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Premier League Match Report: Leicester City 2 - 0 Watford

It wasn’t pretty, but I’m sure it’s still worth three points

Leicester City v Watford FC - Premier League Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Leicester City saw off Watford by a score of 2-0 in a scrappy affair at the King Power on Wednesday evening. A Jamie Vardy penalty and a late James Maddison strike provided the margin as the visitors defended in numbers but struggled to get out of their own half for long periods of time.

Really? That’s the record? I had no idea! Color me surprised.

Manager Brendan Rodgers rang in the changes, at least compared to the last couple of months. Christian Fuchs got the nod at left back ahead of Ben Chilwell. The rest of the side was unchanged from Everton at the King Power on Sunday. Kasper Schmeichel in goal, with Ricardo Pereiera, Jonny Evans, Çağlar Söyüncü, and Fuchs making up the back four. Wilfred Ndidi slotted in behind a midfield of Ayoze Perez, Youri Tielemans, James Maddison, and Harvey Barnes. Premier League-leading scorer Jamie Vardy once again spearheaded the attack.

The Foxes should have been ahead before some of the fans had taken their seats. Vardy snuck in behind the Hornets’ defense and found Ayoze all alone on the penalty spot. Alas, the Spaniard seemed uncomfortable being afforded so much space. He slipped and sent his shot well over when scoring looked more likely.

The first twenty minutes or so were almost entirely a matter of Leicester knocking the ball around, but not nearly quickly enough to concern a packed Watford defense. They were looking suspiciously like a side who had played a difficult match only three days ago and were perhaps a half-step slow. They were nearly made to pay when the Hornets poured forward following a corner, but Gerard Deulofeu made a hash of his spacing, allowing Ricardo to toe the ball out for a corner.

The hint of a threat seemed to give the Foxes a wake-up call. Madders did brilliantly to tee up Barnes on the left, but the former West Brom loanee could only find the side netting with his effort from a tight angle. The hosts were in such complete control that Schmeichel was coming out of goal to retrieve clearances near the halfway line.

City spurned another opportunity on 35’. Barnes made a diagonal run across the area, playing a 1-2 with both Vardy and Ayoze, skipped around the last defender, but Ben Foster was wise to it and was perfectly positioned to block the shot.

Immediately afterwards, our old friend VAR was called into action for the first time. Vardy was clipped in the box. Referee Craig Pawson wasn’t impressed and booked the striker for diving. It went to video, but wasn’t given. Here’s what our friends at the BBC had to say:

It would have sounded biased if I said it.

And so it went for the rest of the half. Leicester carved out the odd half-chance and Watford would break in numbers when they were able to get out of their own half. The half ended with the visitors having had only 32% of the possession, 2 shots without any on target. Knowing that, you’d think the Foxes had dominated, but they only managed 3 shots with Barnes’ effort the only one on frame. They were the better side and the penalty shout probably should have been given, but it wasn’t the most inspiring half of football for either team.

The gaffer wasn’t pleased with what he saw in the first half, so he withdrew Ayoze in favor of Dennis Praet. That’s not exactly what I was expecting, but it seemed to light a fire under the Foxes. Söyüncü made a marauding run into the Watford half before being brought down by Deulofeu. Madders free kick was only cleared as far as the Turkey international, who lashed his volley well over the bar.

The Foxes had yet another chance on 50’ when Ricardo made a diagonal run across the box and found Barnes all by himself on the edge of the area. He turned inside, then back outside and shot with his left foot. Unfortunately, Ben Foster lacked the fleetness of foot to be fooled by the movement. He remained right where he started, which was exactly where the shot went, and he made the easy save.

VAR was called into action on 53’ when a Maddison cross was aimed for Evans, but the Northern Ireland man was unable to reach it on account of Adam Masina’s hand being in his face. VAR made the controversial decision that “shove a guy’s face with your hand” qualified as a foul, and the penalty was given. Vardy stepped up and Foster went to the “stand in one place without moving” well once too often. The former England striker struck into the back of the net with his resplendent rainbow-laces for his 14th goal of the season.

Leicester City v Watford FC - Premier League
It’s hard to tell from this photo, but those boots are golden...
Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Praet had the perfect opportunity to open his scoring account when Barnes was tackled on the edge of the area and the ball fell invitingly for the Belgium international. His half-volley was just deflected behind for a corner. Söyüncü rose highest for the ensuing cross, but glanced it just wide.

With the Hornets in the unfamiliar position of trying to get forward, space was opening at the back. Tielemans put Vardy through the back of the defense, but his chip/cross was just put behind by Masina before going in/falling to the onrushing Barnes. Things were starting to get a bit chippy at this point. Well, they’d been chippy from the start as Watford were leaving a little something in every time they challenged for the ball, but now it was chippy with a little more salt and vinegar.

This was Rodgers cue to withdraw Tielemans and introduce the avatar of calm control himself: Hamza Choudhury. It would be an exaggeration to say things settled down, but at least nothing terribly dangerous happened over the next ten minutes or so. Watford manager sent the brilliantly-named Isaac Success on for the frustrated Deulofeu. Rodgers responded by sending James Justin on for Barnes and moving Fuchs inside as a 3rd CB.

With all of the substitutions out of the way, the game regained something of a flow for the last ten minutes. Watford tried to retrieve the ball and get forward, Leicester would break at pace down the left wing (nice job, Mr. Justin). Every time the Foxes got the ball, the visitors were forced into more and more desperate defending until finally, deep into injury time, they rode their luck once too often. A ball across the box fell to Maddison, who patiently took it down and slotted the ball past Foster to give Leicester the final 2-0 margin.

Leicester City v Watford FC - Premier League
Because I have the mentality of an 8 year-old, I cannot think of a printable caption for this photo.
Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

This was never going to be the prettiest evening of football. Both teams played last weekend, and relegation-haunted Watford were going to do everything within their power to keep Leicester from playing football. The Foxes were both patient and maybe a little tired, so it took time, but in the end, the result was a fair reflection of the run of play.

Due to the nature of the match, the standout performances weren’t as obvious as they often are. Maddison impressed me with his growing ability to influence gritty affairs when he isn’t afforded much in the way of space and time. It also please me no end to see Fuchs out there, absolutely shutting down the Watford wingers and making several last-ditch clearances. He doesn’t get forward like he used to, but he’s still the consummate professional and I feel completely comfortable with him at left back.

Raise your hands if you thought this would be the case. Now put your hands back down, you liars.

The win takes Leicester to 35 points from 15 matches, which puts us 2nd on the table, 8 points behind Liverpool. Our next match sees us travel to Birmingham to face Aston Villa next Sunday. After that, we return home to host Norwich on Saturday the 14th.