City 0 Arsenal 2
Report by Colin Hall
Leicester City’s involvement in the 2020-21 Carabao Cup lasted for just one match, as a Christian Fuchs own goal and a late strike by Eddie Nketiah saw visitors Arsenal claim a 2-0 victory.
Despite the absence of FOURTEEN members of the first-team squad for various reasons, the makeshift Foxes line-up competed well for most of the game, but were ultimately forced to succumb to sharper and hungrier opponents.
With the focus firmly on the weekend’s challenging league clash away to Manchester City, Brendan Rodgers changed his entire starting eleven from the team that had won the season’s first-team games.
Academy product Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall was given a full debut in midfield, while defender Daniel Amartey started his first competitive first-team match since his serious injury on THAT fateful evening in October 2018.
Meanwhile, hopes that Gunners manager Mikel Arteta would view the tie, as some of his predecessors may have done, as an opportunity to blood a host of young players, proved unfounded.
Although his side was some way short of full-strength, it was still led by a Champions League winner and featured several other stars from last season’s successful FA Cup run.
Both sides signalled their attacking instincts early on, with Kelechi Iheanacho firing narrowly wide from long range and Danny Ward forced to turn a drive from Reiss Nelson onto the bar.
The high tempo continued for the rest of the half, with Arsenal having loud claims for a penalty refused following a clash between Amartey and Bukary Saka.
However, it was City who came closest to breaking the deadlock when James Maddison, finally asserting himself after a low-key start, produced an exquisite chip which left Bernd Leno stranded, but rebounded from the far post.
After the interval, with the game now being played in a heavy downpour, the England midfielder bore down on the Arsenal goal again, only to send his effort wastefully high and wide,
This incident provided the impetus for the visitors to step up their pace, with Pepe proving a particular threat to the City defence.
His efforts soon brought due reward, albeit somewhat fortuitously. After his close-range attempts were blocked by Ward and the woodwork, the ball eventually found the net via a ricochet from Fuchs, who was unable to evade its path.
It was some time before City were able to recover from this blow, and only the emergence of Perez and Praet from the bench, to replace Dewsbury-Hall and the tiring Maddison, rekindled any attacking threats.
But the Spaniard, currently enduring an eight-month goal drought, spurned a glorious opportunity to put City level, heading wide from just five yards after an excellent free-kick by Marc Albrighton.
Instead, the Gunners were able to add extra gloss to the scoreline in the closing stages, as Nketiah exploited a tiring City defence to net from point-blank range and thus partially banish memories of his game-turning dismissal in last season’s league clash.
Although cup exits are not pleasant (and nor should they ever be), this one is unlikely to be excessively bemoaned among the City fanbase. As we discovered last season, this squad is not capable of coping with the league’s two top teams in quick succession, especially after the post-match revelation that Wilfred Ndidi could be out of action for the rest of the year with an injury sustained in the Burnley game.
The ability of the side to compete on two fronts in his absence may hold the key to the outcome of our whole season.
City (3-4-2-1): Ward; Amartey, Morgan, Fuchs; Albrighton, Choudhury, Dewsbury-Hall (Perez 76), Thomas; Maddison (Praet 72), Gray; Iheanacho. Subs not used: Jakupovic, Justin, Knight, Tielemans, Barnes.
Arsenal (3-4-3): Leno; Holding, David Luiz, Kolasinac; Maitland-Niles, Elneny, Willock (Ceballos 78), Saka (Bellerin 87); Pepe, Nketiah, Nelson (Willian 72). Subs not used: Runarsson, Saliba, Xhaka, Lacazette.
Goals: Fuchs (og) 57, Nketiah 90.
Referee: Peter Bankes
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