Leicester City emerged 2-1 winners on Saturday evening at the Amex against Brighton and Hove Albion. It was a game of two halves, as the hosts took the lead in the first half through Adam Lallana. The Foxes struck back in the second period through Kelechi Iheanacho and a late Daniel Amartey winner.
We’re now at the point in the season where any attempt at guessing the shape based on the teams sheet is an exercise in sheer folly. What I can tell you is that we’re playing three right backs and that most media outlets show none of the three playing in that position. The back three were comprised of Wesley Fofana, Çağlar Söyüncü, and Daniel Amartey. The midfield five had Timothy Castagne and Ricardo Pereira on the wings, with Wilfred Ndidi, Youri Tielemans, and Sidnei Tavares in the middle. Kelechi Iheanacho and Jamie Vardy started in attack for the second consecutive match.
Brighton started the, um, “brighter” of the two sides, winning a couple of early corners that were dealt with successfully if not easily. Nonetheless, Leicester were looking uncomfortable at the back and were heavily involved in the Seagulls taking the lead right on the ten-minute mark.
Schmeichel took a short goal kick against the hosts’ press. The back three struggled to break out and had to settle for a throw deep in the Leicester half. The throw went directly to a Brighton shirt and was worked to Neal Maupay. Tielemans’ challenge took the ball from the striker but directly into the path of Adam Lallana, completely unmarked in the area. Schmeichel guessed the wrong direction, and the ball rippled the back the net, giving the Foxes another mountain to climb.
An immediate response was not in the works. Choose your favorite antonym for direct and you’ll have accurately described the Leicester attack: “Circuitous,” “ponderous,” “timorous,” or “just-faffing-about” would work. The Foxes had possession, but absolutely nothing in the way of chances.
Out of absolutely nothing, the Foxes very nearly found the equalizer. A long ball from Iheanacho found Vardy on the edge of the box. He touched it back to Tavares, who hit it on the half-volley and it was an absolute peach of a strike. He somehow kept it down, but Brighton keeper Robert Sanchez made a stunning save to his left and turned it out for a corner. Given Leicester’s efficiency with set pieces, there were few safer outcomes for the hosts.
The Seagulls came within inches of doubling their advantage with five minutes to play. Fofana gave away a free kick on the left level with the edge of the box. Pascal Gross swung it in and Lallana stooped to glance a header that evaded Schmeichel and came off the far post.
The hosts had the ball in the back of the net three minutes later in similar fashion to the opener. This time, it was Lallana who got the ball outside the area and slipped it into the middle to find an unmarked Maupay. The former Saint-Étienne man waited for Schmeichel to commit before lifting it over the Danish stopper, but the flag was up for offside.
That was the last action of the half, which saw the hosts go in to the tunnel with a deserved lead and perhaps feeling as though they should have more. Outside of Tavares’ strike, the Foxes failed to trouble Sanchez’ goal.
Hope I’m wrong, but this is starting to look horribly like last season for @LCFC. Play brilliantly for two thirds of the season, get some key injuries, switch to a 3 at the back and lose it completely.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) March 6, 2021
This tweet was absolutely appropriate at the time and has aged like fine things-that-do-not-age-well-at-all.
Neither side made any changes at the half, which certainly made sense for one of the two sides. The run of play was much the same in that the Foxes were seeing a lot of the ball, but with the Seagulls playing a deep line, all the action was in front of the defenders and it would require crisp passing and clever movement to unlock the back line. Neither of those two things were on display by Leicester in the early going of the half.
One half chance did present itself ten minutes in. Castagne picked up the ball on the left wing and spotted Iheanacho’s run in the channel. The through ball was perfectly weighted, giving the Nigeria striker a chance to hit it first time from a tight angle. He went for the near post and found the side netting when going across goal might have been the more productive option.
The equalizer came in nicely symmetrical fashion as Brighton undid all their good work by giving the ball away cheaply in their own half. Ricardo picked it up, worked it to Tavares, who found Tielemans. The Belgium man laid a perfectly weighted no-look through ball into the path of Iheanacho. The former Manchester City man took a touch and lifted the ball over the stranded Sanchez for a just-about-deserved equalizer.
City were well on top now and were putting the Seagulls’ back line under pressure. Tavares made a lung-busting run and was stopped in the Brighton area by a spectacular tackles by Yves Bissouma. That would be the end of the academy product’s full debut as Rodgers sent Marc Albrighton on for him just after the seventy-minute mark.
It was the hosts, however, who had the next chance to break the deadlock. An uncharacteristically loose touch by Ndidi gave Seagulls a chance to break. A clever pullback from Gross teed up Lallana, but Schmeichel was more than equal to it, putting it behind at full stretch.
Leicester thought they had a penalty on 85’ minutes when Vardy beat Dunk in the right channel. The Seagulls’ captain slid in, taking Vardy’s shin and then getting a touch on the ball to put it behind for a corner. No matter though, because the Foxes won a corner and then another and - you’re not going to believe this - scored from it.
Albrighton swung in a beauty from the left side. Sanchez came for it and completely missed his attempt to swat the ball away. It found Amartey of all people, who stopped and planted his header in the back of the net. I’m not going to say it was unlikely, but anyone who says they had “Amartey scoring a late winner from a corner” on their betting card is a dirty liar or the world’s greatest psychic.
As the match approached injury time, Leicester nearly made it three. A turnover in midfield led to a break for the Foxes. Iheanacho held the ball on the edge of the area, allowing him to slip it to an unmarked Vardy who blasted just over just when you thought he was going to get back on the scoresheet.
It wasn’t over, as Brighton had one more gilt-edged chance to level the score right at the death with a cross that was flicked on to the back post by Dunk. Dan Burn, the tallest man on the pitch (editor’s note: maybe even the world), lurched towards it but failed to make contact when any touch would have leveled the score. That was last call at the last chance saloon for the hosts as the referee blew the whistle on a 2-1 Leicester win.
I feel for Brighton because this match had “draw” written all over it. We were dire the first half and, while better in the second, it certainly wasn’t the sort of performance that screams “three points.” This was a grind for City, decided by a moment of real genius by Youri and a little good fortune at the end. We haven’t won many games like this, but we’re well past the point in the season where you worry about style; you just pocket the points and get ready for the next one.
IM SORRY, KING pic.twitter.com/6AfEkZ8zd6— Matt Cook (@TheRumFish) March 6, 2021
I’m pretty sure it would have been a violation of my Journalist’s Oath not to link this tweet.
The victory moves the Foxes back up to 2nd on the table with 53 points from 28 matches. Ten to go, second on the table, and with Rodgers playing a makeshift lineup more often than not. It’s a little hard to believe, isn’t it? Speaking of “hard to believe,” we have a full eight days to recover before our next match. We host Sheffield United next Sunday and then face Manchester United in the FA Cup quarterfinal on Sunday the 21st.