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Europa League Match Report: Leicester City 3 - 1 Legia Warsaw

Warsaw provide the fireworks off the pitch; Foxes provide them where it counts.

Leicester City v Legia Warszawa: Group C - UEFA Europa League Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

Leicester City outclassed Legia Warsaw by a score of 3-1 at the King Power in Europa League action Thursday night at the King Power. A three-goal barrage in twenty minutes, featuring goals by Patson Daka, James Maddison, and Wilfred Ndidi, were enough and more to see of the Polish side. Kasper Schmeichel saved a penalty, but the visitors scored from the rebound to provide Legia with their only goal of the night.

Linking your own tweets: The sign of true professionals (and yours truly).

For what was effectively a must-win match for the Foxes, manager Brendan Rodgers opted for an aggressive 4-3-3 shape. The starting XI: Kasper Schmeichel (C), Timothy Castagne, Daniel Amartey, Çağlar Söyüncü, Luke Thomas, Wilfred Ndidi, Boubakary Soumare, James Maddison, Ademola Harvey Barnes, and Patson Daka.

The match fell into its expected rhythm almost immediately, with the Foxes bossing possession and the Legioniści looking to defend deep and hit on the break. Daka stole in and won the ball deep in the Legia half from the opening kickoff, nearly creating an opening inside the first fifteen seconds. The Poles poured forward immediately but had to settle for a long-range effort from Bartosz Slisz that Schmeichel gathered easily.

It took just over ten minutes for City to take the lead. An attack down the left saw the ball fall to Barnes. The academy product drifted inside saw his deflected pass fall to Daka. The Zambian took one touch and finished confidently past keeper Cezary Miszta, giving Leicester the lead and becoming the club’s all-time leading scorer in European play.

Leicester City v Legia Warszawa: Group C - UEFA Europa League
I’ll never get tired of that celebration. That’s a good thing as I expect we’ll be seeing a lot of it.
Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Ten minutes later, the Foxes deservedly doubled the lead. Following Soumare doing the hard work of winning the ball in midfield, Madders and Lookman played a one-two on the right with the former Fulham winger cutting the ball back for Maddison. The midfielder had plenty to do, feinting to his right before cutting inside on his left foot and smashing the ball into the back of the net.

Leicester City v Legia Warszawa: Group C - UEFA Europa League
The first Leicester #10 to master the knee slide in a while (please don’t look up Kingy’s last effort).
Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images

The lead was cut in half just five minutes later. A cross from the right was met by Söyüncü’s head and directly into the arm of Ndidi. The referee blew for a penalty and it was the right call even though there is nothing the Nigerian could have done. Mahir Emreli’s effort was poor, but Schmeichel could only parry it back into the centre of the area. Filip Mladenovic reacted first and slotted home from close range to give Warsaw a lifeline.

Apparently, the Foxes were just going to score every ten minutes as the two-goal cushion was restored just after the half-hour mark. Barnes’ cross was put out for a corner, which usually means disappointment for City. Not this time. Maddison put it right into the centre of the box and found a completely unmarked Ndidi, who glanced it home with supreme confidence.

Leicester City v Legia Warszawa: Group C - UEFA Europa League
Half expected Barnes to be flagged for offside just out of habit.
Photo by Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images

There was nearly a goal on the 40’ minute mark, but it was Legia who threatened to add to their tally. Amartey attempted to shepherd a long ball out of play but was beaten all too easily by Emreli just to the right of the Leicester goal. The Azerbaijan international centred it invitingly, but Söyüncü did magnificently to clear the ball before the inevitable-seeming tap in.

That marked the end of the half. The Polish side grew in confidence at the end of the half but Leicester were well worth their two-goal advantage at the break.

The Foxes emerged from the tunnel unchanged to start the second half. I don’t have the numbers to back it up, but I suspect that’s pretty common when your team is leading 3-1 at the break. The only change was perhaps a slightly lower level of intensity. The passes were a little sloppier and the tackles a little later.

In response to this, Rodgers made a couple of changes to try to right the ship. Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall came on for Soumare, and Ayoze Perez replaced Madders, who’d picked up a knock on his knee. Here’s hoping it’s nothing serious as this was a vintage Maddison performance.

Things got a little strange over the next quarter-hour. Smoke bombs filled the stadium with a surreal haze, which did nothing to improve the cohesiveness of the play. Leicester regained the impetus, but the ruthlessness of the first half was absent. It’s difficult to identify any clear chances, but there were easily a half-dozen “one pass short of a glorious chance” situations.

The true Europa League experience is now available in the East MIdlands.

With time running down, Rodgers introduced Marc Albrighton and Kelechi Iheanacho to see out the match, withdrawing the impressive Daka and Lookman. City were looking comfortable, camping out in the Legia half for extended periods. The few forays forward by the visitors were comfortably dealt with by the extremely makeshift back line. Not even corner kicks, the natural enemy of the Fox, caused any drama to note.

The second half wasn’t exciting, but the job was handled professionally and with a minimum of fuss.

There’s an episode of Seinfeld where George Costanza does exactly the opposite of what he normally does and succeeds at everything he does. That’s what Leicester did tonight: We started fast, took a lead into the half, and defended comfortably in the second period. Here’s hoping it becomes a habit. Hey, a man can dream, right?

Sometimes, you just have to tip your hat. Well played, Spartak.

The victory vaults the Foxes from the bottom of Group C to the top, with 8 points from 5 matches and 1 to play. Unfortunately, that match is away to Napoli so there’s still a lot of work to do to guarantee passage into the group stages. Next up, Leicester host Claudio Ranieri’s Watford this Sunday. We kick off our December schedule on Wednesday, travelling to the St. Mary’s to face Southampton.