Leicester City dropped all three points to Fulham Monday evening at the King Power. The visitors took a 2-0 lead at the half through an Ademola Lookman strike and an Ivan Cavaleiro penalty. The Foxes got one back through Harvey Barnes, but it was too little and, well, to be honest, if it’s too little, the “too late” bit doesn’t really matter, does it?
We may as well just give the ball back anytime were awarded a corner. #LeiFul— Canadian Foxes (@LCFC_Canada) November 30, 2020
This is a good tweet...unfortunately.
Without the services of long-time absentees Çağlar Söyüncü, Ricardo Pereira, Timothy Castagne, Wilfred Ndidi, and Daniel Amartey, manager Brendan Rodgers’ starting XI looked a great deal what like what we’ve seen in recent weeks. Kasper Schmeichel started in goal behind a back three of Wesley Fofana, Jonny Evans, and Christian Fuchs. Wingbacks James Justin and Luke Thomas flanked the midfield partnership of Youri Tielemans and Nampalys Mendy. Dennis Praet and James Maddison slotted in as attacking midfielders behind striker Jamie Vardy. On paper, it was a conservative approach at home against the Premiership’s leakiest defense, but you could have said the same thing about the lineup that put five past Man City.
The first quarter hour of the match was completely devoid of goalmouth action, although NBC’s piped-in crowd noise seemed enthralled with every back pass, intercepted through ball, and goal kick. Both sides managed a single shot, neither of which were on target or even especially close to being on target. It wasn’t the worst football I’ve ever seen, but was some of the least football if that makes any sense.
James Justin decided to take matters into his own hands and went on a driving run towards the area. Harrison Reed cut him down just outside the area earning a richly-deserved yellow in the process. Maddison’s free kick failed to clear the wall, but it fell to Tielemans, whose volleyed effort completely baffled Alphonse Areola and bounced off the post. It caromed to Fofana in front of the goal, but he snatched at his effort and sent it off the crossbar.
The visitors had their first serious attempt on goal just before the half hour mark. A long ball over the top was only cleared as far as Ademola Lookman, who squared the ball for Cavaleiro, who found Robinson unmarked in the area. The U.S. international struck the ball tamely directly to Schmeichel but this is what we in the business refer to as foreshadowing. Would Leicester heed the warning?
They would not.
Tielemans turned the ball over with a soft pass and the Cottagers were off to the races. Anguissa carried the ball the length of the pitch and found Lookman all alone. The England U21 international kept his nerve and calmly slotted the ball past Schmeichel to give the visitors the lead. Was it against the run of play? Oh, absolutely! Was it undeserved? Not a chance.
Things got even worse for the Foxes when Fuchs clashed with Bobby De Cordova-Reid in the box. The referee, standing right over the incident, said “play on” and play on they did for about five minutes. When the ball finally went out of play, VAR reviewed it and determined that it was a penalty. Ivan Cavaleiro stepped up and took the shot. Schmeichel went the correct direction, but there was no saving this one.
Leicester huffed and puffed and knocked the ball around a bit but never really looked like breaking down the disciplined Fulham defense. When the halftime whistle blew, City were sitting at 68% possession and an 8-5 lead in shots, but the only thing that mattered was the 2-0 deficit on the scoreboard.
Rodgers was presumably and predictably underwhelmed by what he saw in the first half and made two changes at the half, withdrawing Thomas and Praet in favor of Harvey Barnes and Cengiz Ünder. The shape changed as well, with Fuchs moving to left back, Ünder and Barnes on the wings, and Madders moving in behind Vardy.
The changes made Leicester look a little more urgent on the ball, but they didn’t immediately change much in terms of run-of-play. The Foxes were having ages on the ball, but the movement wasn’t there and it was too easy to defend for the Cottagers. The one exception was Ünder, who was constantly making runs looking for balls that would never arrive.
Rodgers decided that there wasn’t a whole lot of use having a defensive midfielder on the pitch so he sent Kelechi Iheanacho on for Mendy. At this point, discussions of formation were kind of moot. With this many attacking players on, defensive organization was always going to be a problem and it was Fulham who should have scored the next goal. Lookman was again found in space in the box, but this time Schmeichel did marvelously well to block his fierce and very goal-bound effort.
Fulham were playing with tremendous confidence and pinning the Foxes back into their own half for far too long, but you always had sense that if Leicester could get one back, the visitors’ confidence would crumble. It took 85’, but City finally got on thee scoreboard. A Tielemans cross was deflected to Vardy just outside the six yard box, the striker chested it to Barnes, who took a touch and then blasted it home from close range. Game on?
The moment came four minutes into injury time, but it was not to be. A brilliant Tielemans ball over the top found Justin’s run. The England youth international tapped it back into the path of Iheanacho in front of goal, but the former Manchester City man slipped at the worst possible moment and couldn’t make contact with the goalmouth beckoning. That proved the Foxes’ last gasp as the Cottagers ran out time on a 2-1 victory.
I considered writing this report without punctuation based on the theory that, if the match was frustrating to watch, it should be frustrating to read as well. After hitting the woodwork twice during a dominant stretch of play, the Foxes let the London side grow into the match and were punished for their failure to snuff out Fulham’s confidence. Leicester never really looked like getting back into a game they never should have been out of in the first place.
Brendan Rodgers is usually out to speak to the media very quickly post-match but hasn’t even come out of the tunnel as yet suggesting the debrief has taken some time. pic.twitter.com/5xKWZG5NKO— Ian Stringer (@StringerSport) November 30, 2020
Now I have the mental image of being “de-briefed by Brendan Rodgers”...and so do you.
The defeat cost the Foxes a chance to go joint top of the league. Instead, we remain 4th on the table with 18 points from 10 matches. Our next match is on Thursday the 3rd against Zorya Luhansk. City have already qualified for the knockout stages, but a victory here would ensure a top-placed finish in the group. Our next Premier League action is on Sunday as we travel to south Yorkshire to face Sheffield United.