Norwich 1 Leicester 2
Report by Colin Hall
Goals from Jamie Vardy and Marc Albrighton gave Leicester City their first away win of the season at early strugglers Norwich.
But the Foxes were again well below their best and rode their luck at times before eventually emerging 2-1 winners.
With Jannick Vestergaard and Ryan Bertrand again unavailable, Brendan Rodgers chose to make only one change from the side that had been so dismal in the previous game, with Albrighton replacing the suspended Ayoze Pérez.
Both sides made a tentative start at a packed Carrow Road, but the visitors were the first to settle, taking the lead in the 8th minute when Ricardo Pereira exploited hesitant home defending to tee up Vardy from 15 yards.
Incredibly, this was the veteran striker’s first away goal in 2021. While Vardy’s exploits in a Leicester shirt assure him of a central role in the club’s history, his recent performances away from the King Power Stadium have often seen him some distance below the talisman who regularly terrorised Premier defences at his peak. Given the competition that now exists within the squad, it is to be hoped that this goal will spark a revival in his fortunes.
In the meantime, though, Ricardo sustained an injury while assisting the opener, and had to be replaced by Timothy Castagne. Once again, the collective mental fragility of this Foxes side was on full display in the wake of this setback, but the hosts, themselves beset by tensions after a run of TWELVE successive defeats at top-flight level, were unable to take advantage.
However, the Canaries were handed a lifeline shortly before the interval when Lees-Melou collided with Caglar Söyüncü while chasing a through ball. Most officials in the VAR studio would have let the incident pass, but on this occasion, a review took place, and deemed the defender to be responsible. Referee Jones, instructed to consult a monitor, duly changed his mind and awarded a penalty to the home side, which Pukki converted with some comfort.
The visitors’ malaise continued until well into the second half, although Norwich rarely threatened Kasper Schmeichel’s goal from open play. Indeed, the home defence’s difficulty in dealing with Albrighton corners twice almost allowed the Foxes to restore their advantage, but James Maddison, enduring a wretched return to his former club, was unable to find the target on either occasion.
Eventually, though, the Foxes managed to conjure up the first (and as it transpired, the only) incisive passing move of the game. A burst down the left by sub Kelechi Iheanacho saw the ball switched quickly via Maddison and Vardy to Albrighton, whose angled drive took a slight deflection off Williams before finding the net.
The shock of conceding seemed to rouse the hosts into action, and after Sargent came close to a second leveller, McLean headed home unchallenged from a corner, but was denied by a linesman flagging for a clear offside against Cantwell. The tensions in the Leicester ranks were extended, though, as the VAR bizarrely spent several minutes seeking grounds to overrule this decision before finally concluding that none were forthcoming.
Despite forcing several further corners in the closing stages, Norwich were unable to take advantage of any of them, and should really have conceded a further goal on the break, but Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, making his Premier bow as a replacement for Maddison, sent a cross behind the unmarked Iheanacho.
Right at the death, the Blue Army’s hearts were again in their mouths, as Norwich sub Idah beat Schmeichel to an Aarons cross, only to see his effort fly narrowly wide.
Although Rodgers and his side will have been relieved to escape from Norfolk with three points, there can be no doubt that a dramatic improvement will be needed before the forthcoming home games with Manchester City and Napoli.
In particular, it is to be hoped that Söyüncü, Maddison and Harvey Barnes can quickly recapture the form of which they are all eminently capable, as none have yet done themselves justice during the current league campaign to date.
Norwich (4-3-3): Krul; Aarons, Hanley, Gibson, Williams; Lees-Melou (Rupp 73), Gilmour (Idah 79), McLean; Cantwell, Pukki (Sargent 73), Rashica. Subs not used: Zimmermann, Dowell, Sørensen, Gunn, Giannoulis, Omobamidele.
Goal: Pukki (pen) 44
Bookings: Lees-Melou, Cantwell
Leicester (4-3-3): Schmeichel, Ricardo (Castagne 11), Amartey, Söyüncü, Thomas,, Ndidi, Tielemans, Maddison (Dewsbury-Hall 86); Albrighton, Vardy, Barnes (Iheanacho 67). Subs not used: Ward, Choudhury, Praet, Daka, Jakupovic, Soumaré.
Goals: Vardy 8, Albrighton 76
Referee: Robert Jones (VAR: David Coote). Attendance: 26,765.
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