City’s Super Seven

Leicester City 3-1 Liverpool

Report by Chris Grifin

Seven sublime minutes starting in the 78th minute saw City score three goals and take the points after falling a goal behind. Liverpool had enjoyed most possession and often pressed high into City’s defensive third but the City defence remained resolute save for a Salah goal in the 67th minute. Fortunately, City’s determination did not shrink and they hit back with goals from Maddison, Vardy and a superb finish by Barnes.

On an icily cold afternoon Amartey came in at right back for the sadly injured Justin. Good luck for the recovery James. Ricardo switched to left back. Albrighton came in to play right-side midfield. Vardy returned up front.

Liverpool dominated the opening fifteen minutes. Pressing high up the pitch, passing the ball rapidly and providing plenty of movement into gaps it seemed that the City defence would have its work cut out to stop the visitors scoring. But City stepped up to the plate and put in a superb defensive performance. Soyuncu was prominent, frequently heading away crosses from open and set plays. He was well backed up by Ndidi and Amartey. For the first game this season City looked unruffled defending corners.

Mane threatened in pursuit of one through pass but Soyuncu dealt calmy and effectively with the situation. Henderson swept a good ball out to Salah but he shot wide under Ricardo pressure. Amartey had to concede a corner then Soyuncu followed suit. The ball fell to Salah but he shot wide.

At the other end Barnes put Vardy through. The striker lobbed Alisson from a tight angle but the ball landed on the roof of the net. Barnes had a fleeting chance to shoot in the Liverpool box but delayed and Liverpool countered working the ball to Salah whose fast cross was cleared by Amartey. Then Ricardo conceded a corner with Salah bearing down on goal. Ndidi headed the corner clear to Maddison who was fouled by Jones earning the Liverpool man a yellow card. Then another sweeping move led to Schmeichel blocking Firmino’s effort. Schmeichel then made an incredible one-handed save from a close range Firmino effort. Offside was given for earlier in the move but that did not diminish the excellence of Kasper’s save.

A rare City attack saw Maddison earn a corner. Ndidi met the resultant cross but headed wide. City were having little possession and struggling to hang onto the possession they did have. But gradually they secured a foothold with a Vardy header forcing an Alisson save then Vardy crashed a shot against the bar having been put through by a neat Maddison flick.

On the brink of half time Evans brought down Mane on the edge of the City area and was yellow carded. He also seemed to have hurt himself in the challenge. Trent-Arnold’s effort was blocked by a strong city wall. Then Vardy bore down on goal again only to be thwarted by an excellent Alisson save.

Half time arrived, no goals and City still very much in the game despite having to do a lot of defensive hard graft.

City were more aggressive at the start of the second half. They began to make use of longer passes to bypass the Liverpool press and get behind the high line of Liverpool’s defence. Barnes was fouled outside the Liverpool area but Maddison’s free kick ran through tamely to Alisson. Then Robertson brought down Maddison in a similar spot but again Alisson reached the ball at the feet of the on-rushing Tielemans. Liverpool countered but Robertson’s shot missed the target. City had good fortune when a Trent -Arnold freekick just outside the City area deflected onto the crossbar via Vardy’s head.

As the half continued it seemed that City’s earlier aggression was waning. Players were struggling to hold onto the ball with passing that was too slow and inviting pressure. Trent-Arnold played a good through pass following one example of City losing possession in midfield but the defence coped well with the resulting corner.

It was not a surprise when Liverpool scored in the 67th minute through a neat left foot shot from Salah into the far corner following good work by Trent-Arnold and Firmino.

This triggered a City response with Barnes winning a free kick from Liverpool debutant Kabak who was promptly given a yellow card. But again, Maddison’s free kick went too easily to Alisson. Perez came on for Albrighton. Ricardo went on a superb run, won a corner but Maddison’s effort was overhit and sailed over Soyuncu at the far post.

City pressed for a goal. In the 78th minute Barnes surged towards the penalty area and was brought down by Thiago. Emphatically referee Taylor awarded a penalty but VAR decided the foul took place outside the area. Maddison’s low free kick evaded everyone and nestled in the Liverpool net. Confusion returned: the linesman had flagged Amartey offside but VAR decided that Firmino was playing him onside so the goal stood.

City’s hard work had helped them both stay in the game and then level it. But not even the most optimistic City fan would have predicted what happened in the 81st minute. On the halfway line near the touchline Tielemans swung a long pass leftwards towards Barnes. Before it reached him Alisson came yards out of his area to clear but collided with centre back Kabak who was running back to his own goal. Alisson’s attempted clearance kindly sent the ball to Vardy lurking just outside the D. The striker coolly dribbled the ball into the welcoming and inviting empty goal then gave a fun celebration when he played air guitar on the corner flag.

Lucky goal? Maybe, but let’s credit Vardy with being in the right place at the right time to take advantage. That was Vardy’s 40th goal against the “Big Six”. He really is a star. City kept pressing forward seeking a third. Alisson parried a good shot from Barnes. The ball fell to Vardy whose close-range shot was well hit but Alisson saved again.

City looked the more likely team to score again and sure enough the goal came. In the 85th minute Salah played a careless ball across the centre line. Tielemans intercepted and fed Ndidi who immediately switched the ball forward to the rampaging Barnes in the inside left position. The winger ran hard at the Liverpool defenders, left them standing and calmly picked his spot to curl a right foot shot past Alisson into the far corner: classy finish.

The game was over bar the shouting although Perez went down injured and is hopefully not adding to City’s formidable injury list. Mendy replaced him.

Brendan Rodgers summed up City very well. “The players deserved it. We didn’t sink when we went a goal behind. We stayed calm and the players were brilliant in that period – a real collective team performance.” And he’s right. Every player fulfilled his role: outstanding.

All good – if only the fans could’ve been there.

Leicester City: Schmeichel; Amartey; Evans; Soyuncu; Ricardo; Albrighton (Perez then Mendy); Tielemans (Choudhury) ; Ndidi; Barnes; Maddison; Vardy

Liverpool: Alisson; Trent-Arnold; Henderson; Kabak; Robertson; Milner (Thiago); Wijnaldum (Shaqiri); Jones (Oxlade-Chamberlain); Salah; Firmino; Mane.

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

The Late Show

Leicester City 1 v 0 Brighton & Hove Albion, FA Cup 5th Round

Let us start with a significant outcome from this match.  Apparently, this is the first time that City have made it through to the Quarter Finals of the FA Cup in successive years since 1968/69, and we all know what happened that season.

The game, sadly, had nothing in it of similar historic interest.  Both managers made seven changes to their line-ups, and the result was a disjointed, frankly dull affair from start to just-about finish.

From Leicester’s point of view, seeing Vardy and Ndidi in the starting line-up was encouraging, although Brendan Rodgers was explicit in his pre-match interview that he intended only 60-minutes’ play from each of them.  Justin – more of him later – started on the left of a back three with Amartey and Söyüncü.  And there was a first start for right wing-back Daley-Campbell and also a start for Thomas.

Mike Dean refereed, immediately following the reported death threats and controversy around his two recent matches.  The death threats – indeed pretty much all social media sniping at referees – is completely inappropriate.  This match, however, had nothing of controversy – in fact very few decisions for the referee to make at all.

I wrote nothing at all in my notebook for the first fifteen minutes; City had more of the ball but nothing constructive occurred.  In that fifteenth minute, Brighton won their first corner and – as so often this season – City looked panicky in defending it; but defend it they did.  By my reckoning, the first foul of the match did not occur until a minute later – there was neither fluidity by the team with the ball, nor bite from the team without it.

City won a couple of corners.  Both were badly played in by Tielemans and both led to chances for breakaway attacks by Brighton, but City defended them.  In the entire first half Brighton managed a couple of poor long-range shots on goal and Leicester just one – high and wide and not very handsome from Tielemans.  City’s performance was summed up when they finally managed a trademark three-on-three break.  Despite the usually reliable Perez/Vardy/Ünder combination being in the break, it simply petered out.  City generally looked a bit slower than usual, and there was little connection between the midfield and the attack.  Even the usually irrepressible Ünder was quiet.

The lack of significant events to record meant that when Pérez was booked a minute before half-time, for a slip which resulted in a late challenge – I actually noted that it was the third time he had slipped over.  When the efficiency of Perez’s footwear becomes a feature, you know you are not watching a classic!

Neither manager made any changes at half-time.  City did start to play with a bit more pace and purpose, albeit not much.  Vardy got in a cross-shot that was easily smothered.  A clearance by Burn hit his knee and flew closer to his own goal than any attacking attempt by either side.  Justin, finding himself in central midfield momentarily, played a decent through ball for Pérez to chase, but the Brighton ‘keeper was just quick enough, resulting in a tumble for Pérez which left him visibly limping for five minutes before – on the hour – Rodgers made the pre-determined substitutions, with Iheanacho replacing Vardy, Choudhury for Ndidi, and also Maddison replacing the hobbling Pérez.

A couple of minutes later, Brighton played a neat through-ball for Zeqiri to flick the ball over Ward into the net, but it was clearly offside.  A couple of minutes later, determined work by Iheanacho led to a blocked shot that span to Ünder who shot the ball into the net, but Iheanacho had been marginally offside.

A couple of minutes later still, Brighton created a decent-half chance that was shot just wide from a tight angle.  More importantly, in the build-up Justin fell awkwardly and looked to have seriously damaged his knee, resulting in him being stretchered off and replaced by Fuchs.  Justin has been such an integral part of the Leicester team all season that any long-term injury for him will be a major blow, and we wish him well.

In the eighty-third minute, Brighton made the first shot on target by either team, forcing a routine save from Ward.  City finally began to wake up and forced a couple of chances.  As the clock ticked to the final additional minute of five, Daley-Campbell was tenacious in the box resulting in a corner. 

Everyone relaxed as the final whistle seemed imminent.  ‘Everyone’ included the Brighton defence, but not Ünder or Tielemans.  Ünder took a tap quick-corner, Tielemans took a couple of paces, composed himself and chipped a perfect cross for Iheanacho to head home, unchallenged, from three yards whilst the Brighton defence was still sorting out its positions.  It was a moment of speed, purpose and quality amidst ninety-five minutes which had largely lacked all three … and it was the win.

The positives from the match, aside from the final result of course, were the appearances of Vardy and Ndidi.  Daley-Campbell had a decent game, particularly going forwards.

The clear negative was what looked like a potentially serious injury to Justin.

The other very mild positive was that the skewed timing of lockdown matches for television meant that swapping at full-time to the Everton versus Spurs ‘basketball game’ meant that one could watch five goals being scored from that nine-goal match – a reminder of what a cup tie CAN be like!

Leicester CityWard, Amartey, Söyüncü, Justin, Daley-Campbell, Ndidi, Tielemans, Thomas, Ünder, Vardy, Pérez

Substitutes
Schmeichel, Evans, Maddison, Albrighton, Iheanacho, Barnes, Choudhury, Fuchs, Tavares

Brighton & Hove Albion
Walton, White, Dunk, Burn, Karbownik, Groß, Lallana, Moder, Alzate, Tau, Zeqiri

Substitutes
Connolly, Bissouma, Maupay, Mac Allister, Welbeck, Steele, Caicedo, Veltman, Weir

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

IF YOU CANNOT WIN THE GAME DON’T LOSE IT

WOLVES 0 LEICESTER CITY 0

Match Report by Paul Weston

City players had little time to draw breath after the positive performance against Fulham before another match loomed on the horizon – an away match against Wolves, a team we always seem to find difficulty in beating.

News on the injury front was more positive. Vardy was on the subs bench and, although Ndidi was on the way back to fitness, he was not risked for this game. Fofana, Castagne and Praet were notable absentees, otherwise Rodgers selected the same team that started against Fulham with Iheanacho up front and Perez on the wing. Choudhury kept his place after a decent performance against Fulham.

Wolves’ form had improved of late. We all expected a tight game and so it proved. City started with the bulk of possession and Wolves sprung on the counter-attack as if they were the away side. Wolves looked strong on the flanks. Netto was giving Ricardo a tough time but on the other wing Justin was keeping Traore under control, including blocking a shot which looked dangerous.

City had good spurts of inter passing with Maddison, Tielemans and Barnes prominent. Iheanacho was playing with confidence, always a good sign, and was linking up well. A move involving Barnes and Iheanacho nearly led to a goal in the 33rd minute but was blocked by last ditch defending. Early on Evans was booked for a poor challenge and one started to worry whether it was the sort of game that a second yellow and red card could decide the result.

Maddison had a shot that was well saved but otherwise City’s play was not that fluid. Justin and Ricardo had their hands full in defence so the support from the wings was intermittent. The half ended 0-0 with very few incidents. We hoped City would up their game in the second half.

After half-time Traore become more menacing and Choudhury gave Justin good support in closing him down. Ricardo started to get the measure of Netto to reduce the threat from the other wing.

Nevertheless Wolves started to dominate the game, especially in midfield, so in the 60th minute Rodgers brought on Vardy and Albrighton for Iheanacho and Perez to bring more life into City’s play. Soon after Barnes shot was well saved but then Schmeichel brought off a great save with his legs from Silva as City continued to look susceptible from corners as they had throughout the game.

As the match started to come to its conclusion City regained the initiative. Albrighton shot wide from a well-constructed move and we hoped for one more chance. It came in the 91st minute – a good move with Ricardo and Albrighton featuring led to a cross into the box where Vardy’s flicked header went agonisingly wide.

So the match ended 0-0 which was probably a fair result, although we could have snatched a win at the end. I suspect most City fans would have been reasonably happy with a draw although it did mean that an opportunity to gain more ground at the top of the table was lost.

Brendan Rodgers often used quote is “If you cannot win the game don’t lose it”. It was a game where no-one played badly but no-one really excelled. The team was not quite at its best but gained a point. Let’s move onto the Cup match against Brighton and then an easy game- Liverpool! Let’s hope that their goalkeeper is in benevolent form!

Wolves): Patricio; Dendoncker, Coady, Kilman; Semedo, Moutinho, Neves, Otto (Hoever, 46); Traore, Jose (Silva, 61), Neto (Gibbs-White, 88). Subs not used: Ruddy, Saiss, Richards, Lonwijk, Otasowie, Vitinha

Leicester: Schmeichel; Pereira, Evans, Soyuncu, Justin; Choudhury, Tielemans, Maddison; Perez (Albrighton, 61), Iheanacho (Vardy, 61), Barnes. Subs not used: Ward, Amartey, Fuchs, Thomas, Daley-Campbell, Mendy, Under

Referee: Martin Atkinson (Yorkshire)

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

FANS FROM ACROSS EUROPE UNITE TO OPPOSE EUROPEAN SUPER LEAGUE

The Foxes Trust was one of over 200 club fans organisations across Europe who along with national supporter organisations signed a statement opposing the formation of a European Super League and was published by Football Supporters Europe

“We are all united in our opposition to the creation of a European Super League—an unpopular, illegitimate, and dangerous scheme in the eyes of the overwhelming majority of fans.   

It would destroy the European model of sport, which is based on commonly accepted principles such as sporting merit, promotion and relegation, qualification to European competitions via domestic success, and financial solidarity. In the process, it would also undermine the economic foundations of European football, concentrating even more wealth and power in the hands of a dozen or so elite clubs.

We recognise that the game is in desperate need of broad reform. But proposals to this end must seek to revive the competitive balance in European competitions, protect domestic leagues, promote the interests of fans, and encourage fairer revenue distribution. A European Super League would achieve none of these objectives—quite the opposite.”

Sporting Merit & European Competitions

The reasoning behind a closed breakaway league is simple: it allows big clubs to succeed off the pitch even when they fail on it. It is anti-competitive by design. It does away with the magic of the cup, snatches the dream of seeing your club play in Europe, and goes against the very spirit of the game.  

This approach is profoundly unjust and counterproductive. We believe all clubs must have an equal opportunity to qualify for European competitions based on hard work, determination, and skill, not the size of their balance sheet or past glories.

Protect Domestic Competitions

A Super League would further undercut domestic competitions, exacerbating existing inequalities within and between leagues—in part by adding more European games to an already congested calendar and giving the wealthiest clubs an even bigger advantage through increased revenue.

We care first and foremost about how our clubs fare in domestic leagues and cups. We refuse to let them become second class competitions. We want to strengthen, not weaken them.

Defend Fans & Fan Culture

The pandemic has shown yet again how crucial fans are to the spectacle and survival of football, from the Champions League to the amateur game. We have supported clubs—financially and otherwise—despite not being able to attend games and suffering the effects of an economic crisis in our everyday lives.

This solidarity should be recognised, not exploited. There are limits to the amount of time and money fans can invest in football, and a Super League pushes well beyond them.

We do not want or need more European games. And we are tired of paying for the fantasy of ever-increasing wages, transfer fees, and profits, as well as the financial mismanagement of some.

Fairer Revenue Distribution & Sustainability

The current economic model of European football is deeply flawed. A handful of clubs are awash in money, while a significant number have too little, and in many countries the grassroots game teeters on the brink of collapse. A Super League would make this situation much worse by allowing big clubs to monopolise profits and endangering the existing solidarity and redistribution system. 

We want a more equitable distribution of European football revenue to protect all leagues and clubs, making them more competitive at the domestic and European levels.

Dialogue with Fans & Other Stakeholders

A Super League would make European football more unequal, less competitive, and, ultimately, unsustainable. While reform is needed, it should not come in the shape of an ultimatum from wealthy clubs seeking to benefit from an unprecedented public health crisis.

We therefore call for meaningful multi-stakeholder consultation on any proposals to restructure the European game, including fans and their representatives.

We will also closely monitor all attempts to change the existing format of European club competitions, measuring them against the principles outlined above, and will further oppose any attempts to impose a Super League by the backdoor. “

The full list of fans groups who signed the statement is available here

CITY GAIN REVENGE WITH CONVINCING VICTORY

FULHAM 0 LEICESTER 2

Report by Eddie Blount

How fortunes change! In November Fulham snatched all three points at the King Power with a surprise 2-1 win but since have failed to secure a maximum whereas City managed a decent unbeaten spell ending only in their last match with another home defeat, this time to Leeds. If recent form saw the away side as likely winners we have to set against that the fact that City’s last win at Craven Cottage came in 1983!. However the form book proved to be a reliable guide to the outcome of this match as City tore up the history books with a comfortable and deserved victory.

As expected Ricardo started for the injured Castagne and Soyuncu similarly for Fofana whilst Choudhury was given a run-out in place of Mendy with Iheanacho leading the line, Perez moving to wide right relegating Albrighton to the bench. We will have to get used to such changes as the games come thick and fast as the reward for success.

The match started at a slow tempo with Fulham pressing high and effectively but it soon became clear that a more open contest would ensue. After 9 minutes an optimistic Maddison shot was easily saved by keeper Areola. Little did we know that this would be one more shot (as opposed to headers) on target than Fulham would manage in the whole game. They might have equalised almost immediately but Mitrovic failed to make a decent contact when excellently placed and his feeble effort was blocked by Justin who went on to have another fine game and whom I would not swop for Ben Chilwell by the way.

Straight down to the other end and Barnes should have done better than to shoot over when set up nicely by Ricardo. It mattered not however as within four minutes City had taken the lead with a brilliant but simple goal. Maddison’s superb cross was headed firmly and unstoppably by Iheanacho past Areola for that rare beast, a City headed goal. It was all over so quickly bringing to mind Brian Clough’s famous maxim that it only takes a second to score a goal.

They might have equalised almost immediately but Mitrovic failed to make a decent contact when excellently placed and his feeble effort was blocked by Justin who went on to have another fine game and whom I would not swop for Ben Chilwell by the way.

There was only one side in it for awhile and even Soyuncu got in on the act; first hammering a low shot from an angle against the keeper’s legs and later heading home from close range only for it to be disallowed for a pretty minor push given the shoving that goes on in penalty areas these days.  

After 42 minutes we were treated to a unique event in this match anyway as Fulham had their sole effort on target – a good Tosin header, inevitably from a corner, very well tipped over by the alert Schmeichel. If we are to have the success which is within reach we must solve the chronic aerial weakness we suffer from, which means prioritising the signing of some taller players!

Ironically just as Fulham had their best moment of the game City swept downfield to settle the match with an exquisite goal. Justin inside his own half to Iheanacho just inside theirs followed by a lovely half -turn by the forward and an even better pass to release Maddison. Had this been Vardy he would have been away but Maddison is not quite as quick and was caught just inside their box. He did well to keep possession and was rewarded when Justin arrived in support. A shrewd short pass to the full back who waltzed round the keeper and rolled the ball home. Match over as it turned out so it didn’t matter when Barnes squandered another good chance, the keeper saving his shot with his legs just on half time.

Fulham made two changes at the interval and one of the substitutes, Cavaleiro, soon shot wide from the edge of the box following their best passing movement of the game. City had the better of the next quarter and twice had the ball in the net only for both efforts to be rightly disallowed for offside. In both cases the finishes, by Iheanacho and Ricardo deserved better.

After 75 minutes Barnes was replaced by Amartey a sure signal from Rodgers that the shutters were coming down and City were managing the game to its conclusion. The managing was so effective that I totally relaxed and was able to thoroughly enjoy the last few minutes as it became even more apparent that Fulham had no attacking edge whatsoever! On this form they will be relegated.

Manager Scott Parker made an interesting comment after the game when he declared that Fulham’s season would not be defined by matches against sides like Leicester, Man Utd and Liverpool but against lesser mortals. Nice to be included in such company as Saint Gary commented!

One or two things we learned from this match: Ricardo and Soyuncu are close to getting back to their best; Iheanacho leads the line more effectively than Perez whose best position is probably as a replacement for Maddison, Choudhury needs to get better at reading the play rather than reacting to it, Justin has a chance of international selection before too long, Amartey is a useful squad member.

So three more points, a win without the talisman and up to third in the league. At my age I can be forgiven for sometimes wondering if I’ve died and gone to heaven!

City: Schmeichel, Ricardo, Evans, Soyuncu, Justin, Choudhury (Mendy 60), Perez (Albrighton 60), Tielemans, Maddison, Barnes (Amartey 75), Iheanacho

Fulham: Areola, Aina, Andersen, Tosin, Tete (Cavaleiro) 46, Reed, Zambo (Lemina 46), Robinson, Loftus-Cheek (Decordova-Reed 70), Mitrovic, Lookman        

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