Leicester City and Leeds United fought to a 1-1 draw in a sloppy but entertaining match at Elland Road on Sunday. Both goals came within ten seconds of each other in the first half, as Rafinha’s free-kick was immediately cancelled by Harvey Barnes stunner. Leicester saw a goal ruled out for offside in the second half as neither side could break the deadlock and both teams had to settle for a point.
Manager Brendan Rodgers welcomed Wilfred Ndidi back to the starting lineup and reverted to his beloved 4-2-3-1 for good measure: Kasper Schmeichel (C), Ricardo Pereira, Jonny Evans, Çağlar Söyüncü, Timothy Castagne, Youri Tielemans, Ndidi, Ademola Lookman, Boubakary Soumare, Harvey Barnes, and Jamie Vardy.
The match started with the pace of a basketball game between two teams that loved to run but struggled to find the net. Leicester had a chance inside the first minute when Vardy nipped the ball off of a defender and fed Lookman, but the former Fulham man couldn’t get the ball out of his feet. At the other end, Schmeichel was forced to make two good saves from a looping, deflected shot and the ensuing corner.
There were early indications it was going to be one of those games from a refereeing standpoint: Pure chaos. A Leeds shot cannoned off the arm of Evans outside the area, which certainly could have been a handball. The Foxes launched an attack straight away. Liam Cooper took the ball off the feet of Lookman but cleared it straight towards Vardy. The striker was then wiped out by his Diego Llorente. The call? Offside, somehow, even though it was a back pass.
It is a handball by Evans. Vardy isn't offside because Lookman doesn't play that ball. Was Vardy fouled? Would've had to been a red if he was. Who would be a ref ey? #LEELEI— Joseph Venables (@JosephVenables) November 7, 2021
See? It wasn’t just your (admittedly biased) reporter who thought so.
The terrible refereeing wound up costing City on 25’. Soumare pulled out of a challenge on Rafinha, but the fullback went down anyway and England blew the whistle despite there being no contact at all. The Brazilian took the free kick himself and it was a peach, evading the entire defence and wrong-footing Schmeichel to give the hosts an early lead.
That lead lasted exactly 10 seconds on the clock. From the restart, Soumare flicked a long ball forward into the path of Barnes. The academy man cut inside and unleashed an unstoppable curler inside the far post. No keeper on the planet keeps that one out. Few keepers in the galaxy even get a hand to it. You get the idea.
Some day, Rodgers is going to have to figure out a way to get Barnes, Vardy, Iheanacho, and Daka on the pitch together.
The remainder of the half was played at the same ridiculous pace with the same bizarre officiating, but neither side could string together enough passes to mount a serious attack at either end. It was fun to watch if you like to see a lot of running and reckless tackles, but probably less so if you’re a fan of controlled tactics or you happen to be the manager of either club.
The second half started in much the same fashion as the first ended which wasn’t what Brendan Rodgers would have wanted. The hosts were very much on the front foot, winning every challenge and loose ball. What little possession the Foxes enjoyed was in their own half and under extreme pressure.
After fifteen truly awful but undamaging minutes, City started to get a grip on the match a slow it down a little. Some neat work on the right saw an opportunity open up for Soumare, but his effort was well over. Moments later, Lookman got involved and tried to find Vardy at the far post, but Cooper just deflected it behind to prevent a certain goal.
Leicester appeared to have taken the lead in the 68th minute. A Tielemans corner was flicked on by Vardy at the near post. Stuart Dallas was caught ball-watching and it fell to Lookman, who turned it into the net from close range. VAR took a look and determined that the winger was just offisde. It is with regret that I report that they got it right.
Yeah, it’s a long tweet but I really like this account.
Rodgers decided that he’d seen enough basketball for one night and reverted to a back three, introducing Daniel Amartey for Harvey Barnes. That was Leeds’ cue to gift the Foxes a golden opportunity. A heavy touch from Cooper saw Vardy pounce on it. The defender tried to recover and wiped out Vardy with a two-footed challenge that got none of the ball, but we’ll be charitable and assume the referee was playing advantage as the ball fell to Tielemans. His attempt to tap the ball into the net was foiled by keeper Illan Meslier.
The Belgian midfielder took a knock to the ankle in the collision, so Rodgers introduced Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall in his stead and then James Maddison for Lookman a minute later. Dewsbury-Hall was involved almost immediately, firing in a low cross that Meslier spilt into the path of Söyüncü, but the Turkey defender’s left-footed volley was screwed horribly wide.
City had another chance to win the three points just before injury time. Soumare won the ball deep in the Leeds half. He found Madders, who turned his man inside out before slipping it to Dewsbury-Hall. He touched it to Ndidi, whose first-time effort reinforced the idea that maybe having defensive players try volleys with their weaker peg isn’t a high-percentage strategy.
That was the last shot for the Foxes, and the defence stood firm to prevent a late Leeds charge from impacting the scoreline. One-one it was, and the Foxes were probably the happier side to see it end that way. That’s a pretty depressing thing to say.
This was one of those matches where the randomness of the refereeing made it hard to get a sense of the how they game should have ended. That said, Leeds were probably the better side over the 90 minutes even so we ought to be happy with a point. I’m not, but I ought to be. One thing that really stood out was that Castagne and Lookman both struggled to contribute to the attack playing out of their preferred positions.
The draw leaves Leicester with 15 points from 12 matches and 12th on the table. That isn’t great, is it? It’s international break time and then we have the distinct pleasure of hosting Chelsea on the 20th. In Europa League action, Legia Warsaw visit on the 25th, a Thanksgiving (in the U.S. at least) classic in the making.