Leicester City fell to Cardiff City by a score of 1-0 Saturday afternoon at the King Power Stadium. James Maddison missed a penalty in the second half, and the Foxes were made to pay when Victor Camarasa beat Kasper Schmeichel with a long range effort just before injury time.
I’ll be honest, I only linked this one for the video.
T’was the night before....wait, no, we’re not doing that again. Let’s try again. Manager Claude Puel reverted to his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation for Satuarday’s match against the Bluebirds. Kasper Schmeichel kept his place in goal behind a back four of Ricardo Pereira, Çağlar Söyüncü, Harry Maguire, and Ben Chilwell. Nampalys Mendy and Wilfred Ndidi partnered in defensive midfield. In attack, Demarai Gray, James Maddison, and Marc Albrighton lined up behind lone striker Jamie Vardy.
The Foxes were nearly gifted an early lead through some highly suspect defending. Gray’s diagonal ball into the box was intercepted by Cardiff right back Greg Cunningham who seemed to be of two minds as to whether to put it behind or tap it back to the keeper. His indecision resulted in a ball poked past the keeper and just wide of the post.
The next ten minutes marked an incredibly sloppy spell by Leicester. The high press by Cardiff generated turnover after turnover, keeping pressure on the Foxes’ back four under and extended spell in City area for Cardiff. The Bluebirds aren’t blessed with the most pace in attack, but they have size, but Maguire and Söyüncü kept just at bay.
The Foxes finally started to break out of their torpor midway through the half. Maddison showed some lovely skill in the middle to create space. With the runs of both Vardy and Albrighton well-tracked, he took the shot himself, stinging the palms of the Bluebirds’ keeper.
Shortly after, a fine move on the right saw Ricardo alone at the edge of the area. His low drive was goalbound, but Neil Etheridge got just enough on it to run it around the post. By now the hosts were thoroughly in the ascendancy, but nothing was going in (or, to be honest, all that close to going in). A Madders free kick and a Gray curler both were struck directly at Etheridge.
There was a good deal more of the same. By the half, Leicester had struck ten shots, five of which were on target. The Foxes had 63% of the possession, five corners, and kept the visitors from getting a shot on goal. On paper, it looked like a dominant half, but watching it, it was more like watching a car struggle to get out of the lower gears. Leicester were the better side, but not by as much as we probably should have been.
The second half started in a surprisingly wide-open fashion. A long ball over the top by the Bluebirds reached Callum Paterson in behind the last defender, but the Cardiff right-back-cum-striker’s first touch lacked elegance and Maguire was able to recover. At the other end, a one-two between Vardy and Pereira opened up yet another opportunity for the Portugal fullback but Etheridge was again equal to the effort.
Puel decided to shake things up just before the hour mark, send Rachid Ghezzal on for Albrighton. The attack immediately picked up, but it wasn’t the Leicester attack that did so. Söyüncü, who was having an excellent match up that point, gave the ball away in the middle of the park. Cardiff managed their first shot on goal, but it was directly at Schmeichel who covered comfortably.
On 67’, Puel made a second change, sending Kelechi Iheanacho on for Vardy. The Foxes were slowly, slowly starting to come to life as the Bluebirds legs were beginning to look heavy. Leicester were once again well on top with Cardiff struggling to get the ball out of their own area.
On 75’, the deadlock should have been broken as Maddison and Ghezzal exchanged neat passes on the edge of the area. Madders got on the wrong side of Sean Morrison, who made just enough contact to convince the ref to blow for a penalty. With Vardy off, the former Norwich man took responsibility for the penalty, but his effort was poor and easily saved. He still seemed most likely to get to the loose ball, but former Fox Sol Bamba got his leg to it and put it behind to safety.
As the final ten minutes approached, the gaffer made his final change, sending Shinji Okazaki on for Gray. At this point, things got...scrappy. A parade of free kicks, turnovers, and just poor play. You could almost see it coming. An exchange on the right side of the Leicester half of the pitch saw the ball to Harry Arter, who tapped it back Víctor Camarasa who’d been quiet all afternoon. He lined up his shot from outside the D with no Leicester player within yards of him. He found the top corner, giving Schmeichel no chance at all.
With four minutes of added time, you’d have hoped that the Foxes would make it interesting, but it was Cardiff who went close. Paterson won the ball on the right and laid it back for Kadeem Harris whose first time shot was just turned over the bar by the suddenly-busy Schmeichel.
BBC’s Mark Lawrenson had this to say about the match when he posted his predictions on Friday:
Leicester v Cardiff
We all had a laugh at this, but who’s laughing now? (Not Lawrenson: He still predicted a 2-0 Foxes victory.) His point was that City struggle when they’re they’re facing a team they’re expected to beat, especially when that team sits back and packs the penalty area. You’d have to say he got this spot-on. We’re simply not very good at this kind of a challenge. We’re disjointed, we’re slow, and we’re sloppy when we’re trying to be patient.
If you didn’t see that coming today then you’ve clearly not been an #lcfc fan or very long.— Simon Robert Eaton (@simmo_1977) December 29, 2018
Here’s hoping that’s a typo, Simon...
Even with all that, a defeat is terribly harsh on us. We did have the bulk of the chances and, until 90 minutes rolled around, Cardiff never looked like scoring. Winning the match wouldn’t have been unjustified even without playing especially well. Losing it was. It was a disastrous result; it was merely a mediocre performance.
But mediocre’s not good enough, is it?
So who were our standouts? I thought Madders was far more involved today than he has been recently. Ricardo was brilliant again, Ndidi is rounding back into fine form, and let’s hear it for Çağlar Söyüncü, who looked comfortable in defense and, aside from one dreadful pass, very good on the ball as well.
The defeat leaves us on 28 points through 20 matches. That’s good enough for 8th on the table, although we could drop as low as 10th if West Ham and Bournemouth get wins tomorrow. We travel to face Everton at Goodison Park on New Year’s Day in the early match.