Leicester City 1 Wolves 0 – 14 August 2021
Report by Tish Krokosz
It starts in the morning with you having to find your shirt to wear for the match and perhaps the lucky socks. The drive to Leicester and having to find somewhere to park is the next step in the sequence. A pint or a pie or a pizza or all three for lunch? The walk to the stadium is still the same with fast food stands and souvenir stands in the same place. A welcome free drink courtesy of the Chairman before you queue up and hope the new season ticket does not play up.
A wary look around to see how many fans are still careful about Covid; indeed, has everyone who sits around you returned free of Covid? Is the puddle of water that always forms after rain still coursing its way past your seat? What is the team that Rodgers has chosen for the game? The Birch makes his traditional welcome announcement prior to the teams coming on to the pitch – and you know that, as a fan, you make a difference. You watch the goals from previous seasons shown on the big screens followed by the boom. These are some of the many pixels that make up a football photo frame prior to the opening game of the season.
And then the referee blows his whistle for the start of City’s 2021/22 campaign.
City started positively and made all the early attacking moves. This was promising. Several times, Perez threaded a ball through to Vardy, who looked sharp and was keen to test the Wolves keeper. His initial shot was in the ninth minute but was weak and Sá dealt with it comfortably. After a quarter of an hour Vardy had the ball in the net but had strayed offside earlier in the move and, so, was not credited with the goal. A quarter of the game had passed before Wolves even had a shot on target and this was wayward. Barnes and Thomas were linking well on the left wing and penetrated the Wolves five-man defence soon after, culminating in a rare Maddison header that went straight to the keeper.
The first Wolves scare came in the 35th minute when Amartey placed a poor pass out of defence straight to the opposition. A wonderfully weighted ball was put to Traoré between City’s two centre backs and he raced past them with ease and had only Schmeichel to beat as he entered the penalty area, but his shot was just wide of the right-hand post. Wolves should have been in front with this attempt and they were duly punished a few minutes later when Ricardo brushed past two defenders and crossed the ball firmly from the right bye-line. Vardy was first to the ball ahead of Coady and flicked it into the net.
Soon after, City had an opportunity to double the scoreline when Tielemans had an effort (from a similar position to his FA Cup Final goal) saved by Sá and turned round for a corner. This had been a good half for City who showed a lot of confidence and willingness to push forward at every opportunity. Wolves, meanwhile, stuck to their five-man defence and relied on breaks and City mistakes for their efforts on goal. They played a high defensive line, as did City, and this led to a congested middle third of the field for long periods.
The second half was completely different. The new Wolves manager, Bruno Lage, must have explained to his players at half-time that to get back into the game they would have to press forward much more, and they did this immediately.
Soon after the restart, Amartey was guilty of another bad pass, this time much closer to the City goal and the home side were relieved to see a Wolves shot blocked by Söyüncü with the ball curling away for a corner. Rodgers sensed that the away side had taken a different approach to the second half and brought on Soumaré and Vestergaard to try and plug the holes that were appearing in City’s defence.
This had limited effect and Wolves continued to press forward and had shots on goal from all angles. Luckily for City, the accuracy of these attempts was woeful and Schmeichel had little trouble in dealing with them. The game was far more open as the half wore on and when Iheanacho replaced Barnes in the 71st minute, there was a brief respite for City. They could have doubled their lead when the substitute fed Vardy with a neat ball down the middle. His speed took him to the right of the penalty area and his shot on goal was a sizzler, but just wide.
There was still time for Wolves to mount several more attacks. These showed that the signing from Southampton was not in complete control and would need a few more games to bed in. Amartey made up for his previous lapses with well-timed blocks. Wolves managed to get the ball in the back of the net just before full time, but as with Vardy’s effort in the first half, it was ruled out for offside.
There was relief all round in the Leicester camp when the final whistle went. They could have been on the receiving end of an embarrassing opening home defeat if the visitors had brought a front line of accurate shooters. On the other hand, City could have wrapped up a comfortable win if they had been more effective in the first half. It was a true example of a game of two halves.
I do not remember the last time I saw a match at home when VAR was not used, but this game was managed well and allowed to continue without continuous whistle blowing. However, I think Marçal was lucky not to be punished more severely for his physical and cynical attitude. It was a nerve-wracking start to the season but three points were obtained from a stubborn opposition and that is what counts.
Leicester: Schmeichel, Pereira, Amartey, Söyüncü, Thomas, Ndidi, Tielemans, Perez (Vestergaard 62), Maddison (Soumaré 62), Barnes (Iheanacho 72), Vardy. Subs not used: Ward, Albrighton, Choudhury, Dewsbury- Hall, Daka, Praet.
Wolves: Sá, Hoever, Coady, Saïss, Kilman (Silva 90), Marçal, Neves, Moutinho (Dendoncker 66), Traoré, Trincão (Gibbs-White 86), Jimenez. Subs not used: Ruddy, Aït-Nouri, Semedo, Cundle, Marques, Campbell.
Referee: C. Pawson Attendance: 31,983
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