Leicester City and Burnley battled to a 0-0 draw Saturday afternoon in the East Midlands. The Foxes had the majority of the chances but were unable to break the deadlock against a determined Clarets’ defense.
Manager Claude Puel was forced into two changes from the squad that beat Cardiff City 1-0 last week in Wales. With Harry Maguire missing out due to injury, Jonny Evans was tapped to start along side Wes Morgan in central defense. Kasper Schmeichel started in goal, and Ricardo Pereira and Ben Chilwell retained their spots at full back. Wilfred Ndidi and Nampalys Mendy got the nod in defensive midfield behind attacking midfielders Marc Albrighton, Demarai Gray, and Rachid Ghezzal. Jamie Vardy spearheaded the attack as the lone striker.
It was an emotional return to the King Power for the Foxes in their first home match since the helicopter crash that took five lives, including that of beloved Leicester City chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha. A minute of silence was observed by both squads. Fittingly, former Leicester managers Martin O’Neill, Nigel Pearson, Craig Shakespeare, and Claudio Ranieri were in attendance for what was a lovely, touching tribute to Khun Vichai. In addition, former City stars Robert Huth, Esteban Cambiasso, and Steve Guppy were on hand for the moment.
The Foxes started the match on the front foot, spending extended periods of time in the Burnley half but over-hitting the final ball time time after time. Burnley struggled to get any spell of possession and eventually the Foxes started to find the range. Ndidi fired in a low striker from outside the area that caught Joe Hart napping, but he recovered well to turn the ball around the post.
City could, and probably should, have gone ahead on the quarter-hour mark. Hart came for an Albrighton outswinger from the right side and failed to get anything on his punch. The ball fell to Vardy inside the six yard box. His strike was goal-bound, but defender Matt Lowton was just able to clear the ball off the line.
After a rare Burnley foray into the city half, Leicester came mere centimetres from taking a deserved lead. A good team move found the ball out wide to Albrighton, whose cross found Ghezzal ten yards from the net. The Algerian’s stooping header beat Hart but cannoned off the crossbar and the Clarets were able to scramble the ball clear.
On 25’ City were again so close to gong ahead, this time in a fashion reminiscent of the great 2015/16 team. The visitors turned the ball over in midfield and the ball fell to Vardy. The striker found Demarai Gray’s sprint and the former Birmingham City man was off to the races. He beat the last defender, but Hart was able to get a leg to his near-post strike and once again Burnley only just survived.
On 36’ minutes, a City attack broke down and the ball was forced all the way back to Schmeichel. I mention this because it’s the first time since the opening minutes I can remember this happening. If you’ve been watching City during the Puel era, you know that this has been a constant, frustrating feature of the Leicester attack. I was worried about how well we’d move the ball without Maddison, but Ghezzal has been keeping things ticking quite nicely.
It isn’t as good as getting a goal or two, but when the whistle blew for half-time, it marked one of the most dominant halves of football the Foxes have produced in some time.
- 64% of the possession
- 10 shots (3 on target) to 3 (1) for Burnley
- 7 corners to the Clarets’ 1
Both sides were unchanged to start the second half, as was the run of play. City were immediately back into the attack. Vardy broke down the left channel and played a low pull-back into the centre. Gray played the dummy and let the ball run through to Albrighton, whose low strike took a slight deflction and bounced off of Hart’s chest. The Clarets were just able to put the ball behind for a corner before the former Aston Villa man buried the follow up.
As the hour mark approached, Burnley were beginning to get a foothold in match, so Puel made his first change, sending on Kelechi Iheanacho for Albrighton and sending Ghezzal out to the right wing. The move appeared to work, as the one-way traffic resumed and City laid siege to the visitor’s goal, going close through Vardy, Ndidi, and Evans, but Burnley were somehow able to keep the ball out of the back of the net.
Burnley almost took a shock lead on 70’ when Robbie Brady, on for Johann Gudmundsson, sent a deflected cross in from the left that bounced kindly to Chris Wood. The former Fox got his half-volley all wrong and fired over the crossbar when he should have hit the target. City failed to heed the warning and Burnley were back in when Iheanacho gave the ball away in midfield and compounded the error by giving away a free kick outside the D, but the free kick was poor and Leicester survived the threat.
The game was quite open at this point, with plenty of loose passing, wild tackles, and few clear-cut chances. Puel sent Shinji Okazaki into the fray on 83’ for the tiring Gray in an attempt to find a winner. It nearly came as Vardy was again free down the left channel. His low cross found the unrushing Iheancho, but the shot was well-blocked and Hart was alert to the danger and gathered the rebound.
Jonny Evans fell awkwardly just before injury time, forcing the gaffer to send on Çağlar Söyüncü for his final substitution. Three minutes of time were added on, and again, it was City who produced the majority of the chances. Okazaki met a lofted Chilwell cross, but his header was inches wide with Hart a spectator. That proved the last action of the match that featured an impressive display and a disappointing result.
When the match ended, Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha led the players, former players, and former managers in a lap around the stadium as the entire crowd remained and sang and, I have to tell you, it was absolutely beautiful. The result mattered of course, but the moment was bigger than the match. You can have your big clubs in the Champions League every year; I’ve never been more proud to be Leicester.
The performance was worthy of the moment even if the result wasn’t. I’ll take it. City remain 10th on the table on 17 points through 12 matches. The Foxes travel to the south coast in two weeks to take on Brighton and Hove Albion because we have another #$%#$^ break in the schedule.
A rainbow emerges over the King Power Stadium before the match where a big screen displays a tribute image to Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha which reads 'Forever in our hearts'— PA Images (@PAImages) November 10, 2018
Nigel French See more at https://t.co/4OejjSjF0M#LEIBUR #rainbow #LCFC #WalkForVichai pic.twitter.com/Lxp3N1KU4T