Leicester City and Burnley fought to a 1-1 draw on Wednesday evening at Turf Moor. A Hamza Choudhury error handed the hosts the lead on just four minutes. The early goal was cancelled by a brilliant Kelechi Iheanacho effort just before the break, and neither side could break the deadlock in the second period thanks to some brilliant saves by Kasper Schmeichel.
With the injuries to Harvey Barnes and Jonny Evans further reducing his options, manager Brendan Rodgers had to get creative with his team sheet (yes, even more so than usual). Kasper Schmeichel got the nod in goal behind a back three of Daniel Amartey, Wilfred Ndidi, and Çağlar Söyüncü. Ricardo Pereira and Timothy Castagne lined up as wingbacks. Hamza Choudhury, Nampalys Mendy and Youri Tielemans comprised the central midfield. Kelechi Iheanacho lined up in attack alongside Jamie Vardy.
You’re REALLY not going to believe the substitutes, Sean.
This lineup was always going to struggle with cohesion and they were made to pay for a sloppy start inside the first five minutes. Choudhury under-hit a pass in midfield and gifted the ball to to Matej Vydra. The Czech did well to take the ball past Ndidi and blast the ball past Schmeichel to give the hosts the lead before the supporters had taken their seats (in their living rooms, mind you).
The Foxes tried to strike back quickly and a clever run by Iheanacho won a corner. The ball came back to Tielemans, who carried the ball into the area before going down under a two-handed shove from Charlie Taylor. There were half-hearted appeals for a penalty, but it was one of those situations where it would have been a foul anywhere else on the pitch but referees almost never give it in the area.
City came even closer to equalizing just moments later. Castagne made a lung-busting run down the left and crossed it to the far post. The onrushing Choudhury met the ball but stumbled and was unable to make a telling touch, allowing Nick Pope to make the save. Yet another chance went wanting when Ndidi picked out Iheanacho with a perfectly weighted ball over the top. The former Manchester City man turned on to his preferred left foot but his shot was just on the wrong side of the near post.
Burnley looked dangerous any time the defense broke down, something that was happening too often. This was primarily due to Söyüncü slipping and falling, gifting the ball to Chris Wood. The first time, Söyüncü recovered well and nicked the ball from the former Leicester striker. The second time was on the edge of the six yard box, allowing Wood to strike from a tight angle, but Schmeichel was up to it.
The game was slowing down a bit. The Foxes had all of the possession but were looking a little uncertain as to what to do with it. The ball fell to Ndidi near the center circle who stuck out his arms begging one of his teammates to make themselves available. Apparently, it’s a Nigerian gesture as Ihenacho made a clever diagonal run and Wilf laid the ball over the top. Iheanacho struck it first time and blasted it across the keeper and into the net to level the score.
Kelechi better win goal of the month, you know how hard that is to do? A ball of your shoulder and a volley to not sky or go wide ♂️— Ellis (@LCFC_Ellis) March 3, 2021
Honestly? No, it’s so far beyond my capabilities that it just looks like magic to me.
Burnley nearly restored the lead just moments later. Dwight McNeil was given an opportunity to whip the ball in from the left flank. It was inch-perfect, finding James Tarkowski climbing over Vardy. His low header would have snuck inside the post if not for a brilliant save by Schmeichel and his håndled af stål.
That’s how the half ended, with the score level, which was probably a pretty fair reflection of the run of play. It might not have been the most attractive half, but it was certainly eventful.
Neither manager made any changes to their lineups at the half so it’s no surprise that the second half started in much the same fashion as the first one. “Much the same,” but not “exactly the same,” which was fortunate for the Foxes. Chris Wood was able to hold off Amartey and head the ball back across goal, but Schmeichel did brilliantly to get a hand to it and turn it around the post.
Leicester was unable to get the ball out of its own half, giving it away whenever it managed to win the ball back. It seemed inevitable that Rodgers would be the first to try to change things up. Wesley Fofana prepared to make his return from a hamstring injury, but the Foxes struggled to win possession and make the change. This allowed Ashley Westwood to smash a half-volley off the post past a stranded Schmeichel.
When the ball finally went out of play, Leicester made a double switch, sending on Fofana and Marc Albrighton for Mendy and Iheanacho, presumably changing the shape as well, although it wasn’t entirely clear what the shape had been changed to. Whatever it was, it looked better. Albrighton immediately began haring after every ball like a young Vardy on a sugar high.
Sensing the tide turning, Rodgers made his final change, sending Sidnei Tavares on for Choudhury with a quarter hour to play. The Foxes came just millimeters from leveling when the visitors failed to close down Tielemans in the area. His low drive was drive was deflected onto the post and to safety with Pope well-beaten.
That essentially ended it for the goalmouth action as the two minutes of added time failed to produce any chances. The second half failed to match the entertainment value of the first and, in the end, the draw was probably about the right result.
Given the players available for selection, a draw was probably a good result but it still felt like two points dropped. There was a moment in the second half where Ricardo was looking on despairingly as Amartey and Mendy exchanged a series of square balls with neither of them really looking to get the attack moving. It’s not their fault; that’s just who they are, but trying to manufacture goals with so many players on the pitch who are loath to get forward.
The draw keeps us third on the table with 50 points from 27 matches. With 11 to play, it’s probably time to start making note of the other clubs competing for the Champions League slots, or it would be if the painful memory of last summer weren’t so fresh in all of our minds. Next up for us is a rare Saturday match, facing off against Brighton and Hove Albion on the south coast. We then get a full 8 (EIGHT) days off before lining up against Sheffield United at the King Power on the 14th.