Leicester City downed Wolverhampton 2-0 at the King Power Stadium this evening through James Maddison’s first Premier League goal and a Matthew Doherty own-goal. While Wolves dominated the run of play for long periods and City were reduced to 10 men through Jamie Vardy’s dismissal, the Foxes managed to hold on and secure all three points.
City manager Claude Puel made 4 changes to his starting XI, bringing in Jonny Evans, Nampalys Mendy, Demarai Gray, and Jamie Vardy in for Kelechi Iheanacho, Daniel Amartey, Adrien Silva and Wes Morgan. This put the Foxes in a shape that was undoubtedly not our traditional 4-4-1-1. Captain Kasper Schmeichel started in goal behind a back line of Ricardo, Evans, Harry Maguire, and Ben Chilwell. Mendy partnered with Wilfred Ndidi in defensive midfield behind an attacking trio of Gray on the left, James Maddison in the centre, and Marc Albrighton switching to the right wing.
Yes, the vast majority of us would replace Wes Morgan with Evans today but it isn't going to happen yet so can we please avoid the meltdown when the team news comes out and accept that evolution is a process. All in good time #lcfc— Jon LCFC (@oconnells31) August 18, 2018
Jon sounds like he could use a new crystal ball...
At the very start of the match, it looked as though the wholesale changes would yield positive results. An early break saw Ndidi play an absolutely perfect ball in the path of Gray, whose cross just eluded Vardy and Maddison in the box. Game on!
That would be the last truly positive moment from City for the first half hour.
Wolves quickly took hold of the game and really should have been up 2-0 within the first 5 minutes. A simple long ball beat the entire Leicester defense, putting Jimenez in behind. The back line recovered, but the ball fell to Joao Moutinho alone on the edge of the box. You’d have expected him to hit the target, but his scooped shot bounced off the bottom of the bar.
Almost immediately after that let off, Evans feel asleep and allowed Jimenez to prevent a ball from going out for a goal kick and center the ball to Matthew Doherty in the 6-yard box. His first time effort beat Schmeichel but was cleared off the line by Ben Chilwell. Better finishing from Wolves and City would have been in a 2-0 hole before some of the fans had made their way to their seats.
The next twenty minutes followed a familiar and not-at-all welcome pattern: The Foxes bossed possession but struggled to break down the visitor’s defense. When we inevitably gave up the ball, Wolves attacked with purpose and a real sense of threat. They were nearly rewarded with a deserved lead when Jimenez launched a rocket from the edge of the area that struck the post, then Schmeichel and rolled out for a corner.
Just after the half hour mark, the hosts took a shock lead in a comical fashion. Albrighton’s cross from right wing was slightly over-hit, evading Vardy, landing squarely on the bonce of Wolves winger Doherty, whose bullet header beat Rui Patricio. It was the kind of own-goal that would have made Frank Sinclair proud.
Superb header from Wolves’ Doherty has given Leicester the lead....yes, you read that correctly.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) August 18, 2018
The goal changed the tenor of the match. City slowly started to look the more dangerous side, pressing the visitors and asking most of the questions. This pressure was rewarded right before the break. Ricardo found Maddison just outside the D and the former Norwich City man’s snap shot took a wicked deflection and gave the Foxes a 2-0 lead at the half.
Wolves manager Nuno Espírito Santo sent on Adama Traoré and Leo Bonatini to start the second half in an attempt to rescue something from the match, while the Foxes stayed unchanged. It was the visitors who were on the front foot from the restart as Traoré seemed able to go by anyone who tried to defend him, but no clear chances came from the opening exchanges.
As the hour mark approached, Claude Puel sent on Amartey for Albrighton, shifting to three at the back, with Ricardo in midfield, in an attempt to tighten up the defense. The game started to get scrappy, and with referee Mike Dean in charge, “scrappy” means you’re going to see some cards. On the 70’ minute mark, Vardy challenged Doherty in midfield. Vardy took the ball cleanly, but his follow-through caught the late-arriving Wolves man. Dean brandished the red card and City were going to have to see this one out with 10 men.
Curiously enough, the run of play didn’t change at all. Wolves continued to threaten without really doing a great deal of threatening. They did hit the post for a third time, but from a tight angle and no real chance of scoring. Iheanacho and Silva came on for Maddison and Gray to see out the final 10 minutes and the Foxes looked the more likely to score when the final whistle blew.
At the end of day, it’s 3 points, but it was the least-impressive 2-0 win I’ve seen by a fairly wide margin. To put it bluntly, Wolverhampton were the better side for the majority of the match and better finishing on their part would have reversed the scoreline and then some.
That’s not to say there weren’t some outstanding performances. Ben Chilwell had his best match in a Leicester shirt. Ricardo is a real threat getting forward, Ndidi looks sharp, Gray had some fine moments and put in a shift, and kudos to Mendy for getting through 90 and suggesting there might be more to come from him.
The win puts City 9th on the table with 3 points from two matches. City travel to the coast to play Southampton next Saturday.