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Europa League Match Report: Legia Warsaw 1 - 0 Leicester City

Second half surge not enough to overcome a lethargic first period.

Legia Warszawa v Leicester City: Group C - UEFA Europa League Photo by Adam Nurkiewicz/Getty Images

Leicester City fell to Legia Warsaw by a score of 1-0 in their second Europa League outing on Thursday evening. A well-taken goal by Emreli in the first half gave the hosts the lead, and a furious second-half effort by the Foxes couldn’t breach the Polish champions’ determined defence.

With a handful of players unable to travel, Brendan Rodgers shook up the starting XI pretty comprehensively (although he was probably always going to do that, wasn’t he?): Kasper Schmeichel (C), Daniel Amartey, Çağlar Söyüncü, Jannik Vestergaard, Timothy Castagne, Boubakary Soumare, Youri Tielemans, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, Luke Thomas, Ayoze Perez, Patson Daka.

With Leicester playing a back three featuring the fourth and fifth choice central defenders, it was no surprise that the opening minutes were nervy-with-a-chance-of-disastrous for the Foxes. Söyüncü was being targeted on the left side by the impressive Mahir Emreli. The winger fired in several dangerous low crosses, but the defence just managed to scramble them away.

Leicester started to grow into the match and carved out a couple of good chances. Daka robbed a Warsaw defender on the edge of the box and slipped the ball to Ayoze. The Spaniard struck his shot well, but it was deflected wide for a corner. It came to nothing, but another corner found its way through the box and to the feet of the former Newcastle man just four yards out. He tried to take a touch rather than directing it into the goal, but it was heavy and the keeper was able to recover it.

The hosts took the lead on the half-hour mark out of essentially nothing. Emreli received the ball outside the box, but Amartey seemed to have it covered and should have cleared it. Instead, he dawdled, allowing the Azerbaijani international to nip in and last a low shot off the far post that had the perfect spin on it to roll back across the line. There was nothing that Schmeichel could have done but quite a bit that the defence should have.

Legia Warszawa v Leicester City: Group C - UEFA Europa League
In fairness, it was a fine finish.
Photo by Adam Nurkiewicz/Getty Images

City should have been level ten minutes later. A lazy pass out of defence found Tielemans, who fired it directly to Daka on the edge of the area. The Zambian slipped it to Ayoze who had only the keeper to beat. He somehow contrived to drag his shot yards wide with plenty of open goal to shoot at. Leicester ended the half on the front foot, but that was little solace when the score was 1-0 against them.

I could be wrong, I think the passing stats for the half might be a little off.

The Foxes emerged unchanged from the tunnel to the surprise of the commentators. Maybe the gaffer knew something because City started strongly, winning a couple of early corners. The second was finished brilliantly by Ayoze at the back post, but the referee blew the whistle for...reasons? It was one of those “the referee spotted an infringement” calls where there was no hint as to what the infringement might be or who might have committed it.

* Unless the whistle blows. Then he’ll score a worldie.

With substitutes about to come on, Leicester won a corner on the right side. Dewsbury-Hall’s delivery found an unmarked Vestergaard charging into the six-yard box. He blasted it from close range, but the keeper got enough on it to keep it from completely crossing the line.

Rodgers made his changes then, withdrawing Dewsbury-Hall and Ayoze and introducing Harvey Barnes and James Maddison. Madders made an immediate impact, finding Daka over the top. The former RB Salzburg man whiffed on the half-volley, then struck a second effort tamely wide.

It was all one-way traffic as the game entered the final half-hour. Barnes and Madders played a one-two that tore apart the Legia defence, but Maddison’s low cross was just put behind for a corner with Tielemans and Daka lurking at the goalmouth.

Rodgers turned up the pressure, sending on Ademola Lookman for Amartey. The loanee from RB Leipzig almost made an immediate impact, combining on the right with Tielemans and Castagne, but the return ball to Lookman got stuck in his feet and the chance was lost.

With ten minutes to go, the lively Daka was withdrawn in favour of Jamie Vardy. Maddison looked a lot like Maddison-of-old, terrorizing the back line and creating chances all over the pitch, but it just wasn’t coming off. In a rare foray forward, substitute Lirim Kastrati did all the hard work, beating Vestergaard and Söyüncü, but Schmeichel got a boot to the shot and turned it off the post and out for a corner.

Five minutes of time were added on and they should have started with a goal from the hosts. Kastrati again got behind the Foxes’ defence. He decided to square it for Tomás Pekhart, who blazed over with the goalmouth beckoning. At the other end, Barnes and Madders again unlocked the back line, but Maddison’s toe-poke finish only found the side netting.

Lirim Kastrati of Legia in action during the Polish PKO...
Lirim Kastrati, the man keeping Will Smallbone off the top of the list.
Photo by Mikolaj Barbanell/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Wojskowi were on the ropes again, but they held firm at the back and the whistle finally went with Leicester getting nothing despite dominating the entire second half.

At half time, I had in my notes “At least I won’t have to write about another ‘good performance, poor result.” Don’t get me wrong, that first half was pretty bad and Perez still should have scored twice. That second half, though? We gave up two huge chances at the death when throwing everything forward, but until that point it had been completely one-way traffic. It wasn’t dominant, but we created some good chances and couldn’t get the ball in the back of the net.

The defeat leaves us with 1 point from 2 matches, which is good for joint-bottom in the group. We take on Crystal Palace at Selhurt Park in the Premier League on Sunday. After yet another annoying international break, we square off against Manchester United at the King Power on the 16th.