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Europa Conference League Match Report: Randers 1 - 3 Leicester (2 - 7 on aggregate)

Great finishing can paper over a lot of poor play.

Randers FC v Leicester City: Knockout Round Play-Offs Leg Two - UEFA Europa Conference League Photo by Plumb Images/Leicester City FC via Getty Images

Leicester City dispatched Randers by a score of 3-1 in East Jutland on Thursday evening. An early Harvey Barnes goal gave the Foxes a one-goal advantage at the break. James Maddison bagged a second-half brace of long-range beauties before the hosts got one back at the death. The victory gives City a 7-2 margin on aggregate, ensuring our first-ever appearance in the Europa Conference League Round of 16.

Manager Brendan Rodgers sent out an almost absurdly attacking side in an apparent effort to put Randers to the sword: Kasper Schmeichel (C), Marc Albrighton, Daniel Amartey, Jannik Vestergaard, Luke Thomas, James Maddison, Wilfred Ndidi, Youri Tielemans, Ademola Lookman, Kelechi Iheanacho, Harvey Barnes.

It took only two minutes for the Foxes to make use of said sword. Ndidi won the ball in the Leicester half and slid a ball to Barnes on the left. Somehow, this instantly created a two-on-one chance, with Barnes and Iheanacho covered only by a single defender. The defender chose to stay with the Nigeria striker, allowing Barnes to carry the ball into the penalty area, line up his shot, and curl it past keeper Patrick Carlgren for the simplest of goals.

Randers FC v Leicester City: Knockout Round Play-Offs Leg Two - UEFA Europa Conference League
His head isn’t photoshopped on to his body, is it?
Photo by Plumb Images/Leicester City FC via Getty Images

While this likely put the tie, now at 5-1 to the Foxes, beyond reach, it didn’t do anything to quell the home side’s intent. Following a Leicester corner, Randers broke at pace with four attackers against a single defender. The hosts dithered in the area, Thomas did well to slow the attack, and Schmeichel made a nice save, all when scoring looked all but inevitable.

Shockingly, this set the tone for the rest of the half. After the first two minutes, this was legitimately one of the worst halves of football Leicester have played all season. Neither Youri nor Madders were able to find the range with their passing and it was just an unbroken litany of unforced turnovers and counterattacks.

The silver lining for the Foxes was that Randers’ finishing was every bit as poor as City’s passing. The hosts ended with seven shots to Leicester’s two, but only one was on-frame. Normally, this suggests some poor shot selection, but instead, the shots were frequently from close range with no defensive pressure, but the home side couldn’t find the target when it counted. City took a 1-0 lead into the tunnel, but that scoreline was very, very harsh indeed on the Danish side.

The second half started much as the first finished, with Randers on the front foot and Leicester struggling to string passes together. Schmeichel was forced into an early save that could have changed the complexion of the tie (but probably wouldn’t have). Brendan Rodgers was doing his best impression, looking deeply unimpressed.

That led to the gaffer making a triple substitution on just 55’. Albrighton, Tielemans, and Barnes made way for Hamza Choudhury, Boubakary Soumare, and Ayoze Perez. It didn’t really change the run of play, but at least there were some fresh legs making last-ditch blocks in the penalty area.

Maddison had been having a frustrating match, but the gentleman has a little of Jamie Vardy’s magic in him, that ability to conjure something out of nothing. Iheanacho won a free kick on the left of the “D” which couldn’t be a better placement for the former Norwich City man. He curled his effort just inside the near post with enough curl that it tickled the side netting. Carlgren just watched it as he had no hope of stopping it.

Some idiot (yours truly) was thinking it might be smart to use Madders as the decoy and let Seniorman take it.

Just four minutes later, Madders was back at it. The ball fell to him just outside the area and, while there may have been better options under normal circumstances, there was no chance he wasn’t going to try his luck. His luck was quite good, as this one landed inside the netting of the far post with Carlgren again rooted to the spot.

Randers FC v Leicester City: Knockout Round Play-Offs Leg Two - UEFA Europa Conference League
Can you give a guy a 10/10 for two touches? Yes. Yes, you can.
Photo by Plumb Images/Leicester City FC via Getty Images

The tie was beyond reach but the clean sheet was anything but safe. The scoreline was 3-0, but Randers had the advantage in shots by a 20-7 margin and, this is the strange bit, they were largely shots from areas much more likely to result in a goal. Schmeichel was the architect of his own demise in this instance. His first touch from a back pass was calamitous, with the ball dribbling across the face of the goal. Stephen Odey was on hand to smash home from just a yard out.

That consolation goal was all Randers would get as the Foxes saw out a 3-1 victory (7-2 on aggregate) and advanced to the next stage of the Europa Conference League.

It is fortunate that most of the xG Twitter accounts ignore the Europa Conference League. We managed only 7 shots the entire match but, thanks to some brilliant finishing, got 3 goals from them. Randers fired in 23 efforts that were frequently from areas where you’d expect to see the net ripple but only managed to beat Schmeichel and their own nerves once. The scoreline in this match is a testament to some ruthlessness in front of goal and a whole lot of luck.

The only travelling army we support.

The win sees us through to the round of 16 in the Europa Conference League, easily our best showing in this competition. The draw for the next round will take place tomorrow, which will be the highlight of our weekend as our match against Chelsea has been postponed. We pick up Premier League action again in one week at Turf Moor against Burnley before hosting Leeds United on 5 March.