Hello, and welcome to the Fosse Posse’s first match report of the 2018/19 season! After an intermittently-exciting pre-season and an unusually busy transfer window, we’re finally ready to stop talking about football and start playing it.
Just kidding. We’re going to talk about football. We’re going to talk a lot about football. Glad to have you here with us.
With an early start to the season after England’s World Cup adventure went a bit longer than most of us expected, and with many new faces in the squad, no one was quite sure who would be in the starting lineup for the opener against Manchester United at Old Trafford. Manager Claude Puel ultimately selected a little bit of the old, a little of the new, and a dash of the “huh?” for his first starting XI. Kasper Schemichel started in goal behind a back four of Daniel Amartey, Wes Morgan, Harry Maguire, and Ben Chilwell. Adrien Silva and Wilfred Ndidi got the nod in midfield, with Ricardo Pereira on the right and Demarai Gray on the left. James Maddison lined up behind Kelechi Iheanacho up top, with Danny Ward, Jonny Evans, Jamie Vardy, Marc Albrighton, Christian Fuchs, and Rachid Ghezzal available on the substitute’s bench.
So much excitement to start the season. There’s the kick-off and....pffft. It’s gone. Leicester started with some loose, nervy passing and were on the back foot almost immediately. United broke down the left. Morgan did well to block the shot, but makeshift right back Daniel Amartey’s flailing arm struck the ball and a penalty was given on 2’. Paul Pogba’s silly run-up didn’t put Schmeichel off, but there was still no saving it and the Foxes trailed 1-0 before the game had even started.
The next twenty minutes, City slowly started to gain a foothold. The visitors bossed possession without seriously threatening other than an Iheanacho near-miss from an offside position. On 28’, the Foxes’ attack sprung into life and forced David De Gea into action for the first time. Some great work from Ricardo on the right wing saw him all alone inside the United area. His pull-back to Maddison gave the former Norwich man a great opportunity to open his account, but Red Devils’ keeper made a fine diving save and Iheanacho wasn’t able to turn the rebound home.
Things got a little scruffy after that. United had a long-range Pogba effort comfortably saved, then an off-target Sanchez header that was incorrectly adjudged to be offside, and a tame Luke Shaw shot that Schmeichel easily covered. The first half ended with United on the front foot, but, in my incredibly biased opinion, City had held their own against the Manchester giants.
Both teams came out of the tunnel unchanged to start the second half, so, unsurprisingly, the run of play was much the same. Wide-open, fast-paced, and very, very sloppy from both sides. A couple of genuinely puzzling yellow cards were awarded, one to Amartey and one to Manchester debutante Fred, both for no apparent reason.
By the hour, United were in the midst of a spell of comfortable possession, so Puel threw the dice and sent on Vardy and Ghezzal for Amartey and Maddison, with Ricardo moving to the right back slot. The move almost immediately paid off...for United, but fortunately, the referee missed the ball deflecting off of Morgan’s arm as he slid in to block Mata’s shot.
To give you an idea of the degree of threat the Foxes were providing, Vardy didn’t get his first touch until 72’. Both teams gave the ball away in midfield at an alarming rate and both keepers were spectators. The former Fleetwood town man took things into his own hands, winning a ball he had no business winning near the right corner and crossed it to Demarai Gray, who put the ball on target but couldn’t beat De Gea.
It was hearts-in-mouths time on 78’ minutes when a defensive breakdown left substitute Lukaku all alone in front of the net 10 yards out, but City’s Danish talisman made himself enormous and got just enough of the ball to force a corner, which was comfortably cleared. Puel made his final change then, bringing on Vicente Iborra for the tiring Silva.
United put the game to bed on 82’ when Luke Shaw’s run to the far post went unmarked. He beat Pereiera with an accidentally brilliant touch and scuffed a shot into the far corner. That should have finished it, but some comical defending let Leicester back in.
A cross inexplicably found Vardy alone in the box in injury time, but he was unable to direct his volley on target. The United defense failed to learn their lesson, and almost immediately after, a Pereira cross evaded everyone and hit the post. The England international striker had the simplest of tap-ins, making for a barnstorming finish.
More great work from Vardy (who else) won a late corner deep into injury time. Schmeichel came up for it, but it was headed just wide and that was that. Final score: Manchester United 2 - 1 Leicester.
Full-time.#LCFC suffer defeat to Man Utd on opening day.— James Sharpe (@TheSharpeEnd) August 10, 2018
A promising, vibrant display and it's the visiting fans who are signing the loudest at the full-time whistle.
Frustrating result but definitely plenty of positives to take.
Not at all the way we wanted to start the season, but getting points at Old Trafford is always a big ask, but one might have hoped for a little more when both teams are miles from mid-season form. A great performance might have bagged some points, but this was anything but a great performance. Newcomers Maddison and Pereira both showed enough to provide hope of better things to come, and the team looked positively transformed when Vardy came on.