The Foxes closed out their pre-season program with 2-1 victory over Ligue 1 side Lille in the north of France Saturday evening. A Kelechi Iheanacho brace overturned an early lead by the hosts and allowed Leicester to go into the Premier League season on a high note.
Leicester looked to be in for a torrid time at Stade Pierre-Mauroy as the pace of Pepe proved to be more than the back line of Daniel Amartey, Wes Morgan, Yohan Benalouane, and Ben Chilwell could deal with. World Cup hero Kasper Schmeichel made a stunning double save in the opening minute, but could do nothing when a cross from the right wing eluded Morgan and found Lebo Mothida alone in front of the goal. Mothida’s shot wasn’t convincing, but he couldn’t miss from that range and Les Dogues were on top on only 4’.
The early goal seemed to stir the Foxes from their slumber as they slowly gained a foothold on the game. At first, City were limited to long range shots, with Wilfred Ndidi going over the bar from 25 yards. James Maddison’s clever passing, positioning, and set-piece delivery threatened to unlock the Lille defense several times, most notably when an over-the-top ball found Ricardo Pereira making a run into the centre of the box. The end product was lacking, but the move was sublime.
As time wore on, most of the danger was coming from the left wing, where Chilwell and Marc Albrighton were combining to wreak havoc. It was fitting, then, that a long Amarety cross was well-controlled by the former Villa man whose early cross created the first goal. The ball was behind Iheanacho, but the Nigeria international leaned back and guided it against the far post and into the net, leveling the score.
City made only one change at the break, bringing on Adrien Silva for Vicente Iborra in the central midfield. The Foxes picked up where they left off, looking the more likely team to score, and Silva showed some fine skill and hinting at what we never really got to see from him last year.
While this game was listed as a “friendly”, it was played in a manner that was anything but. Tackles were flying in from both sides, and unfortunately, City were the ones to pay the price. A late challenge on Maddison tore into his ankle, leaving his sock torn and bloodied. The former Norwich City man tried to carry on, but had to be replaced by Fousseni Diabaté. After the match, Maddison was optimistic that he’d be ready for the trip to Old Trafford on Friday, but we’ll know more tomorrow.
Oh dear.— James Sharpe (@TheSharpeEnd) August 4, 2018
Maddison is hacked down and lets out a cry like a banshee as he hits the deck.
Takes an age to get up, limping like hell. The last thing #LCFC need.
Somehow, the audio on the television feed missed this.
With half an hour to go, Iheanacho put Leicester on top for good. Once again, he was set up by a good move on the left as Albrighton found Chilwell’s run and the academy product fired in a low cross that evaded the defenders and found the former Manchester City striker at the back post. It wasn’t the most difficult of finishes, but he took it well and that makes four goals in the last three matches for Iheanacho.
That effectively marked the end of the match. Both teams made mass substitutions on 70. City brought on Darnell Johnson, Josh Knight, Callum Elder, Josh Gordon, and Layton Ndukwu to see out the game, and see it out they did. Unfortunately, Ndukwu had to come on for Silva, who picked up an ankle knock that did not appear to be as serious as Maddison’s.
One of the most notable aspects of the match is who didn’t make the bench for City. Danny Simpson, Leo Ulloa, Islam Slimani, and Andy King were left out of the squad and, presumably, out of manager Claude Puel’s plans for the season. There are reports that Simpson’s availability has already attracted the attention of Watford.
This was a near-perfect tune-up for Leicester going in to the league opener against Manchester United, marred only by the injuries to Maddison and Silva. After a farcical opening 10 minutes, the Foxes looked crisp against an unusually determined side and earned a deserved win. City will look to turn this momentum into points against the Red Devils on Friday afternoon.