Leicester City saw off a poor Leeds United side by a score of 2-0 at the King Power on Thursday evening. A Robin Koch own-goal and a Harvey Barnes strike gave the Foxes a 2-0 advantage at the break. Neither side seriously threatened in the second period as the Foxes took a precious three points for only the second time this season.
With James Maddison suspended, manager Brendan Rodgers made two changes to the side that drew against Crystal Palace last weekend. Danny Ward, Timothy Castagne, Daniel Amartey, Wout Faes, James Justin, Youri Tielemans (C), Boubakary Soumare, Dennis Praet, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, Harvey Barnes, and Jamie Vardy.
The first quarter-hour went pretty much as you’d have guessed looking at the positions on the table occupied by these two sides. It was awkward, disjointed, and ugly. Both sides created opportunities with looking much like converting them into goals. It appeared as though the most-likely avenue for a goal would be some sort of catastrophic mistake.
Which, of course, proved to be the case.
The Lilywhites turned the ball over in midfield and the ball fell to Vardy. As the striker looked to tear down the pitch, he was cynically hacked down by Marc Roca. While everyone waited for the referee to blow the whistle, he instead signalled advantage and Dewsbury-Hall knocked the ball to Prat all alone on the right wing. The Belgian sent in a low cross towards Barnes that instead was intercepted by Robin Koch, who poked it past Illan Meslier and into his own net.
The visitors were gifted ample opportunities to level the score but couldn’t take advantage of them. Luis Sinisterra gathered the rebound from a Tielemans shot and took the ball the length of the pitch but could only find the crossbar with his curling effort. Just minutes later, Crysencio Summerville was allowed to advance almost to the six-yard box before he shot just wide when he should have scored.
City punished Leeds’ profligacy with one of the prettiest team moves we’ve seen in ages. Castagne spotted Praet’s run down the right. The midfielder stretched to square the ball for Vardy, who backheeled it first time into the path of Dewsbury-Hall. The Shepshed Pirlo unselfishly squared it to Barnes, who was unmarked on the left. He couldn’t miss from that distance and he didn’t, nutmegging the keeper and doubling the advantage.
Harvey Barnes doubles Leicester's lead!— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) October 20, 2022
: @peacock #LEILEE pic.twitter.com/nQOKlmidu4
City’s tails were up but they weren’t able to extend the lead. It was, as they all seem to be these days, an odd half. The visitors had four shots but couldn’t get one on frame. Leicester managed only two shots, but scored with their only effort on target and took a two-goal lead into the break.
The second half started in almost exactly the same fashion as the first, a comment which should not be interpreted as a compliment. Both sides were sloppy with the ball, tentative in attack, and nervy in defence. Anything could have happened but somehow, nothing did.
On the hour, Rodgers hauled off Vardy and Soumare in favour of Patson Daka and Nampalys Mendy. The move nearly paid immediate dividends as Rodrigo gave the ball to Daka in a dangerous position. He laid the ball into Praet’s patch, but the pass was just a little behind the former Sampdoria midfielder and he skied it over the bar from close range.
That proved Praet’s last contribution as Rodgers introduced Ayoze Perez in his stead on the 70’ mark. Leeds also made a raft of substitutions, but it seemed as though no switch in tactics or personnel would provide the spark that would ignite this match above “Championship mid-table” quality.
With five minutes to play, Kelechi Iheanacho came on for Barnes as Rodgers kept (loosely) with his “like-for-like” substitutions. At this point, Leeds were making mistakes but tired legs were letting the Foxes down in the final third. Four minutes were added on, but it looked as though the visitors wouldn’t have scored if they were given forty. City saw the match out without any drama.
Please sub off KDH he might actually pass away— (@lcfckini) October 20, 2022
He wasn’t the only one. Tough to look at this match and say this team isn’t playing for Rodgers. Maybe not “playing well,” but they’re certainly putting in the work.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way here: We’ve now seen 180 minutes of the Amartey/Faes partnership with Soumare as the holding midfielder and we’ve surrendered exactly zero goals from two shots on target. Nitpickers will point out that we accomplished this against two struggling sides, and, sure, that’s fair. But Leicester were giving up more goals per minute than any club in England’s top four levels so I think they deserve a little credit here.
In addition, enormous credit should go to Tielemans for his defensive efforts and to Rodgers for deploying the Belgian in a deeper role. It still seems likely that Youri will be departing this summer, but you cannot fault his commitment during these trying times.
The win brings us all the way up to 19th on the table with 8 points from 11 matches. We travel to the West Midlands to face Wolves next Sunday and then have the pleasure of hosting Manchester City the following Saturday.