10-man Leicester City and Wolverhampton Wanderers fought to a contentious 0-0 draw Friday night at Molineaux. Wolves had the ball in the back of the net in the first half, but just like in the first meeting between these two sides, VAR correctly spotted an infraction and it was chalked off. Hamza Choudhury saw two yellows in the second half, forcing the Foxes to finish the final fifteen minutes down a man, but the defense withstood the storm and Leicester held on for a hard-earned point.
The rarest of all images from tonight: Vardy on the ball.
Wilfred Ndidi’s recently-repaired knee was giving him difficulty, so manager Brendan Rodgers was forced to make one change to what has become his preferred starting XI. Kasper Schmeichel retained his place in goal behind defenders Ricardo Pereira, Jonny Evans, Çağlar Söyüncü, and Ben Chilwell. Hamza Choudhury got the nod as the holding midfielder between Youri Tielemans and James Maddison. Harvey Barnes and Ayoze Perez provided width in attack in support of striker Jamie Vardy.
Leicester dominated the early going, bossing the possession but struggling to find the telling ball that would unlock the packed Wolves’ defense. It wasn’t until the ten minute mark before Rui Patricio was called into action. A Tielemans drive from outside the area took a deflection that wrong-footed the keeper, but he did well to recover and turn the ball aside. Moments later, Wolves had a golden chance to take an early lead when Neto beat the entire Leicester defense and was able to lay the ball off for Diego Jota. Fortunately, Schmeichel was able to make a Patrick Roy-esque skate save and keep the Foxes on level terms.
The next fifteen minutes followed much the same script. Leicester were on the ball over 70% of the time, but weren’t really createing any more chances than Wolves, who looked dangerous ever time they regained possession. Leicester were looking more dangerous on set pieces. A Madders free kick found the forehead of Söyüncü at the far post, but his header was planted directly into the arms of the keeper.
Wolves looked like they’d snatched the lead right before half-time. A well-worked corner routine saw Neto whip the ball into the area. Doherty flicked it onto the head of Willy Boly, who glanced it into to back of the net past the stranded Schmeichel. VAR decided to take a look and, wouldn’t you know it? Neto was offside when he received the ball to put the cross in. It was only a foot offisde, but it was clear enough to see in real time and so no one should have been surprised when it was chalked off.
A surprisingly-similar event, although the referee’s reaction was better here.
That was it for the half. The Wolves’ fans let referee Mike Dean know what they felt about a correct decision that he didn’t make because, how exactly do you express your displeasure to the video referees? Leicester were clearly the better side in the first half, but they probably also felt the most relieved to hear the whistle.
The second half started with the same pace combative attitude as the first one ended. Choudhury was booked early on for a foul just outside the box. He got the ball, but his unique brand of perfectly-timed lunges are always going to run the risk of getting in trouble with the ref. At the other end, Matt Saiss decided to lean into Madders to stop the England man from going around him, but Mike Dean decided that it wasn’t a foul for...reasons?
On the hour mark, Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo sent Adama Traore on to torment Chilwell. Rodgers responded by withdrawing Ayoze and sending Marc Albrighton into the fray. Chilly actually did really well his first two times isolated on Adama, The match was in danger of spinning out of control at this point, with tackles flying in and bits of flesh being left in the beautifully-manicured Molineaux grass.
With fifteen minutes to play, Dennis Praet was introduced for the tiring (and, frankly, battered) Tielemans. He may have been the wrong player to take off, as Choudhury slipped and lost the ball. As he fell, he tried to retrieve the ball and caught a Wolves player with his trailing foot. Dean produced a second yellow and the Foxes were reduced to 10 men for the final quarter hour.
For the first time in the match, Wolves were in control and Leicester were sitting back and trying to hit on the break. Adama was exerting his influence, teeing up Raul for headers, but the Mexican striker left his shooting...forehead?...in the boot room and he failed to put anything on target. He even missed an absolutely golden opportunity on 90’ with a free header 10 yards out, but he glanced it wide when it would have been easier to score. Easier for him, that is; not so much for me.
Wes Morgan came on in injury time for Harvey Barnes to try to secure the point. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t easy, but the Foxes dug deep and saw it out. Even with Wolves camped in the Leicester half, Schmeichel was essentially a spectator when the whistle blew on the second 0-0 draw of the season between these two sides.
That was a good draw for Leicester, facing a difficult opponent away and playing down a man for a quarter hour. Unfortunately, VAR and referee Mike Dean will dominate the talking points and for good reason: The goal was ruled out for a tight but clear offside decision, and both of Choudhury’s yellows were of the “plausible but not obvious” variety.
It was, however, exactly the sort of match that was always going to see a lot of involvement from the officials. It was what is often described as a “full-blooded” affair, which is a kind way of saying both teams are lucky to have avoided serious injury. Rather than bemoan things that didn’t go your way, it’s probably best to take the point and run.
Looking at the scoreline, you’d probably assume the attacking players didn’t have great games and you’d be exactly right in this case. However, everyone else was solid (if you ignore Choudhury’s red card, as I choose to do), but for me, it was the central defensive pairing who impressed the most. I’d also like to give a shout-out to Youri Tielemans, who may be rounding back into form at a very welcome time.
The draw keeps the Foxes in 3rd with 50 points from 26 matches, one point behind Manchester City and eleven ahead of Chelsea for what would normally be the final Champions League slot. The Foxes host Manchester City a week from Saturday and then travel to Carrow Road to take on Norwich City on the 28th.