviour of sections of the Leicester contingent, whose booing of the pre-match ritual of taking a knee demonstrated clear disrepect for both players and club alike. Worse still, pundits on the ITV gantry at the Leicester end of the stadium made allegations of racist behaviour towards a number of those in their vicinity. It is to be hoped that anyone found to be responsible for those vile actions are traced and brought to justice in due course.
On the field, though, the victory indicates another encouraging season lies ahead for the Foxes. If we can avoid the injuries and associated inconsistencies that have blighted crucial parts of the past two seasons, further successes appear within this squad’s grasp.
Leicester (4-3-3): Schmeichel; Ricardo, Amartey, Söyüncü, Bertrand (Thomas 78); Tielemans (Soumaré 72), Ndidi, Maddison (Dewsbury-Hall 71); Pérez (Albrighton 71), Vardy (Daka 71), Barnes (Iheanacho 79). Subs not used: Ward, Benkovic, Choudhury.
Goal: Iheanacho 89 (pen) Booking: Bertrand
Manchester City (4-3-3): Steffen; Cancelo, Rúben Dias, B Mendy; Fernandinho, Palmer (Bernardo Silva 74), Gündogan (Rodri 65); Mahrez, Torres (Knight 74), Edozie (Grealish 65). Subs not used: Carson, Sandler, Doyle, Gomes, Couto.
Bookings: Rúben Dias, Fernandinho,
Referee: Paul Tierney. Attendance: 45 602
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