Leicester City dismantled Nottingham Forest by a score of 4-0 on Monday evening at the King Power. Harvey Barnes scored on either side of a James Maddison brace to give the Foxes a commanding 3-0 lead at the break. Patson Daka added the fourth with the cheekiest of backheels to settle the match in the second period.
The good news for manager Brendan Rodgers was that the international break produced no fresh injuries for his charges. The bad, although not unexpected, news was that it was still an awkward squad without a true left back or right wing: Danny Ward, Timothy Castagne, Wout Faes, Jonny Evans (C), James Justin, Youri Tielemans, Wilfred Ndidi, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, James Maddison, Harvey Barnes, and Jamie Vardy.
The Foxes had the opportunity to take the lead on just 5’. After an extended period of pressure, Madders turned the entire Forest defence inside-out before standing up a cross for KDH at the back post. The midfielder had a free header from close range, but could only glance it wide when he looked for all the world to have scored.
City continued to look the more likely, but certainly not the only contender, for the next goal. A turnover in midfield saw the ball fall to Morgan Gibbs-White. The former Arsenal man threaded a perfect ball through to Taiwo Awoniyi, who left Faes in his wake. The striker beat Ward but planted his shot against the far post with the goalmouth gaping. Would the warning bells be heeded?
Reader,I am pleased to report that, for once, they would.
Forest made an absolute hash of clearing the ball out of their area, with Jesse Lingard gifting the ball to Madders on the edge of the area. Scott McKenna came across in an attempt to block the shot but only managed to loop it into his own net off his forearm. There was more than a little good fortune in it, but it was also nothing less than Leicester deserved.
The one-goal lead lasted only two minutes, but that’s because it was immediately converted into a two-goal advantage. A ball over the top found Vardy in acres of space on the left. He waited for support and found Barnes nearby. The entire visiting defence appeared to have been unaware of this “Barnes” fellow as they allowed him to shift the ball inside on his right foot without any pressure at all. Needing no more of an invitation than that, Harvey buried it into the inside of the side netting.
It took just eight more minutes for City to get on the board again. The commentators noted that a club might have a tendency to over-elaborate things and be too careful. As the ball found Dewsbury-Hall, they amended the statement to suggest that this wouldn’t be an issue for KDH, who beat Cheikh Kouyate for pace and drew a foul just outside the box. Madders lined it up and belted a beauty off the inside of the post that Dean Henderson never would have saved even had he guessed correctly.
That was the best 45’ of football the Foxes have played this season. The fact that the bar to be cleared was so low shouldn’t take any of the shine off of it. City carved out chance after chance and looked fully worth the three-goal advantage.
The gaffer made one change at the break, withdrawing Ndidi for Boubakary Soumare. Both sides had an opportunity to get on the board right almost immediately, both fluffing their lines in an almost comical fashion. A Leicester corner bobbled around and fell to Faes three yards from the goal at the near post. He somehow managed to sky well from that range. At the other end, a perhaps-offside Awoniyi saw his shot well-saved by Ward. The rebound fell to Brennan Johnson who, with the goal unguarded, took a terrible first touch that sent him wide and allowed the City back line to regroup.
This is all to say, the second half wasn’t going to reach quite the same heights as the first. On the hour, Vardy received the Okazaki treatment and was replaced by Patson Daka. Vardy had run his socks off, so this might be a pattern going forward. Anyway, if your back line is already tired from chasing Vards around for an hour and you think seeing him go off will win you a reprieve, I have some news for you.
Daka made a menace of himself from his introduction, charging down Henderson’s clearances and making it clear that whatever weird, strange, sick, twisted stuff was going on, he wanted in. He ran like a man possessed and you just knew he was going to get on the scoresheet. Even if you knew, you probably wouldn’t have guessed how.
As seemed to be the case with everything good that happened for the Foxes, Madders was at the heart of it. He created some space on the right edge of the Forest area and fired in a low cross. Daka had his back to goal, but no worries; he backheeled it past Henderson and wheeled away in delight.
Yes, it’s the Spanish language feed. Trust me, you want the Spanish language feed for this one.
Things got a little disjointed as the match entered its final quarter. Dennis Praet came on Youri Tielemans, with Marc Albrighton entering the fray for Madders to see the match out. Yellow cards were handed out like candy, with four visiting players joining Soumare and Madders in the book. Forest had several golden opportunities to soil the clean sheet, but an in-form Ward and poor finishing denied them to the end.
Am I going to let the fact that we made numerous defensive errors and were saved by some good goalkeeping and a really poor Forest attack detract from the joy this win brings me? Absolutely not! In fact, Forest being in on the act makes it that much sweeter. The truth is that our intensity was off the charts, our leaders stepped up, and we got a glorious result is all the really matters.
Enough cannot be said of James Maddison’s influence. He was unplayable today, pulling the strings, creating havoc in the opposing half, and even getting back to contribute to the defensive effort. It was a complete performance, and we’d best be doing all we can to keep him because there’s no one else out there quite like him.
In case you needed reminding, James Maddison is pure class pic.twitter.com/sFym62fpdr— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) October 3, 2022
Well, the Haaland kid is pretty good, too.
The victory gives us 4 points from 8 matches, which ain’t great, but it’s good enough to boost us up to 19th on the table. We travel to the south coast to take on Bournemouth at the Vitality this coming Saturday. The following week, we host Jeff Schlupp’s Crystal Palace in what will surely be my first pre-dawn match of the year.