Leeds 1 Leicester 1
Report by Colin Hall
Leicester City were forced to settle for a point after a 1-1 draw at Premier League strugglers Leeds United.
The result means the Foxes have now gone FOUR games without a win in open play, and slipped further away from the top six.
But the point was probably as much as City deserved after a frenzied, error-strewn contest which saw both sides squander a multitude of chances.
Brendan Rodgers gave a clear verdict on the side’s performance in the previous fixture, making five changes to the starting line-up and switching to a more adventurous 4-3-3 formation.
However the hosts had the better of the early exchanges, with Kasper Schmeichel saving from Harrison and Phillips.
Leeds then saw a penalty claim denied when Raphinha went to ground after a clash with Ricardo Perreira, only for the referee – and subsequently the VAR – to rule in the City man’s favour.
The officials made a far more contentious call minutes later, though, as Llorente brought down Jamie Vardy on the edge of the Leeds 18-yard box.
Although Vardy was ruled offside, thus sparing his assailant a potential red card, TV footage clearly showed the ball being played to him by another home defender.
City suffered a further blow when falling behind after 26 minutes, as Schmeichel was beaten by a long range free-kick from Raphinha. The skipper perhaps could have done better with the strike, especially as it bore a close resemblance to Dallas’s goal for the hosts at this venue last season.
Yet, within seconds of the resumption, the visitors pulled level. A long ball by Jonny Evans was flicked on by Boubakary Soumaré, and Harvey Barnes cut in from the left to find the net for the fourth successive game in which he has played against these opponents. Remarkably, it was the fourth time in recent weeks where the Foxes have scored within a minute of a restart.
As both sides continued to trade blows, Youri Tielemans twice came close to giving the visitors the lead, lifting one chance over the bar after being sent through by Ademola Lookman, and then drilling a shot just wide early in the second half.
But the Foxes’ continuing vulnerability at set pieces should have been punished shortly afterwards when Harrison, left unmarked at the far post at a corner, somehow managed to knock the ball over a gaping goal from close range.
Nevertheless, the home side built up a head of steam for a while, creating a series of chances which a more potent strikeforce might have made better use of.
Midway through the half, City thought they had struck a crucial blow when Vardy nodded a Tielemans corner for Lookman to fire home and spark wild celebrations among the travelling contingent. However, the visitors’ joy was curtailed when, following extensive deliberations, a VAR review ruled the Leipzig loanee offside.
Tielemans, enduring a frustrating afternoon, then saw another opportunity go begging with a needless extra touch which allowed home keeper Meslier to block his shot. The Belgian’s woes, and those of his team, deepened further when a calf injury forced him to leave the field.
With Lookman and Barnes also being withdrawn, in favour of more defensive replacements rather than strikers, the City boss made his limited ambitions clear.
His side were able to achieve the aim of preserving the point, although not without a couple of late scares. Sub Dan Amartey handled in his own box, prompting another referral to the VAR, but this time the ruling went City’s way, as contact was adjudged to be accidental. Then Raphinha nearly snatched a late winner with a 20-yard rocket which flew just over Schmeichel’s bar.
Once again, City players performed, both individually and collectively, at a level some distance below that they have regularly displayed during Rodgers’ time at the club. The fluency and rhythm that have been evident in so many impressive performances, especially away from home, continue to prove elusive during the current campaign. Could ongoing speculation on the future of key players, and indeed that of Rodgers himself, be affecting the squad’s morale?
It is to be hoped that the missing spark can be located during the international break, particularly given the number of crucial fixtures which loom during the weeks ahead.
Leeds (4-2-3-1): Meslier; Dallas, Llorente, Cooper, Struijk; Phillips, Forshaw (Cresswell 90); Raphinha, Rodrigo, Harrison (Roberts 83); James. Subs not used: Klaesson, Bate, Hjelde, Drameh, Summerville, McKinstry, Klich.
Goal: Raphinha (26).
Leicester (4-3-3): Schmeichel, Ricardo, Söyüncü, Evans, Castagne, Tielemans (Dewsbury-Hall 77), Ndidi, Soumaré, Lookman (Maddison 80), Vardy, Barnes (Amartey 70). Subs not used: Ward, Iheanacho, Pérez, Vestergaard, Daka, Thomas.
Goal: Barnes (28) Booked: Ndidi
Referee: Darren England (VAR Peter Bankes) Attendance: 36,478.
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