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Premier League Match Report: Leicester City 1 - 0 Wolverhampton Wanderers

Vardy penalty sends Foxes to the top of the table

Raise your hand if you thought those two would be key parts of a Premier League-leading defense. Now put it back down, you fibber.
Photo by TIM KEETON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Leicester City edged past Wolverhampton Wanderers in an evenly-balanced match at the King Power on Sunday afternoon. Jamie Vardy scored and missed a penalty in the first half and the defense weathered an orange storm in the second period. A crucial Kasper Schmeichel save ensured the Foxes would get all three points and ascend to the top of the table.

Manager Brendan Rodgers made a handful of changes to the side that thrashed Braga on Thursday. Kasper Schmeichel remained in goal behind a back three of Wesley Fofana, Johnny Evans, and Christian Fuchs. Luke Thomas and James Justin slotted in as wingbacks on either side of midfielders Nampalys Mendy and Youri Tielemans. James Maddison and Dennis Praet got the nod as attacking midfielders behind lone striker Jamie Vardy.

The match started incredibly enthusiastically. This may be due to my watching the Telemundo feed for the opening minutes. Things calmed down considerably when I switched over to NBC. The initial sparring was fairly even, with the Foxes having the better of the possession but the visitors defending with strength and neither side looking especially likely to score.

City took the lead on the quarter hour, albeit not entirely without controversy. A give and go between Justin and Praet put the Beligian in great position to cross from the edge of the area. The ball was struck at pace and hit defender Max Kilman’s arm just a couple of yards from Praet. Referee Anthony Taylor initially gave a corner, but when he saw the replay, he determined Kilman’s arm was not in a natural position and gave the penalty. Vardy sent Rui Patricio the wrong way and gave the Foxes the lead. Under the current law and current interpretation, it had to be given, but make no mistake: It was harsh.

Nine more than any other player in that time. Remember when people were saying he wouldn’t thrive in Rodgers system? I guess “thrive” is underselling it.

The established run of play resumed with both defenses on top and both teams seeing intricate attacks break down in the final third. The Foxes were just on top, but these were two good, well-balanced sides. The nerviest moment came when Fuchs gave the ball away in midfield. Wolves steamed towards the City goal on a 3-on-3 break when Fofana slid in from behind and won the ball so cleanly there were no complaints from the visitors.

Leicester City v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Premier League
Imagine a flying Choudhury challenge but without having to hold your breath to see if it’s going to be a red card.
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

I’m making an effort not to call out individual performances this year, so I’m just gonna leave this tweet here...

The Foxes won another penalty on 38’ and this one wasn’t remotely controversial. Rayan Ait Nouri intercepted a long ball for Justin, but his touch was heavy and he wiped out the former Luton Town man. Vardy smashed it down the middle, but Rui Patriciao made the save with his legs. The ball bounced back to Vardy, but with too much pace for the former Stockbridge Steels man to put it on target.

Wolves had their best spell right at the end of the first half. The Foxes were pinned into their own half and even their own box for almost five straight minutes, but the defense held and the visitors were unable to muster a shot on goal. City were good value for their one goal lead, even if it arrived in somewhat circuitous fashion.

Leicester made one change at the half, withdrawing Luke Thomas for Marc Albrighton with Justin moving out left. The change almost immediately resulted in a goal, with the former Aston Villa winger whipping in a dangerous cross that Tielemans headed just wide. Youri had another look on goal shortly after from a free kick routine, but his effort from distance was well over.

Things were opening up a bit now and Wolves had a great opportunity from a couple of breaks. The first was broken up neatly by Fofana, but the second was worked to Neto who had an open look from the edge of the area, but Schmeichel did well to hold his low drive.

Of course, with Wolves committing bodies forward, that also meant more chances for Vardy to stretch his ageless legs. The former England striker did well to win a corner just before the hour mark. Madders found Evans with the outswinger, but Evans couldn’t keep his header down and it went well over.

Vardy decided to take things in to his own hands the next time down the pitch. With no support and no real options, he unleashed a wicked drive from a difficult angle that nearly caught out Rui Patricio who was forced to concede the corner. This being the 2020 edition of Leicester City, it came to nothing.

Rodgers decided to inject some additional pace into the side on 70’, introducing Harvey Barnes for Maddison. As the commentators kept reminding us, no side has scored more goals in the last quarter-hour than Wolves and it was easy to see why. Ruben Neves suddenly came to life, curling a drive from the edge of the area that Schmeichel did brilliantly to turn around the post. Neves then sent in a perfectly-weighted cross to the back post that found Leander Dendoncker unmarked, but the Belgium international guided the ball wide of the post.

With the match opening up, Wes Morgan was brought on for Praet to try to slow things down. Wolves were very much on top and looking dangerous every time Adama touched the ball, so the addition of Morgan allowed Fuchs to shadow the Spain international.

With everyone back to defend, it was Vardy who won the ball deep in the Leicester half. He sent Justin on his way down the left and the fullback carried the ball the length of the pitch before finding Barnes in the area. The academy product took one touch and fired the ball towards the top corner, but Kilman got back to deflect it over the bar with his knee. The ensuing corner was cleared as far as Fuchs, who smashed and absolute peach of a ball goalward only to see it blocked by the unlucky Evans, who was already struggling with his back.

Legit great block, but you’d think he’d have learned about having one’s arms extended...
Photo by TIM KEETON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Wolves resumed their siege of the penalty area, but they were unable to threaten Schmeichel’s goal in any meaningful way. It was nervy, it was controversial, but in the end, it was three points and Brendan Rodgers will be happy to take it.

After several comfortable results in a row, the Foxes saw out a tight one. There wasn’t much difference between these two sides today and on another day, the result could have gone the other way. So, full credit to the Foxes for grinding this one out and defending the lead. Yet another makeshift defense resulted in yet another clean sheet. Mr. Brendan Rodgers, take a bow.

The win is Leicester’s sixth in eight matches, giving them 18 points which places them (checks notes) at the top of the table. After the international break we face off against Liverpool on Merseyside and then travel northern Portugal to face S.C. Braga in the Europa League.