Leicester City defeated Fulham by a score of 3-1 at the King Power on Saturday afternoon. Youri Tielemans first Leicester goal in the first half was cancelled by substitute Floyd Ayite’s strike early in the second period. A late Jamie Vardy brace gave the Foxes a richly deserved three points and Rodgers first win at Leicester manager.
Manager Brendan Rodgers’ starting XI reverted to the familiar 4-2-3-1 shape. Kasper Schmeichel started in goal behind a back four of Ricardo Pereira, Jonny Evans, Harry Maguire, and Ben Chilwell. Wilfred Ndidi and Youri Tielemans partnered in central midfield behind attacking midfielders Demarai Gray, James Maddison, and Harvey Barnes. Jamie Vardy once provided the spearhead to the attack as the lone striker.
The early exchanges could generously be described as “scrappy”. The Foxes saw most of the ball, but other than a shot Tielemans blasted over from inside the box, there wasn’t much in the way of chances. Leicester knocked the ball about nicely but were one pass shy short of creating an opportunity.
At the other end, Fulham’s forays into the Foxes’ area were few and far between. The visitors won a couple of corners, but Evans and Maguire defended well and prevented the intermittently-dangerous Cottager aerial threat at bay.
The Foxes took a deserved lead on the 20’ mark through an absolutely sublime goal. Ndidi won the ball in midfield and played a perfect through ball to Vardy, exploiting a high and not-at-all level Fulham back line. The former Fleetwood Town man was through on goal and charged down the keeper. As he shaped to shoot, he flicked the ball square to Tielemans who had the simplest of tap-ins to score his first Leicester City goal.
That could have marked the opening of the flood gates. Barnes went just over with a snap shot inside the box, but the match soon switched back to full “scrappy” mode. City looked good on the ball, but settled for shots from outside the area far too many times, resulting in easy takes for the keeper or momentary excitement for the fans in Row Z.
The half-time whistle blew with the Foxes well on top but with a vague sense of disappointment that the lead wasn’t larger. Schmeichel was a spectator for the entire half as Fulham managed exactly zero shots on goal. In fact, they managed zero shots of any sort.
The Foxes emerged unchanged from the tunnel to start the second half while Fulham sent on Floyd Ayite for the ineffective Ryan Sessengon. It was perhaps the single most immediately-effective substitution Fulham will make all year. A long ball down the left found Ayite, whose first touch left Chiwell in his wake. The substitute drove into the penalty area and fired a low shot that Schmeichel would likely have covered had Maguire not got a touch to it. Instead, the deflection wrong-footed the Denmark man and the ball dribbled agonizingly into the net.
Leicester struggled to impose themselves on the visitors for a good ten minutes after the goal. Fulham seemed revitalized and quicker to every loose ball. Some ugly challenges started to fly in and space started to open up in the back of the previously-solid Foxes’ defense.
The hosts should have retaken the lead on the hour mark. Some brilliant work on the left gave Barnes a look at the goal from the left side of the penalty area. His lower curler was going to just sneak inside the far post, but Sergio Rico just got a fingertip to it and kep the visitors on level terms.
Schmeichel was called into action to make his first save on 68’. A Fulham break down the left saw a long cross find the head of Aleksandar Mitrovic. The big Serbian had somehow lost both Evans and Maguire, and his glancing header was bound for goal had Schmeichel not done well to turn it round the post with a diving save.
Rodgers made a double substitution on the 70’ mark, withdrawing Gray and Tielemans for Rachid Ghezzal and Shinji Okazaki. The Foxes switched to a traditional 4-4-2 with Ghezzal and the left and Barnes on the right. While it would be difficult to say that the substitutes were the reason, the Foxes lead was restored in short order.
Fulham were the architects of their own demise on 75’, giving the ball away cheaply in midfield. Maddison’s first time ball sent Vardy on his way. Once again one-on-one with Sergio Rico, he fired the ball across the keeper and just inside the far post for his 100th competitive goal Leicester.
For the first time in recent memory, Leicester were able to make a defensive substitution to try to see out a match. The gaffer withdrew Maddison for Nampalys Mendy to shore up the defense. It seemed redundant at this point, as the Cottagers appeared to have lost their mojo after conceding the second goal.
Now, let us briefly take a break from the match report to discuss the vagaries of statistics. Prior to the match, the club announced that Vardy had scored 99 competitive goals coming in to this match. That tally included his goal in the Community Shield, a competition which is not universally considered when tallying goals.
"Jamie Vardy has 99 goals in all competitions for #LCFC. He could become the seventh player to score 100 for the club, and the first since Gary Lineker." But do you count the Charity Shield? Better score 2 today to end the debate.— Rob Tanner (@RobTannerMerc) March 9, 2019
Done and done, mate.
With that in mind, Vardy put the count beyond question on 83’. Barnes, back on the left flank, did magnificently to knick the ball off the fullback. He tore into the area, drew the defense to him, and then laid the ball back to Vardy. His first-timer may have been short of power, but it was placed perfectly and beat Sergio Rico all ends up.
That proved to be the final goalmouth action of the match. The last ten minutes saw a lot of long clearances, misplaced passes, and no goal whatsoever, all of which suited Rodgers just fine. No injuries, three goals, and a first win for the new manager? We’ll take that every day of the week.
Leicester made heavy work of what should, on paper, have been an easy three points, but in the end, the quality of Vardy overwhelmed a poor Fulham defense. And let’s not forget: There is no such thing as an “easy three points” at this level. Southampton beat Spurs today, and Newcastle came from two goals down to beat Everton. The big story today is that the Foxes took care of business and got the result and that is not something to be taken for granted.
Vardy was obviously at his devastating best, with two goals and an assist, but he was far from alone in playing well today. Harvey Barnes is just this close from tearing this league apart. He’s quick, he’s direct, and the goals are going to come for him. Ndidi is coming back into the kind of form that puts him in the top tier of defensive midfielders in the Premier League. He’s back to winning everything that comes near him and his passing is starting to come around.
Nice one, Glenn.
The victory brings the Foxes back into the top half of the table. We’re now on 38 points from 30 matches, good enough for 10th in the league. We travel to Turf Moor to face Burnley next Saturday, and then host Bouremouth after the international break on the 30th.