Ten-man Leicester City battled Brighton and Hove Albion to a 1-1 draw Saturday afternoon at the Amex. Glenn Murray’s glancing header gave the hosts an early lead prior to James Maddison’s dismissal for a second yellow on the half hour mark. A late penalty by substitute Jamie Vardy levelled the score, and neither side were able to find a winner in a contentious match, ending in a draw that will likely satisfy supporters of neither side.
Manager Claude Puel once again pulled names from his legendary Lineup-Selection Hat, starting Kasper Schmeichel in goal behind a back four of Ricardo Pereira, Wes Morgan, Jonny Evans, and Ben Chilwell. Nampalys Mendy and Vicente Iborra partnered in defensive midfield behind attacking midfielders Marc Albrighton, James Maddison, and Demarai Gray. Shinji Okazaki got the nod as the lone striker.
The early exchanges provided a perfect example of how the Foxes are still struggling to come to grips with Puel’s tactics. City put together a 20-pass move, worked the ball from side to side, leaving the Seagulls chasing shadows. But, not only did Leicester fail to get a shot off, the ball never entered the penalty area. When the ball was inevitably lost, Brighton were able to break at pace, although it came to nothing.
The warning bells were ringing on 12’ when City tried to play the ball out of the back, but Iborra’s pass to Evans was too strong and Brighton pounced. One quick pass and Beram Kayal was one on one with Schmeichel, but the Denmark man was able to turn the ball around the post and the danger passed.
The run of play was now going against the Foxes, so it was no surprise when Brighton went ahead on the quarter-hour mark. A simple corner routine saw Glenn Murray run across the face of the goal to the near post. He out-leaped Evans and Chilwell, and glanced the ball into the far back of the net, leaving Schmeichel no chance whatsoever.
It went from bad to worse as the half-hour approached as a deflection off of Chris Kavanaugh put Brighton on the counter. Maddison caught former Fox Anthony Knockaert on the ankle to break up the attack, earning a yellow for his efforts. Shortly after, with the ball pinballing around the Seagulls’ area, the former Norwich man went down under what appeared to be minimal contact, if any. The referee blew the whistle for a dive and produced a second yellow and a red for the England man, reducing the Foxes to 10 men for the remainder of the match.
The red card didn’t force Puel to make any changes as the Foxes fell into a 4-4-1 formation, but during the same segment that ended in Maddison’s red saw Iborra go down with a knock. He was unable to continue, forcing the gaffer to send Wilfred Ndidi on for the former Levante and Sevilla man.
The rest of the half was more of the same, with City pinned back and looking very much the visiting side reduced to ten men. Perhaps the most telling statistic is that, on 48’, with the last touch of the half, Okazaki had Leicester’s first shot on goal. Based on the run of play and some debatable decisions by Kavanaugh, Leicester were perhaps a bit fortunate to be down only 1-0 when the whistle blew.
Both sides emerged from the tunnel unchanged and the game progressed much as it had in the first half, with a good deal more movement than quality. A classy Brighton move saw the ball laid on a platter for Jose Izquierdo on the edge of the area, but the Colombian got it about as wrong as humanly possible and his shot went out for a throw on the opposite side.
Shortly afterwards, Pascal Gross played a through ball behind the City defense for Murray to run on to, but he was badly outpaced by Wes Morgan, who made up three yards and put the ball out of play. This was quite possibly the best Leicester City moment of the match up to this point.
Seeing that the match wasn’t going to turn to City’s favor without making a change, Puel sent on Jamie Vardy for Gray. The game opened up immediately. although not necessarily in the direction that the Leicester manager intended. Another Seagulls’ move down their left resulted in a free cross that was met by Shane Duffy, but his header was too close to Schmeichel and easily gathered.
If we are going to claw our way back into this game, Vardy will be that difference. He’s made an immediate impact. #LCFC— Matt Taylor (@LeicesterReview) November 24, 2018
This is what we in the business call “foreshadowing,” Matt.
The former Manchester City keeper quickly threw the ball to his left, and the Foxes were on the finally on the hunt. A Chilwell through ball found Vardy on the left, whose low cross was just touched away by Lewis Dunk when Okazaki was shaping to tap it in. Leicester were in the ascendancy now, and Kavanaugh was finally given now choice but to produce a yellow card against Brighton for the first time when Duffy slid in behind Vardy with both feet as well as his entire body.
On 66’ the announcers said something good about Leicester City for the first time during the broadcast. Puel, apparently sensing that the Foxes might yet get something from this match, made his third change, sending on Kelechi Iheanacho for Okazaki on 70’. The match was opening up with both sides looking likely to get that all-important second goal of the match.
The deserved equaliser finally came on 78’. Ben Chilwell’s corner was poor and easily cleared, but only as far as the left back. His second attempt was better, finding Wes Morgan at the far post. The ball fell to Evans, whose shot was blocked and bounced to Iheanacho. Kayal panicked and dove into a challenge that was as reckless as it was late. Kavanaugh pointed to the spot and Jamie Vardy made no mistake, leveling the match at 1-1.
The Foxes nearly took a shock lead on 88’. Iheanacho played a one-two on the edge of the area. The Nigerian took one touch and fired back across the goal. His shot beat Matt Ryan but was just wide of the far post and the chance was gone. The Seagulls put Leicester under considerable pressure throughout the four minutes of injury time, but the defense held and the match ended in what was just about a deserved draw.
City’s performance in the first half was about as dire as anything I’ve seen this year. Without Maddison and Vardy and down to ten men, the Foxes were always going to struggle to break down Brighton, but let’s not forget that, with Maddison and with a full squad, we weren’t doing much better. It was only with the introduction of the former Fleetwood man that City looked at all like scoring.
Maddison’s second yellow changed the game. It wasn’t the most obvious of dives, but a dive it was and he can have no complaints about his dismissal. My sister always tells me “Don’t give the referee a decision to make,” and, while she’s a Liverpool supporter and thus of questionable character, her point is a good one.
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Apologies to everyone for what happened today. Nobody wants to see diving in our beautiful game. I was anticipating contact that never came, but that’s no excuse. It’s a mistake and I will learn from it. Lads showed fantastic fight and determination to get us back in the game and go home with a more than deserved point.
There weren’t many standout performances to mention. The central defensive pairing did well in their physical battle with Murray. I’m not a huge fan of Evans, but he is exactly what the doctor ordered to fill in when one of the starting centre-halfs is out. Ndidi was his usual effective self off the bench, and, of course, Vardy completely changed the game with his introduction.
The draw keeps the Foxes 10th on the table on 18 points through 13 matches. City face off against another south coast side on Tuesday, facing Southampton in the League Cup at the King Power. Next Saturday morning, Leicester play host to high-flying Watford in a league match.