Leicester City earned all three points in a hard-fought battle against Brentford on Sunday morning. A first-half wonder strike by Youri Tielemans was cancelled by a Mathias Jorgensen header on the hour. James Maddison got the late winner after unselfish work by Patson Daka and Tielemans.
If there’s one thing we know about Brendan Rodgers, it’s that he’ll stick with a shape and lineup that’s working. Thus, the starting XI looked remarkably similar to the one that defeated Manchester United last weekend: Kasper Schmeichel (C), Daniel Amartey, Jonny Evans, Çağlar Söyüncü, Ricardo Pereira, Youri Tielemans, Boubakary Soumare, Timothy Castagne, James Maddison, Kelechi Iheanacho, and Jamie Vardy.
The hosts made the brighter start and probably should have been in front inside ten minutes. The best chance came from a break down the left. Rico Henry sent in a low cross that found Ivan Toney at the far post and the striker stroked it home confidently. The flag went up for offside. It could have been against either Henry or Toney but it looked as if both were just on the right side of the last defender.
The Fosse Posse’s own Matt Cook said “I don’t imagine Brentford won’t give Youri any time today” right before Brentford made the mistake of giving Youri any time. A free-kick failed to beat the first man, but it was only cleared as far as the Belgian magician. He strode forward and hit it with perfect placement and unstoppable power, giving keeper David Raya no hope of a save from a good 30 yards out. Was it against the run of play? Absolutely! Is it nice to be on the right end of one of those for a change? Yes, yes it is.
Youri Tielemans has scored in back-to-back Premier League games for the first time October 2019:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 24, 2021
⚽️ vs Man Utd
⚽️ vs Brentford
He only scores wonder goals. pic.twitter.com/e06GsAmtsd
It was either this image or one of a dozen videos titled “This video is not available in your country.”
I’d love to tell you about the rest of the goalmouth action, but that was it for the Foxes. The rest of the half was more of the same, with the Bees bossing possession (64%) and the shooting stats (9/3 to 2/1). City struggled to get out of their own half and to do anything useful with the ball when they did. It sounds strange to say it, but even leading 1-0, nothing was really working for Leicester and changes at the half would be needed.
As if on cue, Rodgers did make a change at the break, but it wasn’t one anyone was expecting. Premier League-leading goal scorer Vardy was hauled off in favour of Patson Daka who, in fairness, is something of a goal-scorer himself. City also appeared to have made a tweak to the defensive intensity. Referee Simon Hooper had been letting fouls go all afternoon so the change made some sense.
Or, at least, it did until it didn’t. Evans was whistled for a dubious foul on Toney and Brentford won a corner from the ensuing free-kick. It was swung into the near post and met by Mathias Jorgensen, who glanced it past Schmeichel to level the score. It was nothing more than the Bees deserved, but that didn’t make it any less disappointing.
Rodgers responded with another like-for-like change, introducing Jannik Vestergaard for Söyüncü in order to deal with set-pieces. It worked in the sense that no additional goals flew in but less so in terms of stemming the tide of red and white shirts flowing into the Foxes’ area.
Set pieces taketh away, but sometimes set pieces giveth as well. The Bees won another free-kick similar to the one prior to their equaliser, but this time Schmeichel was able to easily gather it. He immediately released it to Iheanacho, who was one-on-one with his defender. The Seniorman did well to hold up the ball and find Tielemans, who released Daka in miles of space behind the hosts’ defence. When Raya committed, the Zambian unselfishly slid the ball to Maddison who tapped home from close range to restore the Leicester advantage.
The daka×maddison linkup is so scary pic.twitter.com/INJ2MKYuck— Redabouchefaa (@Redabouchefaa1) October 24, 2021
Starting to get the sense that “daka x <insert any name here>” linkup is going to be scary, or at the very least mildly unsettling for any defender.
That would be Madders’ last contribution as Rodgers introduced Ayoze Perez in his stead to see out the final ten minutes. Or, more properly, seventeen minutes as SEVEN minutes were added on. The Bees were throwing everything forward but without the organization, they had shown throughout the match, the Foxes were looking a little more comfortable at the back. The hosts won a corner at the death, but the back line did just enough to clear it and the final whistle went.
Can a playmaking midfielder almost single-handedly carry a team to victory? Based on today’s evidence, the answer is “yes.” Not only did Tielemans score, but it was his pass in the buildup that made the winner inevitable. There was more grit than quality in the rest of the performances, but most of the squad were playing their third match in a week, so simply having enough in the tank to see the match out was impressive.
The win gives the Foxes 14 points from 9 matches, which rockets us back into the top half of the table in 9th position. We’re back in action on Wednesday, taking on Brighton and Hove Albion in the League Cup. Next Saturday, it’s back to the Premier League as we host Arsenal in a Halloween-eve matinee.