Leicester City lost at home to Leeds United by a score of 3-1 at the King Power on Sunday. Harvey Barnes gave the Foxes an early lead only to see it cancelled immediately by a Stuart Dallas strike. Second half goals from Patrick Bamford and Jack Harrison gave the visitors their margin of victory and doomed the Foxes to a deeply disappointing defeat.
Manager Brendan Rodgers selected precisely the starting XI you would have expected in light of the injuries to Jamie Vardy, Wilfred Ndidi, and Dennis Praet. Captain Kasper Schmeichel started in goal marshalling a back four of Timothy Castagne, Wesley Fofana, Jonny Evans, and James Justin. Youri Tielemans and Nampalys Mendy started in central midfield behind Marc Albrighton and Harvey Barnes on the wing and James Maddison in the middle. Ayoze Perez resumed his role as the lone striker.
The opening ten minutes were a clinic in pressing defense by both sides. The pace of the match was impressive, but neither attack was finding any joy at all stringing together passes, let alone getting into dangerous positions. Albrighton did well to win a free kick deep in the Leeds half, but Madders went for goal when a cross might have been the better option.
When the chances did come, they came in a flurry. A Leeds turnover in the City half allowed Justin to find Barnes’ run in the middle. The winger carried the ball the length of the pitch before sliding the ball to Maddison. The former Norwich City man returned it to Barnes, whose first touch found the inside of the far post.
The lead only lasted two minutes as the Foxes were beaten too easily on the counter. Madders attempted to pick out Barnes on the left but left it short, allowing Luke Ayling to intercept and break down the right side. The fullback found Patrick Bamford’s run and the former Chelsea striker drew in the defense and played in Stuart Dallas who finished smartly inside the far post.
Only three minutes later, the Foxes had the ball in the net again, but it was rightly ruled out for offside. A Maddison shot deflected off a defender and into the path of Ayoze. The Spaniard finished cooly, but the flag was raised and the goal chalked off.
The scrappy, turnover-heavy run of play resumed afterwards, as the energetic press employed by both sides nullified both attacks for the next ten minutes or so. Then, out of nothing, the chances started coming again albeit without the goals this time. Ayoze had an opportunity to pick out Madders alone in penalty area, but he got both the weight and the angle wrong.
At the other end, Leeds picked out Jack Harrison with a long diagonal ball. His half-volley was on target, but Schmeichel was more than equal to it. The visitors got the ball in the back of the net from the ensuing corner, but it too was rightly disallowed for offside. Schmeichel saved the initial effort but couldn’t hold it. It fell to a Kalvin Phillips who tapped it home, but he was in an offside position.
Brendan Rodgers waited only until just after the half hour mark before making his first change. Ricardo Pereira came on for Timothy Castagne in a like-for-like swap. At the time of the switch, there was no indication of an injury to the Belgium man, but apparently he felt a twinge in his groin and came off as a precautionary measure.
The Foxes had the best chance of the dying minutes of the half. Albrighton fired in a low cross-shot that Ayoze got a toe to but he couldn’t quite guide it past Illan Meslier into the back of the net. It was a breathless, and weirdly symmetrical, first half and a level scoreline was just about fair.
Leeds United if they were a movie/TV quote pic.twitter.com/eKpeI6raeq— Across the Pond (@acrossthepond) January 31, 2021
Odds of me not using a decent Always Sunny reference? 5000:1.
Rodgers made another change to start the second half, and it was a tactical one this time. Çağlar Söyüncü came on for Marc Albrighton with the Foxes switching to a back five. If the plan was to get the fullbacks more involved, it worked a treat. Ricardo, operating centrally, worked the ball to Justin on the right. The former Luton Town man hesitated, allowing the shot to be blocked and put out for a corner. It came to nothing because this is Leicester we’re talking about but the intent was there.
The next quarter hour had none of the excitement of the first half but that was very much to Rodgers’ liking. The Foxes had the bulk of the possession and what few chances there were. The match was settling into a dull pattern that needed a moment of magic to bring a spark to the match.
With that said, I wasn’t thinking about a moment of magic from the visitors. A Leicester throw in was turned over and Evans was a bit late getting back into position, playing Bamford onside, who latched on to a ball over the top and hit it first time, hitting it off of the bottom of the crossbar and into the back of the net.
City came inches from scoring from a corner twice in five minutes. After a Fofana blast was deflected out, Söyüncü rose highest to glance the ball towards the far post. Ayoze dove to head it home but couldn’t reach it. Evans got a leg to it, but could only turn it wide. The Foxes won another corner moments later, and it was cleared only as far as Mendy who attempted an “Ndidi” from distance. He kept it down, but it didn’t have the pace to beat the keeper.
Rodgers made his final throw of the dice, introducing Cengiz Ünder for Fofana and reverting to back four. It did not work. Leicester won a free kick deep in the Leeds half and sent everyone but Schmeichel forward. The ball didn’t beat the first man and the visitors were able to counter at pace. Bamford and Harrison were two-on-none with only the keeper to beat and beat him they did. Game over.
I mean, not technically over, as eight minutes remained on the clock, but it might as well have been over. Ünder, trying to make an impression, blasted over from distance. Maddison threaded a lovely ball through to Ricardo and Ayoze, but they left it for each other. It was that kind of a day. There would not even be a consolation goal.
Make no mistake: This was not a point lost, this was three points lost. The Foxes threw away an early lead and spurned numerous chances to put the game beyond doubt. The scoreline was enormously flattering to the visitors, but they took their chances and City didn’t. Leeds were good in the first half and poor in the second, but they got away with it. Just an awful result.
Leicester (2.05) 1-3 (1.79) Leeds— The xG Philosophy (@xGPhilosophy) January 31, 2021
See? Not just sour grapes on my part...for once.
The defeat leaves the Foxes on 39 points from 21 matches and third on the table for the next couple of hours. We travel to London on Wednesday to face off against Fulham at Craven Cottage, and then we’re off to the West Midlands to face Wolves in one week.