Ten-man Leicester City capitulated to Bournemouth by a score of 4-1 Sunday evening at the Vitality Stadium. The rampant Foxes took a 1-0 lead at the half through Jamie Vardy’s 23rd goal of the season, but the side absolutely fell apart in 100 seconds, surrendering a ridiculous penalty and then deservedly going down a man when Söyüncü kicked Callum Wilson after a Dominic Solanke goal. A Jonny Evans own goal and a second for Solanke doomed the Foxes to an incredibly damaging defeat.
The inscrutable, or at the very least seldom-scruted, Brendan Rodgers made only one change to his starting XI from midweek, inserting Christian Fuchs in place of Ryan Bennett. This apparently meant sticking with the 3-4-1-2 for the third consecutive match, with Kasper Schmeichel in goal and James Justin, Jonny Evans and Çağlar Söyüncü in central defense. Marc Albrighton, and Fuchs lined us as the wingbacks flanking Youri Tielemans and Wilfred Ndidi in central midfield. Ayoze Perez slotted in behind strikers Kelechi Iheanacho and Jamie Vardy.
Note: I’ve been doing these reports for a couple of years now, so you may have noticed that I specify the formation prior to the players taking the pitch. I base this on the graphics posted on Twitter, on the BBC, and whichever broadcaster is streaming the match. These graphics seldom agree, so until the ball is kicked, who knows? Kein Plan überdauert den Kontakt mit dem Feind.*
The match kicked off in the deep shadows of early evening at the Vitality, adding to the surreal nature of these empty-stadium matches. The early going was played at a languid pace. The Foxes were having all of the possession and carved out a couple of decent early chances around the 10’ mark. Albrighton swung a cross in to Iheahancho, who clipped the ball neatly over the keeper towards Vardy, but Nathan Ake was wise to it and chested behind. Shortly after, the Cherries failed to clear a corner and Ayoze nipped in to flick the ball to Iheanacho, but the Nigeria man’s first-time effort curled well high and wide.
Rodgers was forced into making his first substitution on the quarter hour mark when Albrighton caught a stud in the turf and appeared to twist his knee. After lengthy treatment, he was unable to continue and Ryan Bennett came on as the third centre-half with Justin moving to wing back. The Foxes continued to dominate possession and get the ball into dangerous areas, but the final touch was missing.
The breakthrough was somewhat comical when it came. A giveaway in midfield sent Iheanacho on his way with Ayoze and Vardy on either side. The former Manchester City man struggled to get the ball out from under his own feet, but the Bournemouth defense failed to take advantage. He worked the ball out left to Ayoze, who immediately returned it to Iheahanco. His hit struck the back leg of Ake and into the path of Vardy, who poked home from close range. They don’t get simpler that, or, potentially, more important, either.
The Foxes really should have been out of site before the 40’ mark. Leicester were carving out opportunities on a regular basis and, when they weren’t, Bournemouth seemed determined to present them to the visitors. An errant back-pass split the Cherries’ central defense and found Vardy on the edge of the area. He beat Ake and smashed the ball goalward, but the former Chelsea defender recovered to deflect it over the bar. That would be Ake’s last action as he injured himself in the process of making the block.
Leicester were nearly made to pay for their failure to put the game to bed when Bournemouth broke forward in injury time. Dominic Solanke backheeled the ball into the path of David Brooks, who struck it well and forced Schmeichel to turn it out for a corner. This was Bournemouth shot of the match. The Foxes were immediately back on the attack and a well-worked short corner found Fuchs on the edge of the area. The former Austria captain sent in an inviting cross to the back post that just evaded the onrushing Vardy and Evans.
That proved the last action of the half. It’s hard to say whether it was because the Foxes were dominant or the Cherries inept, but the hosts were extremely fortunate to be down by a single goal.
Rodgers made one change at the half, and it was a puzzling one. Iheanacho came off in favor of Dennis Praet in an apparent attempt to run out the last 45 minutes. Praet appeared to be positioned on the right wing with Perez going forward. The rest of the formation looked a little bit of a mystery, both to yours truly and the Leicester squad. The Cherries found more space in the first five minutes after the restart than they saw in the entire first half.
The hosts really should have leveled just before the hour mark. Leicester failed to clear a corner in approximately 800 attempts, allowing Bournemouth to pump multiple balls into the mixer. Evans and Söyüncü dealt with everything in the air, but a low cross found its way through the crowd and found Callum Wilson at the far post, but the England man wasn’t ready for it and it rolled out for a goal kick.
With the game still well in hand, the Foxes gifted the hosts a goal out of absolutely nothing. Schmeichel blasted a goal kick directly into Ndidi on the edge of the area. The ball fell to Wilson, who was alone in front of the net. Ndidi tried to recover and clipped his heels, giving up a penalty and picking up a yellow card in the process. Former Leicester youth player Junior Stanislas took it calmly and Bournemouth were level.
It went from comically bad to ludicrously worse moments later. A long ball over the top fell to Solanke and he was one-on-one with the keeper. Schmeichel got a hand to it, but it rolled over the line for the former Liverpool man’s first Bournemouth goal. Söyüncü went to retrieve the ball and was shoved into the net by Wilson. The Turkey international retaliated by kicking Wilson, which was...not smart. He was shown a straight red and suddenly, the Leicester team who had been so dominant were down two goals to one and with only ten men on the pitch.
Two of the most calamitous minutes of football I’ve seen in a long, long time from #LCFC.— James Sharpe (@TheSharpeEnd) July 12, 2020
Complete self-destruct. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. Add the shins, knee caps and a sawn-off to both bollocks.
This is 100% accurate and yet it would somehow get worse.
Rodgers made an offensive change, sending Harvey Barnes on for Ayoze. The hosts immediately went into time-wasting mode, taking the ball into the corner and falling to the ground at any contact whatsoever. Leicester had 15 minutes to rescue the match and quite possibly the season.
You’d think it couldn’t get any dumber, but you’d be wrong. The Cherries worked the ball wide to Stanislas on the right. He came inside and fired in a shot that was going wide, but it pinged off of Evans’ ankle, wrong-footing Schmeichel and rolling into the net. It would have been funny if it hadn’t been so painful.
Could it get worse? Yes. Yes it could. Following a throw-in, Fuchs made a lazy pass to Bennett that was picked off by Solanke deep in the penalty area. He slotted home from close range, prompting the commentators to joke that, of all the things they thought they be saying, “Dom Solanke is on a hat trick” wasn’t one of them.
It wasn’t funny.
Six minute of time were added on, but there wasn’t any real sense that 10-man Leicester would find three or more goals even if an hour were added on. Bournemouth substitute Sam Sturridge should have made it five when Evans played him in on goal with a poor back header, and Barnes nearly got a consolation at the death, but even if he had, the damage was done.
In my 20+ years of watching Leicester, that may have been the single worst performance I’ve seen. Worse than Watford. Worse than Wolves (look it up). Worse than...you name it. It’s not merely that it was a costly defeat, it’s that we simply stopped playing. All four Bournemouth goals were down to a loss in concentration by normally reliable Leicester players. There’s not a single one you’d look at and say “Well, nothing we could have done about that.” Rodgers will be furious, or at least, he should be.
No fucking wonder Gerrard slipped. I see where he got it from now.— Matt Cook (@TheRumFish) July 12, 2020
We’re going to skip the standout performances today. We’re in the business of blame for this one. Schmeichel and Ndidi were at fault for the first. Evans should have done better for the second and third, and Fuchs for the fourth. Söyüncü managed to avoid that particular ignominy, but he made up for it by petulantly kicking Wilson and getting sent off for it.
The impact of this loss cannot be overstated. We remain one point ahead of Manchester United with one more match played. In addition, the straight red card means Söyüncü will miss the remainder of the season. It is likely that we will be without three of our four first-choice defenders and five of our starting outfield players for the run in. And, if we fail to qualify for the Champions League, we have to seriously consider the likelihood that some of our top players will be on the way out.
So, basically, the match was one of the most important we’ve played since our last Champions League adventure, and we could not have more thoroughly bottled it.
We play host to Sheffield United this coming Thursday, and then face Tottenham in a week in London. We close out the season at home to Manchester United in what we can now only hope will be an important match, but at this point, I’m not sure I’d bet on it.
* Apologies to von Moltke the Elder.