LEICESTER CITY 4 WATFORD 2
Match Report by Paul Weston
It was a day for thermals at the King Power as temperatures dropped and fans returned in optimistic spirits after the victory against Legia Warsaw. Perhaps the Foxes’ form was starting to return after what had been an underwhelming start to the season?
Evans was back after his late injury withdrawal mid-week. This resulted in Amartey missing out, despite his solid display against Warsaw. Up front Jamie Vardy returned in place of Daka. In all other respects Rodgers selected the same team that had beaten Warsaw.
Claudio Ranieri was back as manager of Watford. He was given a wonderful welcome by the City fans both before and during the match which was well deserved. He will always have a place in City’s history and will be fondly remembered by all City fans.
City started on the front foot and pressed the Watford defence, with Vardy and Barnes looking lively. At the same time Watford looked impressively fast on the break and were certainly not coming for a draw. Although City had the bulk of possession without creating many chances it was quite a surprise when Maddison scored in the 16th minute.
City had already played more long balls than normal and Evans launched one towards the centre of Watford’s defence. Ekong helpfully ducked underneath the ball, unaware that Maddison was lurking behind, who struck the ball cleanly across the goalie inside the post to give the Foxes the lead.
During this period Watford had a heavily deflected shot rebound off the inside of the post and across the goal line when Schmeichel could then safely gather the ball. Perhaps Lady Luck was on City’s side after all?
However, just when City were getting on top, they threw away the advantage with yet another silly defensive error which is becoming a habit. Ndidi caught Dennis’ leg in the penalty area for a clear and clumsy penalty despite the VAR check. Although Schmeichel dived the correct way King’s penalty was too high and strong and Watford were level.
Maddison was getting some space during the first half and was looking more like his old self, with the assurance of Soumare and N’Didi providing defensive cover in midfield. After a few balls threaded through failed to find their target he twisted and jinked a pass through to the predatory Vardy on the left. Jamie was on the ball in a flash and superbly flicked the ball past the goalie and over the despairing leg of the defender on the line. It was a trademark Vardy goal and it was good to see him back on the goal trail again.
Shortly after Vardy scored again with a superb near post header from a well flighted Maddison corner. Suddenly City were 3-1 up and it was just like old times as the Maddision/Vardy combination was starting to click again which was especially needed in the absence of Tielemans due to injury.
During the first half the snow had started to swirl down. There was the bizarre sight of the sprinklers turned on during half time. One wondered whether this was a cunning plan to transform the pitch into a skating rink.
The snow continued to fall heavily as the second half started, Maddison and Vardy continued to look lively and it became clear that different tactics would have to be employed. Unfortunately this point was not grasped by Castagne who twice dallied on the ball and was caught in possession. City got away with the first chance, but on the second occasion, despite claims for a foul rebuffed by VAR, Dennis stole the ball and calmly chipped past Schmeichel. 3-2 and yet again City had contrived to allow Watford back into the match.
The match continued to ebb and flow and City started to play the long ball into the channels to avoid problems in the snow and make use of our pacey forwards. Schmeichel thankfully decided to kick long most of the time, avoiding the anxiety of Watford pushing our defenders into mistakes.
There was a brief interlude when the ref requested that the snow be cleared from the pitch markings which allowed the players and fans to draw breath in a fascinating match.
Castagne then made up for his error with a great tackle in midfield. In a flash the ball was with Barnes who flicked it across the goal for Lookman to score from about 3 feet. It was a fast, slick move that we used to see so often with City but for some reason had become a forgotten tactic. Vardy looked keen for a hat trick and was extremely close with a shot that the goalie palmed around the post.
Late on Maddison and Lookman were subbed by Albrighton and Dewsbury-Hall to provide added energy as the players slogged through the snow. After 7 minutes of extra time the match ended 4-2 with City worthy winners in the end but with Watford opponents who had contributed much to a fascinating match. If only their defence was as good as their forwards the result would have been closer. It was never a comfortable victory until late in the second half.
It would be churlish to dwell too much on the negative part of City’s display such as our defensive errors which continue to help our opponents into the game, Soumare’s lack of speed of thought and the ease in which teams can still burst through our midfield.
Instead it was good to see our season bursting into life at long last and form and confidence returning to Maddison at last. Thomas had an excellent game and Jamie Vardy was at his very best. The worse the conditions became the more he seemed to relish the challenge.
Two tricky away games now come thick and fast and it will be fascinating to see whether this momentum can be maintained as Rodgers no doubt may have to juggle the team selections. It would be a great Christmas present for fans if City could continue a climb up the top half of the Premier table.
Leicester: Kasper Schmeichel, Timothy Castagne, Jonny Evans, Caglar Soyuncu, Luke Thomas: Boubakary Soumare, Wilfred Ndidi: Ademola Lookman (Marc Albrighton 75)., James Maddison (Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall 88), Harvey Barnes: Jamie Vardy. Subs (not used): Danny Ward, Kelechi Iheanacho, Ayoze Perez, Daniel Amartey, Hamza Choudhury, Jannik Vestergaard, Patson Daka.
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