Leicester City 0 Man.City 1
Report by Tish Krokosz
There was a lot of talk before the start of the match regarding line-ups for both teams. Leicester’s defensive midfield regulars of Ndidi and Mendy were unavailable through injury and Choudhury was banned following the (rather harsh) brace of yellow cards the previous week at Wolves. Brendan Rodgers dealt with this dilemma by bringing Fuchs into a back three and keeping Chilwell and Pereira as wing backs who both added defensive cover when necessary.
The home fans had hoped that Pep Guardiola might keep some of his more influential players on the subs bench in readiness for the Champions League game against Real Madrid the following Wednesday. Instead, he paid the compliment of choosing his strongest line-up against us.
Although the current Premier champions showed their excellent skills straight from the start with crisp, accurate passing, the defensive formation of City (there’s only one City) was able to soak up much of the attacking prowess on display and it was pleasing to see that, despite the absence of any of the three regular defensive midfielders, there was enough grit and determination from the other team members to soak up that pressure.
Indeed, the first serious attempt on goal was from the home side in the 8th minute when Tielemans and Iheanacho combined to rob the ball off Laporte and the former curled a pass into the path of Vardy who only had the goalkeeper in front of him. Vardy shot past the approaching Ederson and the ball hit the left-hand post and agonizingly bounced back into play.
Both teams were showing willingness to put caution to the wind and the game flowed from end to end throughout the first half. De Bruyne was his usual influential self and had a couple of opportunities to score from distance. Gundogan should have done better when presented with an open goal from a deft Aguero flick but Schmeichel saved with his feet. Mahrez was generally muscled out or out-numbered by the City defence but he still managed to have a shot on target which was comfortably saved.
At the other end, whenever the home attack approached the visitors’ penalty area, there was no hesitation in upending each respective City player, usually Maddison, and there were a couple of opportunities for City to take the lead from the subsequent free-kicks.
The first one hit the Manchester City wall and deflected into the hands of Ederson. There was a weak cry of handball from the City players but any hint of VAR use was dismissed.
The second free kick was a better one from Maddison and this forced Ederson into a diving save at the right post giving away a corner. I feel that City had the advantage during the second quarter of the match and the home crowd were fully behind them and were in uproar when, in the 38th minute, Tielemans put a neat chip over the Man. City defence and saw Iheanacho clattered to the ground by a clumsy Ederson punch. Instead of seeing the VAR sign on the screens suggesting that the authorities would see this as a dangerous challenge, the home team were awarded a corner following a lengthy period of time during which the medical team were attending to Iheanacho’s injury.
This gave the away team some inspiration and they finished the first half stronger. Aguero put the ball in the net but was offside by a mile in the build up and, following an innocuous challenge by Praet, Mahrez sent his free kick well wide of the post.
The challenge on Iheanacho forced City to make a change at half time and Barnes came on for him to accompany Vardy in attack. The early signs were promising as there were a couple of attacks down the right wing that could have led to goals but the final touch was unforthcoming.
Meanwhile, the reigning champions continued to dictate most of the play in midfield and thought they would take the lead when the referee and VAR team gave the visitors a penalty after a Gundogan shot hit the arm of Praet, who had his back turned at the time. Technically, this was awarded as a result of a situation that was identical to the one in the first half when City were denied even the chance of a VAR review. The resulting penalty, taken by Aguero, was saved by Schmeichel and one thought that this would spur the home team into a more positive approach to their game.
Both teams still showed that they could get something out of the game but Man. City seemed to have more resilience and soon after a substitution that saw Jesus come on for a waning Aguero, the home fans were witness to the sort of play from Mahrez that they were dreading. Picking up the ball within his own half, he glided forward without any attempt from a City player to stop him. As he approached the home penalty area he slipped the ball to Jesus who slammed it past Schmeichel at the near post. The former Leicester winger should never have been allowed to make such a distance with the ball but by then the City midfield was showing signs of tiredness and there was a lack of understanding of how dangerous this run would become.
Following the goal, which was checked for offside by VAR, the team above us in the table showed their professionalism by playing out the match with the intention of keeping the ball and not allowing their opposition to have a chance to equalize.
The fans had hoped that City would be able to hang on for a point, but Pep’s substitution at the end proved to be the decisive factor. There is no telling if a fit Ndidi would have been able to stop that Mahrez run that led to the goal and, similarly, whether VAR decisions in our favour would have led to an earlier lead.
In my report of the first match of the season against Wolves I suggested that the VAR decisions would even themselves out during the campaign. I still believe this but it is clear that, whenever a decision goes against you, one feels that you never win.
I feel strongly that the challenge on Iheanacho at the end of the first half should have warranted not only a VAR review but a subsequent red card for the goalkeeper. What right do they have to make dangerous challenges when any other player on the field would be sent off for an equivalent misdemeanour?
Leicester: Schmeichel, Pereira, Evans, Söyüncü, Fuchs (Perez 90+2), Chilwell, Praet (James 84), Tielemans, Maddison, Iheanacho (Barnes 46 H-T), Vardy. Subs not used: Ward, Morgan, Justin, Albrighton.
Man. City: Ederson, Walker, Fernandinho, Laporte (Otamendi 58), Mendy, Rodri, Gundogan, De Bruyne, Mahrez, Aguero (Jesus 77), Bernardo Silva. Subs. Not used: Bravo, Stones, Cancelo, David Silva, Foden.
Referee: P. Tierney Attendance: 32,068
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