Riyad Mahrez atoned for an earlier miss with an 80th minute strike, saving Leicester City's blushes against a scrappy West Bromwich Albion side Monday night at the King Power. Mahrez' strike cancelled out a well-struck free kick from 30 yards by Nacer Chadli, who was making his first Premier League start of the season. This marked the 8th match on the trot City have failed to defeat West Brom at the King Power.
Craig Shakespeare gave Kelechi Iheanacho and Vicente Iborra their full home debuts in place of Shinji Okazaki and Andy King, as well as recalling Mahrez ahead of Demarai Gray. The Foxes lined up in their favored 4-4-2 formation and attempted to put the Baggies on the back heel right from the start. Jamie Vardy twice got loose on the left, winning free kicks in dangerous positions and getting Brom centre-half Ahmed Hegazi booked early on. Nothing came of these early opportunities, in part due to the blustery weather making long crosses almost impossible.
Right-back Danny Simpson, making his 100th appearance for City, nearly put the home side in front with a vicious strike from the right side of the box that Boaz Myhill did well to palm away. The rebound fell awkwardly to Iborra, who equally awkwardly put the ball over from close range. For all intents and purposes, at 36', this would mark the last threatening action of the half.
What the game lacked in quality, it made up for in effort. At the start of the second half, Vardy just beat Myhill to a ball on the edge of the box, leaving both men rattled and the Baggies' stopped in the book. The resulting free kick was block and appeared to be looping out of play, but Harry Maguire stayed with it and headed just inside the post, only for an alert Myhill to gather it.
The best chance of the match, which fittingly wasn't converted, came from some nice work on the left by Vardy and Marc Albrighton. The former Villa received a return ball in the box and sent a low cross to Mahrez in front of the goal, ten yards out. He snatched at the opportunity and sent it sailing, if not to row Z, then at least to something in the middle of the alphabet.
The Foxes were soon made to pay for their inability to finish their chances. Iheanacho gave away a daft (if somewhat soft) free kick 30 yards out, just right of the centre of the goal. Nacir Chadli fooled Leicester keeper Kasper Schemichel, who broke to his right as the ball was struck and could only watch as it nestled in the opposite corner of his net. It was a peach of a strike and I'm not certain Schemichel would have reached it even had he not move in the wrong direction.
Shakespeare responded by doing not much of anything anything for ten minutes. His side saw plenty of the ball, but weren't able to carve out any chances. On 73', Ben Chilwell and Islam Slimani came on for Simpson and the ineffective Iheanacho. City shifted to a 3-5-2, with Mahrez moving into an attacking role in central midfield, Chilwell and Albrighton the wingbacks, and Christian Fuchs serving as a makeshift centre-half. When Craig Shakespeare changes formations, he doesn't do it in half measures, does he?
The change brought a renewed energy to the Foxes attack, and paid dividends right on the 80' mark. Chilwell looped in a cross from the left that was headed down by Slimani to his countryman Mahrez. He took the ball down on his chest and lashed a shot past Myhill with his less-favoured right foot. I've been critical of Shakespeare's tactics in the past, but he got this one spot-on.
Rather than a barnstorming finish, this one fizzled out as Tony Pulis' men defended resolutely and secured the away point. A draw was probably the most-deserved result from the match. City were the better side, but not by the sort of margin where you'd feel hard done by a draw. Brom offerred very little going forward and their goal was against the run of play (such as it was).
The draw leaves City 18th on the table, with 6 points from 8 matches. The Foxes travel to Wales next Saturday to face Swansea. The Swans are currently 13th on the table, two points ahead of City.
Leicester City: Schmeichel, Simpson (Chilwell 73’), Morgan, Maguire, Fuchs, Mahrez, Ndidi, Iborra (King 93’), Albrighton, Iheanacho (Slimani 73’), Vardy
West Bromwich Albion: Myhill, Evans, Hegazi, Gibbs, Dawson, Krychowiak, Barry, Livermore, Rondon, Chadli (McAuley 83’), Rodriguez (McClean 83’)