Leicester City fell to Burnley 2-1 at Turf Moor in the early Sunday match despite being the better side for the majority of the match. A first half goal from Harvey Barnes was cancelled by second half strikes from Chris Wood and Ashley Westwood on either side of a Jamie Vardy penalty that was saved by Nick Pope.
I was hoping that this would cheer me up. I was wrong.
Manager Brendan Rodgers kept the faith with his preferred 4-1-4-1 shape, but he made wholesales changes to the squad that fell to Southampton last weekend. Neither Ben Chilwell nor Hamza Choudhury made the bench, and Youri Tielemans was left out of the starting XI due to fatigue. Kasper Schmeichel kept his place in goal behind a back four of Ricardo Pereira, Jonny Evans, Çağlar Söyüncü, and Christian Fuchs. Nampalys Mendy got the nod in the holding role, screening a midfield of Ayoze Perez, Dennis Praet, James Maddison, and Harvey Barnes. Jamie Vardy started up top as the lone striker.
The Foxes started with an energy that was lacking against the Saints and were nearly rewarded in the opening minute. Leicester were able to work the ball to Barnes cutting into the host’s penalty area, but his close-range shot from a difficult angle lacked the placement to beat Clarets keeper Nick Pope.
The next chance came just after the 12’ mark as a low ball from midfield released Vardy down the right. Pope came for it and failed to reach the ball, but he was able to force the former Fleetwood Town man too wide to shoot. Instead, he cut it back for the onrushing Maddison. The midfielder tried to take a touch when blasting it first time would have been the better, or honestly, the only option, and the chance was lost.
Burnley had their first sniff of goal on the half-hour mark, but it was the faintest of sniffs, carrying none of the essence of threat to it. Demonstrating the sort of decision making that leaves your team in the bottom quarter of the table, Jay Rodriguez picked up the ball 35 yards out and had a go from distance, It looked to be going wide, but it was low and slow enough the Schmeichel gathered it without any drama or difficulty.
At the other end, Leicester took not merely a sniff of the net, but took in the entire bouquet. Praet did the dirty work, winning the ball in the midfield. It fell to Barnes and suddenly he and Vardy were 2-on-2 with the Burnley center-halfs. Vardy’s diagonal run took James Tarkowski out of the picture, leaving Barnes with just Ben Mee to beat, and beat him he did. The future England man simply ran around the former Fox and blasted it into the back of the net, giving Leicester a just-about-deserved 1-0 lead.
Burnley were starting to look ragged, diving into tackles late and giving up free kicks in dangerous positions. Madders won a soft one right before the whistle and whipped his delivery in to the near post. Ayoze met it but couldn’t get on top of it and his glancing header went well over. That proved the last action of first half that was short on quality but I’ll take a Leicester lead over “quality” any day.
The second half nearly started in the way the first, with Leicester having a look at goal before the fans were back in their seats. Madders found Praet in the Burnley area. The Belgium man took it first time with his left foot and it was curling toward the corner, but Pope did well to turn it away with one hand. Moments later, Vardy showed a little rust, failing to control a ball that would have left him with only the keeper to beat.
There was some concern at the other end as well. The Clarets’ bread and butter is the high ball into the box and they finally got a good one from Dwight McNeil. His cross found Chris Wood in the box, but the former Leicester striker put it over when you would have expected him to score.
The New Zealand man did find the back of the net moments later. Burnley won a corner on the right. The cross found Mee at the back post, whose tame shot was parried by Schmeichel, but it was parried directly to Wood a yard from the goal. There would be no missing from that range, at least, there would be no missing from that range by a professional Premier League striker which is what Chris Wood is.
The Foxes responded well, creating chances for Barnes and Madders without scoring. The best chance came when Barnes was isolated on Mee again. The rematch went no better for the Burnley defender. This time, he took both of Barnes’ legs without getting near the ball for the most obvious penalty you’ll see this year. Unfortunately, Vardy’s effort from the spot was equally obvious and Pope saved it easily.
The game was wide open now with both sides sensing the opportunity to grab a winner. Rodgers made this point emphatically, sending on Youri Tielemans and Kelechi Iheancho for Praet and Ayoze respectively. Leicester put the pressure on and should have been in the driver’s seat on 75’ minutes. Madders fired in a shot from distance that Mee leaned into and stopped with his elbow, a clear penalty and second yellow card. Somehow, the referee missed it and play continued.
Apparently, this is only a penalty when we do it. Just kidding, it should always be a penalty.
Vardy missed yet another opportunity, blasting the ball directly into Pope when their were many, many better options. The Clarets took the lead moments later against the run of play. A cross to the near post was cleared by Evans but, as with Schmeichel before, he cleared the ball directly into the path of a player in claret and blue. Ashley Westwood struck it first time, giving Schmeichel no chance and giving the hosts a late lead.
Things started to get desperate as Burnley packed their defense, inviting the Foxes to take long range shots and, unfortunately, too many times, Leicester took the bait. Söyüncü of all people blasted one from 35 yards that was well-hit but always going over the bar. Better was an effort from Ricardo from close range, but the defense held firm.
We haven’t had one of these in a while, have we? We were clearly the better side and should have been home and dry, but the Clarets scored on two of the three opportunities they had, we missed a penalty, Nick Pope was fantastic, and the referee completely whiffed on a match-changing decision. We could have won this one 3-0 and Sean Dyche would have had no complaints.
Barnes was clearly the standout Leicester performer. The central midfield of Praet and Madders ticked nicely. Ricardo was Ricardo and he shouldn’t be taken for granted just because he’s always excellent. I would like to take a moment to recognize Mendy. He’s not been a favorite of mine but this was one of his better performances in a Leicester shirt.
The defeat leaves me completely drained and leaves Leicester 3rd on the table with 46 points from 23 matches. I’d calculate the points per match, but that kind of higher math is beyond me. We host West Ham this coming Wednesday, and then it’s the beautiful London borough of Hounslow to face Brentford in the FA Cap.