Leicester City took all three points from their encounter with Brentford at the King Power on Sunday afternoon. First half wonder goals from Timothy Castagne and James Maddison gave the Foxes a 2-0 advantage at the half. Yoane Wissa got one back in the second period, but the wasteful Bees couldn’t find an equaliser.
Manager Brendan Rodgers spun the lineup carousel again and patched together a team using whichever players were available when the time came to fill out the team sheet: Kasper Schmeichel (C), James Justin, Daniel Amartey, Caglar Söyüncü, Timothy Castagne, Youri Tielemans, Nampalys Mendy, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, James Maddison, Harvey Barnes, Kelechi Iheanacho.
The first ten minutes saw both sides throwing jabs without really committing to the attack. The atmosphere was very much “mid-table clubs at the end of the season” which...yeah, that’s not too far from the truth. There wasn’t a great deal of urgency to the play as both sides mustered only a single, off-target shot.
The Foxes took the lead on the 20’ mark in unlikely but not undeserved fashion. Mendy found Barnes on the left with a crossfield pass. Finding himself double-teamed, he laid the ball back for Castagne. The Belgium fullback cut inside and, seeing a little space in front of him, went for goal. He did the thing that Barnes tries to do every time he drifts inside, curling it around the keeper and just inside the far post. He’ll never hit a better one.
The commentators were sooooo impressed because he is “predominantly left-footed,” something which was news to the Leicester fans, Brendan Rodgers, and Castagne himself.
City doubled their advantage just after the half-hour mark. Madders collected a Dewsbury-Hall cross just outside the penalty area and positioned himself between Mathias Jensen and the ball to win a soft foul in a dangerous position. The commentators speculated as to which midfielder was going to take it, not for the first time betraying a lack of familiarity with Leicester City. Maddison line up, got it up the wall and down just inside the near post. For the second time, Brentford keeper David Raya had no hope of getting to it, let alone doing anything to prevent the goal.
No room in the England squad for this? Ridiculous.
There were other opportunities as Justin and Dewsbury-Hall went close, but City were unable to add to their lead in the first half. It’s worth noting that, while nothing came of their efforts, the Bees looked dangerous every time they got forward. Toney was well marshalled by the Foxes’ back line, so he turned provider, finding Rico Henry, Bryan Mbeumo, and Vitaly Janelt in dangerous positions. However, other than a Jensen snapshot directly at him, Schmeichel was untroubled for most of the half.
When play resumed in the second period, it was more of the same from the opening whistle. Justin found Iheanacho between two defenders at the halfway line. Seniorman did incredibly well to head the ball down, flick it past the defenders, and race in on goal with only the keeper to beat. He needed to either hit the target or tap it to Barnes at the far post, but he did neither, knocked the ball just wide with the goalmouth beckoning.
The visitors continued to look dangerous when they came forward and they were beginning to find the range. Jensen’s close-range effort was turned over the bar by Schmeichel, who was called into action again to make another great save from the (probably-offside) Mbeumo.
Rodgers called time on Castagne’s first match back just after the hour mark, sending Jonny Evans into the fray for the first time since December. Amartey moved to the right flank with Justin switching to the left. Things got sloppy at this point, with a fistful of needless giveaways in both directions. The pace went from laconic to soporific, a slowing of play that suited Leicester.
With a quarter-hour to play, Dewbury-Hall picked up a yellow. Rodgers withdrew the academy product and introduced Boubakary Soumare. Brentford still looked the more likely side and finally got the goal they deserved with five minutes to play. Amartey gave the ball away in his own half and the Bees poured forward. The ball came to Yoane Wissa, who fired a low drive across Schmeichel and inside the far post.
To make matters worse, Schmeichel picked up a knock to his hip and was visibly struggling. Rodgers had already introduced Patson Daka for Iheanacho, so there was no opportunity to make a change in goal. In the end, it made no difference, as the Foxes were able to see out the remaining regular time plus the four minutes of time added on.
A couple of brilliant individual efforts can paper over a lot of problems, eh? Brentford had more shots, more shots on goal than the Foxes but poor shooting and a couple of fantastic saves from Schmeichel kept them at bay for 85 minutes. Madders was on-point, and Cags may have had his best match of the season, but otherwise, there weren’t many standout performances today.
Leicester (0.99) 2-1 (1.73) Brentford— The xG Philosophy (@xGPhilosophy) March 20, 2022
The victory returns City to the top half of the table with 36 points from 27 matches. The international break will, presumably, give us the opportunity to get some more players back from injury but given our fortunes this season, I wouldn’t bet on it. After the break, we head to Old Trafford to face Manchester United on 2 April. On the 7th, we host PSV Eindhoven in our first-ever Europa Conference League quarter-final match.