Leicester City fell to Manchester United by a score of 2-0 at the King Power on the final day of the season. The defeat consigns the Foxes to the Europa League next season and confirms United’s place in the Champions League. The Foxes had the upper hand for the majority of the match, but a contentious penalty following a sloppy giveaway effectively ended the match. A sloppy play by Schmeichel in the 98th minute gifted Jesse Lingard a second.
James Maddison feels as we all do.— Ian Stringer (@StringerSport) July 26, 2020
Hoping for some good Madders-related news soon.
Manager Brendan Rodgers made three changes to the side that fell 3-0 to Tottenham Hotspur a week ago today. The lineup was presented in a 3-5-2 shape, so that’s what we’ll go with here. Kasper Schmeichel started in goal behind a back three of James Justin, Wes Morgan, and Jonny Evans. Marc Albrighton returned to man the right flank with Luke Thomas on the left. Hamza Choudhury, Youri Tielemans, and Wilred Ndidi comprised the central midfield. Kelechi Iheanacho lined up alongside Jamie Vardy in attack.
The extremely subdued simulated crowd noise just added to the nervy feeling of the start of the match. United looked the more comfortable of the two sides, but the timing of the passing was just a bit off. Leicester were trying to get balls over the top, but in the early stages they weren’t coming off. The most notable event of the opening quarter hour was Harry Maguire picking up a yellow trying to tackle Iheanacho.
City had their first opportunity when the Red Devils turned the ball over to Iheanacho in their own penalty area. The former Manchester City man worked it to Tielemans, who slid it to the onrushing Ndidi. He took it in stride and hit it well, but it just cleared David de Gea’s bar.
The Foxes had a clear chance just before the first-half water break. Iheanacho won the ball in his own area and led the break. With players on either side of him, the Nigeria striker drew the defenders to himself and...shot with his weaker right foot. The effort was so poor that de Gea struggled to gather it, giving Vardy a chance to gather the rebound, but the former Cod Army striker was offside.
United had the ball in the back of the net just after the half-hour mark. Paul Pogba was given too much time to pick out a runner. He flicked it over the top to Bruno Fernandes, who was one on one with Schmeichel. He was in acres of space, but that’s what happens when you’re three yards offisde. No need to go to VAR for this one as the linesman’s flag was up.
There were chances at both ends just after the 40’ mark. Iheanacho sprayed a brilliant crossfield ball into the path of Thomas on the left flank. The academy product took it in stride and fired in a low cross that found Vardy between two defenders. He had a split-second to put it on goal but couldn’t make good contact and put his effort on target. At the other end, Justin got it all wrong trying to deal with a looping cross into the area and let it fall to the feet of Rashford. The former Luton Town defender did well to recover and put the England man off and his shot went wide.
The Foxes were holding on a little at the end of the half. Justin did well to deflect a Martial shot behind for a corner. The initial effort was cleared, but only as far as Rashford, whose snap-shot stung Schmeichel’s hands. Leicester finally got it clear and and the whistle blew for the half. Forty-five minutes to play and everything to play for.
Chelsea scored two goals right before the half, so it was increasingly clear that a draw wasn’t going to get the Foxes into the Champions League. Apparently, Rodgers sent the same XI out to try to find the goal that would send the Foxes to the Champions League. I say “apparently” because NBC was still in a commercial break when the half started.
Rain was starting to fall in the East Midlands, which has been a good omen for City this year. With only 12 minutes gone, Rodgers made his first change, withdrawing Iheanacho in favor of Ayoze Perez. Moments later, the Foxes were inches from taking the lead. Ayoze won a free kick on the left. Tielemans whipped it in and Vardy won a looping header that beat de Gea and bounced off the top of the far post.
Half an hour to go and the Leicester were just on top but not seriously threatening the United goal. The play started to get a little casual and Choudhury was caught in possession in his own area. The ball was slipped into Martial between Evans and Morgan. Both defenders went to ground to try to win stop the shot and regardless of what actually happened, it was always going to be a penalty. Fernandes buried it, and it was 1-0 to United.
Rodgers responded to going a goal down by making a triple-substitution, introducing Dennis Praet, Harvey Barnes, and Demarai Gray for Albrighton, Choudhury, and Tielemans. The change produced an immediate chance, with a ball falling for Barnes in six yard box, but he couldn’t get any power on his shot and passed it directly to de Gea.
Moments later, a brilliant Thomas cross found an unmarked blue shirt in the middle of the United area. Unfortunately, that shirt belonged to Wes Morgan, whose attempted volley produced no contact whatsoever. The next chance fell to Gray, whose low drive was deflected by Maguire for a ...goal kick? Yeah, it was shaping up to be one of those days.
Leicester huffed and puffed and had several opportunities to pump the ball into the box, but each time were called for a foul on the set piece. Evans went in for consecutive lunges and saw a richly-deserved red card. All that remained was a little more time-wasting and the final whistle went, closing the books on the 2019/20 season.
We’ve had some chances - Vardy, Morgan, Barnes. Everything we hit in the autumn seemed to go in #lcfc— Jonathan (@JonathanLCFC) July 26, 2020
I’ll leave the post-mortem on the season for another time (and likely, another writer). This was a brutal result and in no small part because it felt so inevitable. Manchester United have won the most penalties of any team in the Premier League; Leicester City have surrendered the most. It seemed only a matter of time before one was awarded, and awarded it was. The 2-0 scoreline was flattering to United, but, if I’m being brutally honest, a Leicester win wasn’t really deserved either. That was a draw all day long.
xG map for Leicester City - Manchester United— Caley Graphics (@Caley_graphics) July 26, 2020
both teams play exactly as you'd have expected -- one of those games that is in no way *good* but still highly dramatic pic.twitter.com/7cz5tnD5x4
The majority of the 1.1 for United was the Schmeichel error in the 99th minutes. Sigh.
Was it a penalty? Let’s just say it was extremely tight. Did Evans win the ball before making contact with his trailing leg? I can’t say for certain, and I’m not sure anyone can, and with a call that tight, VAR is never going to overturn it. It was a foolish defense lapse compounded by a dangerous tackle. It could have gone either way, but you just knew which way it was going to go.
Wilfred Ndidi was, by my reckoning, the standout performer. He was imperious in midfield and kept the United midfield well at bay for long stretches of time. I’d also argue that, in spite of what the scoreline suggested, Rodgers did a fine job setting up the team. This was the first time the team have looked comfortable with two defensive midfielders and the high press was giving United all kinds of trouble.
The defeat means Leicester finish the season in 5th place on 62 points. This is both incredible (our second-best finish in the Premier League) and deeply, deeply disappointing (you know why). Our next league match will be in mid-September when the Premier League returns for the 2020/21 season.