Leicester City battled to a 1-1 draw with Fulham in London on Wednesday. An Aboubakar Kamara goal at the death of the first half was cancelled by James Maddison’s equaliser with a quarter hour to go. Both sides came close to breaking the deadlock, but neither could find the final ball to take all three points.
In what is becoming an unfortunate tradition, manager Claude Puel was forced into a host of forced changes to the starting XI. Kasper Schmeichel got the nod in goal behind a back four of Danny Simpson, Wes Morgan, Çağlar Söyüncü, and Ben Chilwell. Wilfred Ndidi and Nampalys Mendy resumed their partnership in defensive midfield. Fousseni Diabate, Maddison, and Marc Albrighton lined up behind lone striker Kelechi Iheanacho.
A visit to the quaintest ground in the Premier League always puts one in a nostalgic mood, which was only heightened by the fact that Fulham are now being managed by one Claudio Ranieri. The style of play he brought with him was also familiar to Leicester fans: High pressing, direct counterattacks, and defending in numbers when the not in possession.
There were a flurry of early half-chances on both ends of the pitch. Iheanacho had a look at goal on only 3’ from a Madders through ball, but he was unable to score from a tight angle when you would have expected him to put it away. At the other end, Aleksandar Mitrovic forced a couple of routine saves from Schmeichel .
The best early chance fell to defender Callum Chambers, who struck his angled drive from the left sweetly, but the Danish keeper was just able to turn it around the bar, much to Chambers’ disbelief. Fulham were nearly made to pay for the miss almost immediately as Diabate’s lofted cross found Albrighton’s late run, but the former Villa man put the shot over from close range.
Fulham were well on top at this point and it seemed only a matter of time before they broke through. On 42’, a clearance was flicked on by Mitrovic into the path of Kamara. He was well-marshaled by Söyüncü down the left channel. Kamara shaped to shoot as he neared the end line, enticing the Turkey international to dive in attempt to make the block. The former Amiens man cleverly pulled the ball back and beat Schmeichel from a tight angle to put the visitors on top at the break.
The Cottagers began the second half on the front foot, but Schmeichel was equal to the task and was able to hold them at bay. Puel didn’t hesitate to make a change, sending Demarai Gray on for Diabate on 55’. The move failed to stem the tide as Fulham continued to have the majority of the chances.
With the game slipping away, the gaffer made a final throw of the dice. Puel made a double substitution on 72’, sending Shinji Okazaki and Vicente Iborra on for Simpson and Mendy. Okazaki went into attacking midfield and Albrighton dropped into the right back slot.
The changes had the desired effect almost immediately as City leveled the score on 74’. A move down the right flank found Okazaki on the edge of the area. He dribbled towards goal, drawing the defense, and then cut the ball back for Maddison. The former Norwich made kept his cool and slammed the ball into the lower-lefthand corner of the net.
The game had been marked with prickly tackles and unnecessary nudges, and it only got worse after the equaliser. Aboubakar leaping kick at a high ball in midfield missed the target entirely and his studs landed in Iborra’s back. The referee was having none of it, though, and failed to produce a card at this or any other time of the match. This was, by some margin, the least-clean clean match I’ve seen in some time.
The Foxes were in the ascendancy now, with attempts by Gray and Maddison coming close to earning the three points. Deep into injury time, Fulham very nearly grabbed the three points when Denis Odoi was the only player to react to a chip over the top in front of the Leicester goal. It would have been reminiscent of Barcalona’s famous comeback against PSG, but Odoi’s finish wasn’t quite up to the lofty standards to the Catalan club and Leicester escaped with a draw.
I don’t think it’s unfair to say that City were fortunate to leave London with a point. The late Leicester flurry evened up the stats a little bit, but the fact that the Cottegers took 25 shots to our 13 is telling. Kasper Schmeichel was forced to make 6 saves, several of which were absolutely top-drawer. The spirit the team showed in the last 15 was impressive, but one can’t help but ask “Where was that for the rest of the match?”
I don’t think I’m stepping on anyone’s toes by predicting that Madders or Kasper will be the Man of the Match. The two of them were head and shoulders above the rest of the squad against the bottom team on the table. In fairness, Fulham have been better than their results, but they ran roughshod over the usually reliable midfield duo of Ndidi and Mendy. On the plus side:
#LCFC— Jonathan (@JonathanLCFC) December 5, 2018
7 games unbeaten ✅
Best run of results for 32 months ✅
One point off 6th place ✅
Getting results despite injuries ✅
Come through a hideous tragedy ✅
Rotating players to get rest ✅
Maddison two goals in two ✅ @BBCRLSport - why all the negativity?
The draw sees Leicester 9th placed on the table on 22 points through 15 matches. Our next league match is this Saturday against Spurs at the King Power. There is no team in the league I’d rather see us beat than Tottenham, but we’re going to have to put together a better performance than we say tonight if we’re going to do it.