Leicester City defeated Manchester United by a score of 2-1 at Old Trafford on a rainy Tuesday evening. A first half strike by Luke Thomas was cancelled by a Mason Greenwood goal five minutes later. Çağlar Söyüncü got the decisive goal in the second half, heading a pinpoint Marc Albrighton cross past David de Gea from close range.
Even with the absence of Jonny Evans through injury, manager Brendan Rodgers retained his favored 3-4-1-2 formation. Kasper Schmeichel captained the team from the back, with Timothy Castagne, Wesley Fofana, and Çağlar Söyüncü in central defense. Marc Albrighton and Luke Thomas were the wide men, flanking Youri Tielemans and Wilfred Ndidi in midfield. Ayoze Perez played in the hole behind strikers Kelechi Iheanacho and Jamie Vardy.
The opening ten minutes saw Leicester boss possession against a United side that featuring a number of teenagers in their starting XI. The Foxes looked both patient and nervous at the same time, knocking the ball around but looking very much on edge at the same time.
City very much needed a goal to steady their nerves, and when it came, it came from the least-likely of sources. An Albrighton through ball on the right wing found Tielemans in space. He lofted a deep cross towards the far post that evaded the onrushing Vardy, but fell invitingly for Luke Thomas. The fullback took it on the volley and lifted it into the roof of the net for his first Leicester City goal.
LUKE THOMAS— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) May 11, 2021
WHAT a volley! pic.twitter.com/Z7vQGLhdzD
Reckon he’ll remember that one for a while.
The lead proved short-lived as the hosts scored on their first foray into the Leicester half. Amad Diallo got the better of Thomas on a ball over the top. He tapped the ball to Mason Greenwood, who rounded Söyüncü with a neat first step and then tucked the ball inside the far post from a tight angle. It was well-taken, but it really should have been dealt before the ball reached the penalty area.
The match settled down to a snail’s pace. Over the next twenty-five minutes, there was no no goal mouth action at all. Neither side were especially crisp with their passing and the random nature of referee Craig Pawson’s use of his whistle meant there just wasn’t a great deal to talk about.
Ndidi won a free kick just outside the hosts’ penalty area in injury time. With James Maddison on the bench, Tielemans stood over it, but could only find the wall and the half-time whistle blew before the ball could be pumped back into the box. “Level at the half” was probably just about right; Leicester scored from one of their three shots and Manchester City netted with their only attempt of the half.
Neither manager made any changes at the half, so they were presumably satisfied with the proceedings. The Foxes made the brighter start to the half, with United apparently forgetting about the existence of Youri Tielemans. With the right side overloaded by Albrighton, Castagne, and Iheanacho, Youri was finding acres of space just in front of the Red Devils’ back line.
The deadlock was nearly broken when a Tielemans ball unlocked the defense. The ball was worked wide to Albrighton, who found Iheanacho in space in the area. The Nigeria man got the ball on his left foot and was able to take the shot from close range, but David de Gea made himself huge and got the block.
Rodgers made his first switch on 65’, introducing James Maddison for Ayoze. He came on as the Foxes were setting up to take a corner, but Albrighton was the man to take it. Good thing, too, as his cross to the back post set up perfectly Söyüncü, who had left his marker in his wake. The Turkey international planted a bullet header past de Gea to give the Foxes a deserved lead.
Get UP, Söyüncü!— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) May 11, 2021
Leicester have the lead...and Man City have their eyes on the Premier League Title! pic.twitter.com/AaU05alPwX
Much love to NBC for getting the diacritics right.
It was very nearly three for the Foxes just five minutes later. Albrighton did brilliantly to win the ball in midfield and set Ihenacho on his way. Seniorman held it up, waiting for Vardy’s far post run. The former Fleetwood Town man headed back across the face of the goal for Tielemans, but the Belgium man just missed getting the telling touch on the ball to double the advantage.
With ten minutes to play Rodgers attempted to tighten things up by bringing on Hamza Choudhury for Vardy. No need to speculate as to the shape since Choudhury’s announcement of “5-4-1” was picked up by the broadcast microphones. Leicester were now going to sit back and invite United forward which, given that Edinson Cavani, Bruno Fernandes, and Marcus Rashford were all on the pitch, made the clock seem to slow down to a crawl.
“Crawl” still constitutes forward motion, and, while there were moments of danger, it was nothing the defense couldn’t cope with. The Foxes saw out the three minutes of stoppage time without undue drama and the precious three points were in the bag.
With Evans out, this match was always a big ask no matter who Ole Gunnar Solskjaer selected for his starting XI. In my not-remotely humble opinion, the biggest difference between this and the Newcastle match was that the midfield did a much better job of screening the defense. Albrighton and Ndidi in particular stuck to their defensive duties and kept the makeshift back three from being unduly exposed. After a slow start, it was a fine performance, well worth the three points.
Speaking of “three points,” the victory gives the Foxes 66 points from 36 matches and moves us back up to third on the table for the time being. This puts us two points ahead of fourth-placed Chelsea, eight points head of West Ham, both of whom have a game in hand. We’re also nine points head of Liverpool, who still have four remaining games. We face Chelsea in the FA Cup final at Wembley on Saturday. We returned to London to face the Blues again next Tuesday in the league and then close out the 2020-21 season at home against Tottenham Hotspur on the 23rd of May.
No particular reason for this tweet other than “I just love this man.”