Leicester City dropped all three points on the south coast against Brighton & Hove Albion in a testy Sunday afternoon affair. The Seagulls led 1-0 at the half through a wrong-decided Neal Maupay penalty. The hosts doubled their advantage through Danny Welbeck before Vardy got one back for the Foxes. Two late Leicester goals were incorrectly chalked offside, dooming City to their third defeat of the campaign.
Are we ready to talk about those #LCFC decisions yet?— James Sharpe (@TheSharpeEnd) September 19, 2021
Brendan Rodgers has a cornucopia of central midfielders at his disposal and seemed to determined to use as many as possible against Brighton with no fewer than four in the starting XI: Kasper Schmeichel (C), Ricardo Pereira, Çağlar Söyüncü, Jannik Vestergaard, Ryan Bertrand, Youri Tielemans, Boubakary Soumare, Wilfred Ndidi, Harvey Barnes, James Maddison, and Jamie Vardy.
The first twenty minutes of the match were played at a pace and intensity reminiscent of a late-season mid-table clash. Leicester had two-thirds of the possession, but they used it laconically, with the central defenders seeing most of the ball. Brighton’s Solly March had the only shot on target in this relatively dull period of play.
Things got less dull just after the half-hour mark and not in a good way. Barnes cleared a dangerous cross for a corner. Leandro Trossard’s ball was met by Lewis Dunk, whose effort was blocked by Vestergaard’s arm. Referee Stuart Attwell didn’t call it until consulting with the assistant and VAR backed him up.
VAR was wrong. Neal Maupay had both arms wrapped around Vestergaard’s arm and was dragging him back. It wasn’t a penalty. It wasn’t even close to a penalty. It would be difficult to get more “clear and obvious” than this one. To add insult to injury, Maupay took the penalty himself, sending Schmeichel the wrong way and putting the Seagulls up 1-0.
“This is fine.” - VAR (presumably)
In fairness, the Foxes weren’t looking particularly...awake...so it’s not like they were looking like scoring prior to the penalty. They played with a little more urgency for the last ten minutes but enough panache to keep the commentators from talking about anything but the ridiculous call.
Rodgers recognized it wasn’t working, determining that it was the personnel and the not 4-3-3 shape that was the problem. Ademola Lookman came on at the half, replacing Madders on the right. Things looked to be going marginally better. The passing was quicker and there was a sense of urgency. So, of course, Brighton scored almost immediately.
Ryan Bertrand gave away free kick deep on the Leicester left. The delivery found an unmarked Danny Welbeck at the near post and made perfect contact to glance it inside the far corner. It was really just that simple. 2-0 to the hosts and we can’t blame the referee for this one.
And then, almost as simply, we got one back. Some absolutely mesmerizing interplay between Lookman and Ricardo on the right opened up the defense. Ricardo found Tielemans and Youri just swept it across the face of the goal. Vardy timed his run perfectly and scored emphatically from close range. It was a very Manchester City goal and I mean that in the best possible way.
It should have been level three minutes later. A Bertrand corner bobbled across the box and was scruffed home by Lookman. However, the flag went up for offside. Barnes was in an offside position but several feet to the opposite side of the keeper from where the shot came in. There is no universe in which Barnes was obstructing the keeper but that didn’t prevent VAR from confirming the call and chalking off a perfectly good goal.
With a quarter-hour to play, Rodgers introduced Timothy Castagne and Kelechi Iheanacho in place of Bertrand and Soumare. It was all one-way traffic at this point, with Barnes and Söyüncü going close. Lookman won a free kick on the edge of the area but it came to nothing again.
VAR dropped any pretence of neutrality on 85’. The Foxes played a perfect, conventional corner and Ndidi nodded it into the back of the net. Yet again, the flag went up. Yet again, it was for Barnes, who was absolutely not in the line of sight of the keeper. It was another perfectly good goal. As the commentators noted, in neither case did Barnes’ presence have any effect on Sanchez.
There were a host of half-chances but nothing that seriously troubled Brighton through the last five minutes of regular time and a similar amount of injury time added on. Leicester were ascendant, but they couldn’t find a second (fourth) goal to rescue a point.
Contrary to how it may seem, I do not enjoy writing about refereeing. I especially do not like it when it is the primary talking point. But there’s simply no way of recapping this match without mentioning the fact that three clear and obvious errors led to a three-goal swing in the scoreline. That’s the story of the match and I’m not going to pretend otherwise.
The other story is that Lookman completely changed the game, and I’m disappointed that this is overshadowed by the other story. He brought a balance to the side we haven’t seen this year, and it was his work alongside Ricardo and Tielemans that brought us back into the game.
The defeat drops Leicester to 12th on the table with 6 points from 5 matches. We have another midweek match this week, travelling to the New Den to face Millwall in the League Cup on Wednesday. We return to Premier League action on Saturday, hosting Chris Wood’s Burnley at the King Power.
VAR has completely buried @lcfc today. Unbelievably unfair.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) September 19, 2021
On the off chance you didn’t get the thrust of my report...