Spartak Moscow 3 Foxes 4
Match Report by Graham Tracey
As if coming from behind for a rousing 4-2 at home on Saturday wasn’t entertaining enough, our players dialled up the excitement to maximum by coming from two down to win 4-3 amid snow flurries to cap a European campaign-saving victory in Moscow. I’ve never had to take time off work to watch a Leicester game on telly before, but if we played this well every time then I’d happily use up my entire annual leave!
The match would have lived long in the memory even if we had four different goal scorers. As it was, Patson Daka bagged all four. I couldn’t remember anyone else scoring four for us in the 40 years since I first went to Filbert Street – but I was gobsmacked to learn it was the first such feat since 1958.
The likeable Zambian declared afterwards “there is nothing to hate about Leicester” – music to our ears as he showed exactly why our talent spotters believed he is the next generation Vardy. Indeed his lethal finishing – including 3 one-on-ones – stirred memories of so many JV goals in our title season.
The first piece of good news was that all our paperwork was in order and everyone was let into the country. The second was that Rodgers went strong, as he had to after the debacle of losing to such weak opposition in Warsaw. It was a relief to see Jonny Evans fit to play back-to-back games, and good to see Luke Thomas back in the thick of it.
We nearly repeated our goal from kick-off trick from Saturday, forcing a corner that was nearly converted. In an open start to the game, we created half a dozen openings in the first quarter of an hour, Maddison and Tielemans forcing saves. However, Spartak showed they could break with purpose, and took a 12th minute lead when a weak shot diverted off Soumare and crept in at the near post.
Despite the bad luck, it was still poor on our part to stand off and increase the risk of a deflection. There was no immediate cause for concern, as Madders was pulling the strings to back up his weekend return to form, and we looked dangerous at set pieces. Daka had a couple of sights of goal but couldn’t find the composure on these occasions.
Disaster struck shortly before the interval, when Soyuncu (who otherwise proved Rodgers’ assertion that Evans improves those around him with a no nonsense performance) dithered on the touchline, and once robbed of the ball Spartak swiftly crossed low for a smart finish. The sort of goal that fans think should never be conceded, but which modern managers seem to accept as a price worth paying for playing out from the back.
At this point, our hopes of even securing second place in the group seemed slim. However, a monumental lifeline was immediately granted with virtually the last kick of the half, as Daka was played through by a clever Iheanacho chip to finish to a classic ‘away goal hush’.
It was difficult to know what the second half would hold, and I braced myself to stay calm and patient. However, within minutes Thomas superbly slid in Iheanacho, and the senior man squared for Daka to tap home. We were absolutely dominant now, and our small band of intrepid travelling fans were rewarded when Tielemans played through Daka with ease, who stroked home with his left foot. As ever, Iheanacho was a joy to watch with his control and selfless play. It is amazing to recall how hapless his early seasons were, given how technically gifted and intelligent his play now is.
The fourth goal was a carbon copy of the third, this time Maddison playing through Daka for possibly his best finish. While we held on to win, there were some late concerns:
1) Tielemans took himself off, seemingly worried about incurring a muscle injury.
2) Giving Evans a rest when we’re two up is clearly not enough of a cushion, because as soon as Vestergard came on Spartak dissected us for a third to prompt a nervous last few minutes.
3) There was a sour end when a Spartak player was disgracefully not sent off for a leg-breaking attempt on Albrighton.
With home games coming up against the weaker two teams of Spartak and Legia, our destiny is back in our own hands. This formation has led to us finding our feet – tough though it is to leave Barnes (and Lookman) on the bench, it shows our options and strength in depth. To win two key matches without Ndidi also demands praise for Soumare – indeed the match shows our recruitment team have found two more diamonds.
What a difference five days makes – with the domestic league table still congested we will fancy ourselves to leapfrog a few teams if we can keep our shooting boots on (and improve the defending).
FOXES: Schmeichel 6, Ricardo 5, Amartey 6, Soyuncu 7, Evans 7, Thomas 7, Soumare 8, Tielemans 8, Maddison 8, Iheanacho 8, Daka 10. Subs: Albrighton, Choudhury, Bertrand, Vestergard.
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