Leicester City saw off Brighton & Hove Albion by a score of 2-0 at the Amex on a rainy Saturday on the south coast. The Foxes dominated the first period without scoring, but goals from Ayoze Perez and Jamie Vardy in a chaotic second half were enough to doom the Seagulls to defeat.
If there’s a club that takes better care of their fans, I’d...who am I kidding? There isn’t one.
With no serious injuries over the international break, manager Brendan Rodgers kept the faith with what has become his first-choice XI: Kasper Schmeichel in goal and a back line of Ricardo Pereira, Jonny Evans, Çaglar Söyüncü, and Ben Chilwell. Wilfred Ndidi held the fort behind a midfield four of Ayoze Perez, Youri Tielemans, James Maddison, and Harvey Barnes. Jamie Vardy led the line as the lone striker.
It took less than two minutes for Leicester to rattle the post of the hosts’ goal. In a move started with the opening kickoff, Barnes sent in a perfect, albeit deflected, cross to the back post that Ayoze steered onto the upright from a tight angle. Moments later, the Foxes won a corner and worked a marvelous short routine that found Barnes alone in space 14 yards out, but he couldn’t get his body over the ball, launching it well high.
On 7’, the Foxes had yet another chance when Shane Duffy brought down Barnes on the left wing. Chilwell’s free kick found Vardy’s run and his header was on-target, but Mat Ryan did well to turn it over. From the ensuing corner, the ball fell to Vardy again and flick on was well cleared by Aaron Mooy with Ayoze waiting to tap it in.
The Seagulls started to claw their way back into the match with extremely limited success. They enjoyed some possession and Leicester weren’t getting any clear-cut chances over the next quarter hour, but Schmeichel remained a spectator beyond retreiving the occasional long Brighton clearance just to keep his legs stretched.
The match settled into a pattern of Leicester creating chances but just not finding the final ball (which, wherever it was, did not seem to reside with Barnes) and Brighton struggling to get the ball out of their area and struggling even more so to do anything useful with it when they did. The Seagulls finally got their first shot of the match when Shane Duffy got on the end of a corner, but he glanced it well wide from close range.
Leicester got one final chance of the half when Ndidi won the ball and set Madders up to slide a through ball to Vardy. The former England man beat the keeper to the ball, but Ryan denied him the shot and he crossed instead to an empty area bereft of onrushing Leicester attackers and the chance was lost. That was it for the first half which, while goalless, was one of the most comfortable 45 minutes of football I’ve ever seen Leicester play. The Foxes out-shot the hosts 11-1 and that was a fair summary of the run of play. Surely some reward in the second half, right?
The second half started in a shockingly open fashion. A break down the left saw Brighton get a cross into the box that was either well-defended by Söyüncü or a clumsy penalty bringing down Neal Maupay in the box and I’ll be honest: I haven’t seen a clear enough replay to determine which. Shortly afterwards, a marauding run by Barnes saw the former West Brom loanee center the ball for Ayoze, whose first-time effort was tame and directly at Ryan.
The match up to this point was neatly summarized by the action at the hour mark. Albion won a corner and, with Evans receiving treatment, he was forced to leave the pitch. With Leicester’s best aerial defender missing, Brighton worked a bizarre routine that saw them pass the ball back to the halfway line and miss fail to make the advantage pay. Immediately after, Vardy did an incredible job winning a long ball and getting just enough control to feed Ayoze, who drew the keeper out. Alas, he was unable to get around Ryan or even get a shot off, and the chance was gone.
Leicester were the side who learned from their folly as Vardy and Perez were released yet again on a break. Vards took the ball deep into the penalty area before squaring for Perez, who smashed it into the net giving the Foxes a richly-deserved lead. Cue the huge sighs of relief. We had yet another golden chance moments later when Chilwell carried the ball the length of the pitch. He squared it for Vardy, whose first touch was brilliant, but Ryan made himself huge and he blocked the goalbound effort. To make it worse, Evans was unable to continue and Wes Morgan was introduced in his stead.
The match was anything but decided as the hosts had an opportunity to equalize almost immediately. A crossfield ball found Maupay in the box and he went over under a nudge from Ricardo. It wasn’t given, but let’s just say that VAR wouldn’t have overturned it had it been. Albion were starting to get behind the Leicester defense with some success and things were anything but comfortable at this point.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Vardy got loose over the top yet again. He drove down the right channel (again), drawing in the defense (again) and squared the ball for Madders (ag..wait, that one’s new), who drew the keeper out but couldn’t get a shot off (again). Rodgers decided things were getting a bit silly and decided to send Dennis Praet on for Ayoze to try to tighten things up.
Rodgers next sent Gray on for Barnes but, if anything, it only increased the silliness. Gray’s first involvement was to win a penalty just inside the Brighton area. To be honest, there wasn’t much more in it than any of the Brighton penalty shouts, but VAR confirmed the decision. Vardy stepped up and smashed it to the left, but Ryan saved it. The ball fell to Madders, who headed it in and...it was chalked off by VAR as Maddison was in the box a moment early. The penalty was then retaken by Vardy, who rolled it into the back of the net, giving the Foxes a 2-0 lead.
Vardy takes pen— Leicester City (@LCFC) November 23, 2019
Vardy scores pic.twitter.com/eAUkwxWyOO
It would be controller-through-screen time if this happened in FIFA20...
The rest of the match played out in much the same fashion. Vardy terrorized the defense but the Foxes wouldn’t beat Ryan again, while Brighton looked dangerous when they got forward but never really looked like finding the final ball even when it was right in front of them. Three minutes of added time wound down as the fans poured out of the stadium and Leicester bagged a deserved three points from their trip to the south coast.
It was very much a “game of two halves” (technically, they all are, but you know what I mean), but not in the usual sense. The first half was very comfortable, very controlled, and so completely free of incident that VAR was a non-factor. The second half was just ridiculous. Brighton came out of their shell and made a game of it and could easily have had a few goals, but on the other hand, I am deadly serious when I say Leicester could have had six.
Both wingers played well and Chilwell is starting to look like a left-footed Ricardo out there, but this was very much Jamie Vardy’s match. He got a goal and an assist and that seriously understates his contribution. He spent the entire second period doing Vardy things and, when that happens, woe be unto the poor defenders.
The win gives Leicester 29 points from 13 matches which falls safely into the “good” range of returns. It’s good enough to keep the Foxes second on the table no matter what transpires between Chelsea and Manchester City this afternoon. We return to the King Power next Sunday to face Everton to close out November and then host Watford on the 4th of December.