The first league match of 2023 saw the Foxes take on Brighton at King Power Stadium. Earlier in the week the Foxes won their Continental Cup match against Championship side Sunderland with a 5-0 victory. Leicester will hope to continue with the goals as Brighton are directly above them in the table, and they can’t afford to come away from this match pointless. Both teams newly have appointed managers, with Kirk replacing Bedford before the holidays and Jens Scheuer making his debut for Brighton.
The starting lineup sees one of the newest signings starting in goal, Janina Leitzig. Leitzig comes from the Bundesliga club Bayern Munich and will replace Levell/Lambourne for the time being. The back line sees Bott, Howard, Plumptre, and Purfield in their usual roles. In the midfield Whelan and Tierney with Pike coming back into the fold after her brace against Sunderland mid-week. Up top is one of the youngest front three we will likely see across the league, with Jones, Goodwin, and Hannah Cain returning from her long absence due to a knee injury. On the bench are Simon, Mackenzie Smith, Monique Robinson, Jessica Reavill, Baker, Lambourne, and Levell (are two keepers necessary?). To add to the list of injuries, McManus is now out for several months with a leg fracture.
First chance of the match came early from Brighton with a free kick into the box, but Leicester were able to clear it out. Game of hot potato in midfield from commentator, is the best way to sum up the first 15-20 minutes of the match. Brighton had two chances early in the match from well situated free kicks, one shot into the stands and the other easily cleared by the Foxes.
First chance for the Foxes comes from a well worked ball, with Purfield opting for the low pass rather than the cross into the box to Cain. Shot ended up slightly wide for the newly returned forward. Leicester are getting chances in the second half of the first half down the left side with Goodwin, Cain, and Purfield. Crosses and shots mostly coming from that trio on the left.
The first half saw Brighton with a few chances, mostly from the counter. Jones hoofed it all the way back for an important slide tackle outside the box to stop the Seagulls. Newly minted Fox, Leitzig saw her first real test in the 39th minute coming to smother the ball right before Brighton’s Robinson could get off the shot. This was quickly followed by a long-range effort from Brighton that Leitzig was able to stop before it dropped right under the crossbar.
Shortly after on the other end of the pitch, Botts attempted shot/cross is blocked by Brighton. The ball gets sent out to Pike who slips it between a few defenders to Cain. Cain passes the ball between a more Brighton defenders to Whelan on the run, and Whelan slides it past the keeper into the right corner for the goal. This is Whelan’s first goal at Leicester.
The half ended with another chance for Whelan after a craftily worked ball between Cain and Goodwin, but the ball is clipped over the bar. First half ends 1-0 Foxes with the lead.
My half-time thoughts for LCFC Women’s game against Brighton:— Alice :) (@AliceWright09) January 15, 2023
Leicester have looked really good going forward, Bott and Goodwin have looked sharp on the wings
We have looked a little shaky at the back at times
Confident we can go away with all 3 points #LEIBHA
I wasn’t as confident about the three points, but this was much better than we had seen of late.
Second half begins as the first half ended. Leicester continues with the pressure. Early in the second half the Foxes get their second goal off Tierney’s stomach? Not clear how she got it into the goal, but she did and that is what matters. Purfield’s free kick was flicked on by Tierney it on into a crowd of Leicester and Brighton players. Whelan knocks it over the crowd and it falls into the box right in front of the keeper, Tierney on the follow through is able to beat the keeper and put it into the net. It’s up for debate on whether this is a foul or not on the keeper, but with no VAR the goal stands. Foxes are up to 2-0.
This led to a period of Brighton possession with some soft chances but nothing to really worry the Leitzig. At 65 minutes, Kirk introduces his first sub bringing on 18-year-old Monique Robinson for Carrie Jones. Jones looked to be injured a few minutes prior and is likely why she was subbed off. Robinson takes a place in the midfield with Pike moving up to the right wing.
Three minutes after Robinson’s introduction she scores her first WSL goal. On a counter Cain finds Goodwin open on the left, her shot is blocked. This falls into the path of Robinson who is following up on the rebound, is able to keep her composure, and puts it low into the right corner of the goal. Leicester are now up 3-0.
Brighton in earnest begins their fight to get something from the match, and nearly do on the counter at the 70-minute mark. Brighton’s Katie Robinson has caused trouble down their right side, our left, for Purfield all match. She again causes trouble, breaking away and getting her cross into the feet of a teammate making a run from the left. Bott makes a sliding block sending the ball out.
Kirk makes his second substitution at 73 minutes with newly returned Cain coming off, with teenager Ava Baker taking her place up top. Not much else happened for the next 10 minutes. Brighton had a shot on goal, right at Leitzig, and an easy save in the end.
Kirk makes his final substitutions at 83 minutes with Mackenzie Smith on for Plumptre and Simon on for Goodwin. Bott moves into the midfield with Simon at left back, and perhaps it is now a 4-4-2? Formation isn’t clear and the FA Player doesn’t give a view of the full pitch at any point, so it is hard to tell. This is my best guess.
Brighton had a chance at the 85th minute with a sliding ball finding Symonds in the penalty area turning past Howard, Leitzig was there to stop the low shot with her foot. She quickly was up to stop the rebound shot with her feet as well.
There were 7 minutes of added time, but the Foxes were able to see it out. This is their first league win in 17 matches, or since February 2022. Leitzig kept a clean sheet on her debut and the Foxes pick up three points.
Leicester are still bottom of the table with 3 points, Brighton and Reading are their closest neighbors each with 7 points. This was an encouraging start to 2023 for the ladies. Having Cain return from injury was a big boost to the attack, she was involved in the buildup for two of the goals. Her and Goodwin noticeably were vibing with each other. Leitzig looks to be comfortable and a solid addition to the squad. If the Foxes can keep injuries to a minimum their fight to stay up has begun.
Next up the ladies face Tottenham Hotspur at Brisbane Road on January 22nd.