I quote from a Brighton fan while in the interminable queue for a train after the match.
Unlike some reports, I thought City started brightly and they apparently had two-thirds of possession – but, as we know, that is a pretty meaningless statistic. The majority of the play in the first half was at the end farthest from the Leicester supporters, so it was difficult to see exactly how the game panned out.
The first controversial decision came against the run of play, when Vestergaard was adjudged to have handled the ball in the 34th minute. The referee signalled for a corner but the linesman obviously alerted him that he should award a penalty. This was bizarre, as the referee was much closer to the action, and subsequent television coverage showed that Maupay was hanging onto his left arm, stopping him from jumping.
I thought referees had been instructed to stop all the argy-bargy in the box but there is precious little evidence of it. The correct decision would have been a free kick to Leicester but Maupay sent Schmeichel the wrong way and we were chasing the game.
A second Brighton goal came soon after the restart when Welbeck scored a good goal with his head. This seemed to galvanise Leicester, and the rest of the play was practically one-way traffic.
Lookman had replaced the ineffective Maddison for the second half and made an immediate impact; some fans gave him the man of the match for his half a game. In the 61st minute, a slick passing move saw Vardy score his 150th goal for the club but sadly that was as good as it got.
To misquote Oscar Wilde, to have one goal disallowed is a misfortune, to have two disallowed is beyond belief. From our position behind the goal, it was difficult to see why either was chalked off, but I agree with Rodgers that Barnes might have unsighted the keeper for the first one, but certainly not for the second. Lookman thought he had scored in the 66th minute and Ndidi in the 85th. The latter was booked again, along with two Brighton players, one of whom was Sanchez for persistent time wasting.
So, it was some very unhappy Leicester fans who faced a long journey home and, for those of us on the train, more frustration when there was a problem with the line. But Brighton hadn’t beaten us since 2014 and I will give them that one in exchange for knocking them out of the FA Cup last season!
Nobody had a particularly bad game, apart from Maddison whose form seems to have completely deserted him, and two of the new boys – Soumare and Lookman – made a good case for starting other games.
The general view was that the Europa League draw had placed Leicester in the strongest Group and that Napoli would be their toughest challenge. On the basis of tonight’s match, the second statement looks to be true – Napoli looked a good side and City were probably fortunate to come away with a point despite losing a two goal lead.
Approaching the match felt a little strange. Whilst City were in the same tournament last season, the absence of fans meant it far harder to build any emotional connection with the Europa League. The ubiquity of the Champions League means that its rituals are well-known, those of its junior partner far less so. Walking to the match we were discussing, for example, “can you remember what the Europa League theme music sounds like?” (Answer: a sort of low-key spaghetti western background tune). “Would we recognise the match officials?” (Answer: no … see more below).
Still, it was a proper European night at the King Power Stadium … no … thanks to UEFA branding rules, make that the ‘Leicester City Stadium’ … with a near full-house and a few hundred fans from Napoli, too. There were shiny flags to wave when the teams entered the pitch. There were flame-throwing machines performing for ten-minutes before kick-off. There was a new European training kit to be worn.
There was also, 10-minutes before kick-off, a UEFA’s cartoon-styled explanatory video about how VAR is used. Whilst it said nothing new, it was at least an attempt at communication and transparency. I think the Premier League should do the same.
Last season, City’s squad seemed not to be strong enough to sustain a serious challenge in three competitions. Rodgers was clearly keen to show the strength of his squad for this year, and gave starts to Soumaré and Daka, together with Iheanacho and Perez. He also picked Evans and Vestergaard in central defence. It was a line-up with an attacking feel.
The game started with both teams taking the knee. The loudness of the clap-banners drowned any of the unfortunate boos which have been heard from a tiny minority of City fans at this season’s games, home and away.
The match was lively from the kick-off. Schmeichel made a save as early as the third minute, but City were making chances too. In the sixth minute, half of the stadium (including me) thought Barnes had scored when he steered the ball just wide from close range. A few minutes later, City did score. Smart interplay gave Barnes a crossing opportunity, his cross looked long and loopy, but proved to be perfect for Perez to reach at the far post and volley home firmly – a really well-taken goal.
The rest of the first half showed Napoli having a good attacking threat, but some poor finishing. Osimhen looked a particular handful, very fast and direct. When the visitors did manage a shot on target, Schmeichel was in good form and there were a couple of times, notably towards the end of the half, when there were last-ditch blocks and goal-line scrambles by City defenders. City were able to hold possession in midfield but created few real opportunities and the half finished at one-nil.
The referee – Tiago Martins – was clearly trying to follow the new ‘let it flow’ UEFA directive, but somehow this resulted in some curious incidents ‘flowing’ whilst others were penalised – often with yellow cards – which might have been forgiven by another referee. One of these was a booking for Ndidi in the 20th minute for what was, at worst, a marginally late challenge. My own observation was that the ref was not showing either team any bias – although in true live football-style the home fans were chanting otherwise – it was more that after watching the Euro 2020 tournament and early Premier League fixtures, it has been a pleasant surprise to see how consistent refereeing has generally been handled. Tonight’s ref was just rather inconsistent.
Rodgers made two changes at half-time. Söyüncü came on for Evans – at the time it was unclear whether that was to add a bit more pace to counter Osimhen who had easily outsprinted all of City’s back-line, but after the match it was clear that this was, in fact, due to an Evans injury. Tielemans came on to replace Perez. Perez is the City regular who has yet to win fans over, but in his 45-minutes in this match he was one of the better players. He challenged well and took his goal with great skill.
Napoli had clearly had a good half-time discussion: they were sharper and faster in the second half, pressing more and winning most things in midfield. City did not really up their game, and slowly began to lapse more and more into this season’s habit of conceding pressure too easily – be it through passes mis-hit just a little, or clearances from Schmeichel that just missed their mark. To use the cliché, there are fine margins at this standard of football and too often City’s play in possession was not fine enough.
Soumaré does, however, look like a class act. He was calm passing forward or back and had a few tricks, too. One of these, just before the hour mark, led to some intricate passing into the Napoli box and Daka slamming home a great finish. The stadium erupted, the teams lined up for the kick-off and … VAR! Daka had been marginally offside when he received the ball, so no goal. As in the first half, however, the disappointment lasted only a few minutes before City did score a valid goal.
On two or three occasions, Iheanacho had driven forwards with the ball, but was slow to decide whether to pass or go for goal and wasted the opportunity. This time he was decisive, releasing a pass for Barnes to run on to. Barnes squared up to his defender, who clearly expected him to cut inside to shoot, instead the Leicester winger cut outside and fired a shot across the goal and inside the far post. Two-nil to Leicester! The goal was against the run of play, but none of the home fans cared about that.
Going two behind galvanised Napoli, and City never really got to grips with them. Within five minutes, Osimhen had flicked the ball over the City defence and finished well to make it two-one.
Rodgers replaced Daka with Lookman. Daka is clearly very quick – a couple of his sprints after long balls looked even faster than Vardy – and took the disallowed goal chance well, but he did not get too much opportunity to show his skills this evening.
A little later Rodgers replaced Soumaré with Maddison. On the basis of this seventy minutes, Soumaré is knocking on the door of regular selection and if that means that Maddison needs to up his game to get back to his previous levels, that would be no bad thing.
The final twenty minutes felt rather too much like a lot of City’s season so far: a goal up and looking like they were going to concede at any moment. That was the feeling against Wolves and Norwich. The difference this time was, again, fine margins. Wolves and Norwich wasted many opportunities with no result, Napoli wasted many opportunities, but found the goal when it mattered. With three minutes of regular time to go, Osimhen (yes, him again) leaped high in the box to head in a right-wing cross and equalize.
Immediately, Vardy replaced Iheanacho, but there was too little time for the City talisman to have any real effect. Indeed, a couple of minutes later, Napoli squandered another opportunity with a free header from a free kick.
Well into added time, Ndidi was sent off for a second yellow card. The two yellows were each on the harsh side, and thankfully it had no impact on the match result.
Both sides came close to creating that one last decisive chance, but it was not to be and the game ended a draw. City will feel disappointed that they let a two-goal lead slip, Napoli will feel they had more and better chances and should have won. Objectively, it was a cracking European cup tie!
Not to be dwelt on but to be noted, was the skirmishing between a minority of fans which took places after the final whistle (indeed largely after the teams had left the field) with objects being thrown and twelve arrests made. Let us hope that is a one-off and not a regular part of the Europa League experience.
My final observation: have Leicester ever won a game at home which began with pyrotechnics pre-kick-off? I’m happy to be proved wrong, but am struggling to think of one!
Directions By Road SAT NAV: BN1 9BL (or try BN1 9SD if you have problems)
The stadium is located at Falmer on the outskirts of Brighton, very close to the University of Sussex.
At the end of the M23, continue onto the A23, heading towards Brighton. At the roundabout which is the junction with the A27, take the A27 towards Lewes. After around four miles you will see the stadium on your right hand side. Leave at the A27 and take the slip road sign posted Falmer (B2123). At the top of the slip road turn right crossing back over the A27 and the entrance to the stadium is down on the right.
There is some parking at the stadium for away fans providing that they have been pre-booked with the Club, parking cost £15. There is a large no parking zone in force around the area of the stadium on matchdays.
Park & Ride The Club are encouraging fans to use the Park & Ride services located at three different locations; Mill Road, Brighton Racecourse and Mithras House at Brighton University.
Probably the easiest for away fans to locate is Mill Road, as it is just off the A23/A27 junction. However, this is by far the busiest of the three, so if you have time on your hands consider using one of the other alternatives. The capacity of Mill Road is 500 cars. The road is located next to a BP garage, which (if coming down from London) you will see over on your right at the top of the slip road off the A23.
The Park & Ride is open from 12 noon on Saturdays (with last departure at 2.30pm) and 5.30pm for evening kick offs. The last buses return from the stadium 90 minutes after the end of the game. Please note that vehicles must removed no later than two hours after the game has ended.
Approx 163 miles, 3 hour travelling
The nearest railway station is Falmer, which is situated right by the stadium. Brighton Central Railway Station is over four miles away from the stadium. So either get a train, taxi or bus up to the stadium. Brighton & Hove Bus No 25 operates a regular service (every 12 minutes) up to the stadium from Central Brighton, as do Bus Numbers 28 & 29. However be aware that trains back can be extremely crowded and you may need to wait a long while.
Train takes approx 3hours 30 mins . Super Off Peak return £93.50 but singles may be cheaper. There may be bus replacement service on part of the journey please check
There is little in the immediate vicinity around the stadium Outside Brighton Mainline Station there are a number of excellent pubs. The Evening Star, on Surrey Street is away fan friendly and only two a minute walk away from the station. If arriving at the Mill Road Park & Ride then a little further on down London Road (A23) on the left is the Black Lion pub which is a Harvester outlet.
Please check the cost and times of trains etc. All information is provided in good faith but the Foxes Trust cannot be held responsible for any errors. With thanks to Brighton and Hove Albion FC and the Football Ground Guide
As someone who played football when it was still banned, I have been delighted with the new emphasis on the women’s game and the publicity it is getting. I have also been impressed with the way Leicester City have embraced its women’s team and given them tremendous support.
Winning the Championship last season was a great achievement but this match, along with last Saturday’s, demonstrated that there is a large gulf between the top two tiers and, although it is early days, Leicester look like it is going to be a difficult season. There was a sizeable crowd – given as 4,473 – with a lot of young children and women. One difference between this game and the Premier League is that there were three Manchester United supporters sitting near me!
City were under the cosh from the first minute and Levell in goal was by far the busiest keeper. It was no surprise when Manchester scored in the 36th minute with an absolute screamer that the keeper had no chance of stopping.
As early as the 15th minute Turner of Manchester had to be carried off on a stretcher with her right leg strapped, but it did not seem to put the team off their stride. City were lucky only to be one down at half-time but Manchester scored a second very soon after the restart.
Despite their dominance, Leicester continued to press and were unlucky when a goal-bound shot was saved by the Manchester keeper, when it looked as if City would break the deadlock. They did get a goal in the 61st minute from Abbie McManus, who poked the ball over the line and, although the Manchester players hooked it back out, the referee indicated that it was a goal.
Sadly, this was as good as it got. Manchester scored a third in the 71st minute and I lost count of how many times they hit the goalposts. According to the stats, Manchester had 33 shots, of which ten were on target, compared with City’s ten shots and three on target. But credit to the team, they never gave up and hopefully they will have more successful days in future.
It was great to be back at the King Power after the international break but I admit that I was looking forward to the match against Man City’s millionaires with more than a little trepidation. City had made a stuttering start to the season and I felt that all our players had to be fit and on form to have a chance.
Before the match we visited the remembrance garden to put it all in perspective. How proud our Chairman would have been of our FA Cup Final victory. We looked forward to the emerging and exciting plans for the expansion of the stadium and its surroundings and thought back to how things have progressed since our days at Filbert Street.
The report on the injury front was improved, although Fofana’s and Justin’s continued absence are a huge miss. I hope that we will never invite Villareal for a “friendly” match again.
Vestergaard was brought back into defence after injury hopefully to provide some calm assurance alongside Soyuncu. Bertrand was brought into the left back slot after recovering from Covid and the masked Castagne was on the right, with Ricardo thankfully on the way back and on the substitutes bench, as was Evans and our new loan signing Lookman.
Rodgers had said before the match that, when you play Manchester City, you have to be prepared for less possession of the ball. Well that certainly happened. City had 39% possession and at times you wondered when Man City would let us back into the game such was their domination.
Rodgers said that, when you do have the ball, you have to make good use of it. As the match progressed this proved to be City’s failing all too often as passing went awry at key moments when they had broken through Man City’s lines. When City did break through Man City players were not shy to make a cynical foul. Rodgers also said that need some luck.
City certainly had some luck in the first half as shots rained down on Schmeichel from all angles. Schmeichel made superb saves from Jesus, Silva and Gundogan and Vestergaard was a tower of strength with many last ditch blocks. City though had a great chance early in the game when Ederson saved from Barnes and then Ndidi after a great move started by Albrighton and Vardy. It was a breathtaking first half and it was hard to believe that the score had stayed at 0-0.
City started the second half well and Barnes should have scored with a header when set up by Vardy but hit the top of the bar instead. Vardy scored with a trademark “goal” from a pass from Ndidi but it was judged offside and not deemed suitable for a VAR review. These proved to be City’s best chances as Man City turned the screw and kept the ball. As in the first half City’s midfield was often bypassed and the ball transferred to the wings where Silva and Grealish in particular could create havoc.
Vestergaard was replaced by Evans mid way through the second half after a really strong performance. Sadly soon afterwards Man City scored, slightly fortuitously, when Torres’ shot rebounded off Soyuncu as he blocked it and Silva scored from the rebound. City’s defence had been breached and for a while it looked like the energy had gone from the team. The City crowd also became muted.
Rodgers then brought on Iheanacho and Lookman for the anonymous Maddison and disappointing Barnes. Both players made an immediate impact. Iheanacho shielding the ball well and connecting play better. Lookman was full of energy and had a shot blocked by Ederson with his first touch when he might have chipped over the goalie instead.
City huffed and puffed right to the end but Man City could have made the score more emphatic close to the end through Fernandinho and Grealish.
The end of the match felt like an anti-climax. You could not begrudge Man City their win but you still had the nagging feeling that, if City had played to their full potential, they could have gained a worthy draw if they had taken one of their few chances. If that had happened then Rodgers mantra of “staying in the game” would have worked.
There will be many things for Rodgers to ponder over after this performance. Maddison is currently a shadow of the player he used to be and Dewsbury-Hall is waiting in the wings and should get his chance. Barnes seems to have lost confidence after his injury and Walker had him under control for most of the match. Tielemans was often crowded out with little support. Schmeichel made some superb saves but his distribution was abysmal at times and could easily have led to a goal. Iheanacho looked confident as soon as he came on and immediately provided a foil for Vardy. Albrighton tried manfully as always but ran out of steam.
The Europa League match against Napoli is a tough fixture but gives Rodgers the chance to refresh the team with some of the new signings and also to provide the City fans with some much needed cheer and hope for the forthcoming season.
As the so called Top Four continue to splash ridiculous amounts of cash on players it makes City’s winning the Premiership title in 2015/16 even more incredible. I wonder what our next Home League match is – oh no – it’s Manchester United and the Ronaldo show!!