Leicester City came from behind to beat PSV Eindhoven by a score of 2-1 at the Philips Stadium on Thursday evening. A first-half goal from Eran Zahavi gave the hosts the advantage, but strikes by James Maddison and Ricardo Pereira in the final quarter-hour of the tie saw the Foxes through to their first European semi-final in club history.
Brendan Rodgers kept faith with the lineup that outplayed but drew against PSV a week ago at the King Power: Kasper Schmeichel (C), Ricardo Pereira, Wesley Fofana, Jonny Evans, Timothy Castagne, James Maddison, Youri Tielemans, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, Marc Albrighton, Harvey Barnes, and Kelechi Iheanacho.
The match started precisely as did the reverse fixture in an almost uncanny fashion. Both sides raced up and down the pitch with purpose but without the final product. The first chance fell the hosts when Philipp Max crossed to an unmarked Mario Götze at the far post. He volleyed powerfully from close range, but Schmeichel got a strong hand to it and turned it over the bar.
How good is this save from Kasper Schmeichel #UECL pic.twitter.com/TWR1adctoB— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) April 14, 2022
Just minutes later, it was Leicester’s turn to spurn a golden opportunity. Iheanacho’s through ball put Barnes one-on-one with PSV keeper Yvon Mvogo. The winger attempted to pass the ball inside the far post but got his angles all wrong, putting it wide with the keeper well-beaten.
Die Lampen took the lead on 27’ with a lot of help from City. Deep in his own half, Tielemans played a back pass directly to Götze. The Germany man found Eran Zahavi on the overlap. It looked like a return ball was on, but the striker instead shot from a tight angle. It took a slight deflection off of Evans and left Schmeichel no chance of making the save.
The Foxes responded well, winning an immediate corner. The ball bounced to Maddison, whose powerful effort was blocked but was still going to loop over the line before Jordan Teze cleared it with a bicycle kick. The next time down the pitch, Tielemans tried to redeem himself with a deep cross that found Castagne’s run, but the fullback could only head wide from a tight angle.
Even though the match continued to be played at a break-neck pace, neither side managed another threatening attack for the rest of the half. For all of Leicester’s endeavour, they hadn’t yet worked the keeper and it’s awfully hard to score without putting a shot on target.
The gaffer made two substitutions at the half, withdrawing wingers Albrighton and Barnes in favour of Ademola Lookman and Patson Daka. The move impacted the match exactly as one might have imagined, with Leicester having bags of possession but looking vulnerable at the back.
The packed PSV defence was proving a huge task to break down. City enjoyed bags of possession in their opponents’ half but were unable to find a way through the wall of red and white shirts. There was room in behind on the break, and Daka was given a chance to exploit it on the hour mark. A ball from deep in the Leicester half sent him away with only Mvogo to beat. Stop me if you’ve heard this one, but his low effort beat the keeper but drifted just wide of the far post.
That marked the end of the Iheanacho/Daka partnership as Ayoze Perez came on for the Seniorman. It may have seemed a curious choice, but apparently, Brendan knows a bit about the game. Ayoze’s first important contribution was to receive a ball in the right channel and somehow keep the ball in play, get past a defender, and pull it back for Madders, who blasted home with a first-time effort.
Bro this is a European quarter final not a fucking testimonial why is ayoze Perez coming on— Mitch (@LestahMitch) April 14, 2022
Perez nearly made it two on 80’. Lookman sent a low cross in from right. The Spaniard dashed in front of the covering defender and turned the ball towards the net from an awkward angle. Mvogo did very well to palm over when it looked like it was going to find its way over the line.
No matter, though, as City took their first lead of the tie on 88’ of the second leg. Dewsbury-Hall’s reverse ball put Lookman through on goal. He chose to square it for Daka, whose shot lacked the power or placement to beat Mvogo. The keeper saved it but parried it only as far as Ricardo, who finished calmly from a tight angle.
Five minutes of time were added on by the referee and, while the hosts huffed and puffed, they didn’t manage to take a single shot in injury time. We left it late, as is our wont, but the Foxes were through to the semi-finals.
In my not-remotely humble-nor-objective opinion, the Foxes were slightly the better side over the two legs, but by any measure, it was a finely balanced tie. Better finishing by either club would have put the result beyond reach, but in the end, it was Brendan Rodgers’ side that held their nerve and found the range when it mattered.
Now, some may argue that the presence of Wesley Fofana completely changes the complexion of this City side. No wonder they argue that, as they’re absolutely right. He was in imperious form tonight and made countless critical interventions look effortless. I don’t know what release clause is in his new contract, but if it doesn’t have nine digits, we’ve underpriced him.
The win sees us continue our historic Europa Conference League run all the way to the semi-finals. We will face the winner of the Bodø/Glimt-Roma tie on 28 April and again on 5 May. Next on the docket is a trip to Tyneside to face Newcastle on Sunday and then it’s off to Liverpool to face Everton next Wednesday.