Leicester City were held to a dull 0-0 draw at the King Power on Tuesday afternoon. The visitors won a penalty in the first half that was easily saved by Kasper Schmeichel. The second half was as short on chances as the first, but the Foxes were denied a clear penalty at the death when a James Maddison cross struck Lewis Dunk’s outstretched arm.
Should Leicester have been awarded a penalty for this handball? pic.twitter.com/LpBIu1Bzb2— Soccer AM (@SoccerAM) June 23, 2020
Spoiler alert! The answer is “yes”.
With the compressed summer schedule, it’s not surprising that manager Brendan Rodgers rang in the changes for the second match after the restart, although if you claim to have predicted those changes, you’re a dirty liar. Youri Tielemans, Harvey Barnes, and Marc Albrighton were dropped as Rodgers opted for a 4-2-3-1 shape against the Seagulls. Kasper Schmeichel remained in goal behind a back four of James Justin, Jonny Evans, Çağlar Söyüncü, and Ben Chilwell. Wilfred Ndidi and Nampalys Mendy partnered in central midfield behind an attacking trio of Demarai Gray, James Maddison, and Kelechi Iheanacho. Jamie Vardy was once again deployed as the lone striker.
The match started in much the same way the last one ended, which is to say, with the opposition camped out in the Leicester area. Alexis Mac Allister took a free kick from a dangerous position, hit the wall, but then recovered the ball and whipped in a dangerous cross that Chilwell did well to put behind for a corner. The Foxes tried to retaliate, but struggled to get on the same wavelength and gave the ball away cheaply time and again.
The Foxes were nearly made to pay when Mooy launched a long ball between Evans and Justin for Aaron Connolly to chase. Justin got turned into knots, lost track of the ball, and clipped his man in the box. The referee blew for the penalty and VAR confirmed it. It wasn’t the most obvious call, but it was a clumsy challenge and, well, you’ve seen them given. Fortunately, Schmeichel guessed correctly and was able to not only save but gather Neal Maupay’s tame penalty attempt.
We had our first Vardy sighting on the half hour mark when Evans’ cross-field ball sent Chilwell away behind the Seagulls’ defense. His cross to the far post was met by the former England hitman, but it was too high for him to get any power on it. This marked Leicester’s first attempt, on target or otherwise.
Leicester came close to scoring from a mistake by Brighton keeper Matt Ryan; Ryan seemed to be of two minds with regards to throwing the ball to one of his outfield players and wound up tossing it behind him. Vardy was alert as ever and just beat the stopper to the ball, but Ryan was able to recovery and gather it.
Against the run of play, the Foxes had their first truly clear-cut chance of the match in injury time. Vardy won a free kick on the right side of the area and Madders went for a short free kick routine, pulling it back for Gray. His scuffed shot found Ndidi, whose equally-scuffed shot ricocheted to Söyüncü at the far post. It was the perfect height for him to plant it into the net, but he glanced it wide instead.
Both sides emerged from the tunnel unchanged which was a bit of a surprise for the Foxes as the system didn’t seem to be working. After a chaotic opening exchange, Leicester started to gain some measure of control and pinned the Seagulls back in their half. There were no chances created, but you could sense them coming. A ball did fall to Chilwell in the center of the box, but it fell to his weaker right foot and he couldn’t get his shot on target from close range.
Brighton manager Graham Potter, sensing the match slipping away, made a triple substitution. Play opened up a bit again, with Mendy giving the ball away deep in his own half. Iheanacho won it back and got the ball forward quickly. On the wing, Vardy held it up well for the onrushing Ndidi, but the Nigerian was shoved off the ball before he could get his shot off.
After the hour mark, Rodgers hauled of Iheanacho and Mendy in favor of Harvey Barnes and Youri Tielemans. This dropped Leicester back into their more familiar 4-3-3 with Barnes and Gray flanking Vardy, and Ndidi slotting in between Madders and Youri. This lasted for all of about two minutes before Rodgers made another change, introducing Ayoze Perez for Gray.
With Maddison now playing centrally, Leicester looked the more likely side to break the deadlock. On the 80th minute, the former Norwich man won a free kick just outside the D. He lined it up and struck it well, but it was always going high and wide.
The game slowed down as Brighton looked to be willing to settle for a point and Leicester looked increasingly unlikely to figure out how to get more. The Foxes did have a massive shout for a penalty when a Maddison cross struck Lewis Dunk’s outstretched arm, but neither referee Lee Mason nor VAR remembered that “intent” has nothing to do with the hand ball rule as of this season and nothing was awarded.
That was a terrible performance, and I’m not trying to make excuses, but what is the handball rule anymore? I thought they changed it so that it’s a handball if the arm is not in a natural position. The premier league said that intent does not matter anymore. It makes no sense pic.twitter.com/YV916HfBt2— American Fox (@USA_LCFC) June 23, 2020
File this under “Dead horse, beating a”
The second half ended much the way as the first: Leicester knocking the ball between the centre-halfs as time ran out with visible sense of urgency.
Two matches into Project Restart and it’s hard take anything positive from either of them. Today’s lineup featured that old Claude Puel specialty: James Maddison as a winger. Unsurprisingly, the play resembled what we grew accustomed to under Puel. We were slow, unbalanced, and never really looked like breaking down the Brighton defense.
As is often the case in a dull draw, there wasn’t much in terms of outstanding performance to recognize. The centre-halfs were excellent, Schmeichel made the one save he had to, and Justin was perfectly fine on the right. That’s about it. Don’t expect to see much of a highlight reel on this match.
The draw keeps us 3rd on the table, four points ahead of Chelsea, who have a game in hand. We now have 55 points from 31 matches played. Speaking of the Blues, the Foxes host Chesea this Sunday in the FA Cup quarterfinal and here’s hoping that we sort whatever is afflicting us before that one kicks off. Speaking of even more Blues, after that, it’s off to Merseyside to take on Everton at Goodison Park.