A late equaliser meant Leicester City had to settle for a draw against Brighton and Hove Albion at the King Power on Saturday afternoon. The visitors took an early lead through Kaoru Mitoma only to see it cancelled by a close-range Marc Albrighton effort. The Foxes took the lead in the second half via a Harvey Barnes strike, but Evan Ferguson levelled for the Seagulls just before injury time.
We are all just waiting for the 2-2 aren’t we?— Team Leicester City (@TeamLCFC) January 21, 2023
Sometimes “pessimism” is a synonym for “realism.”
While he was in the stadium, this match kicked off too soon for Victor Kristiansen to have a place in the squad today. In addition, both Wilfred Ndidi and Boubakary Soumare missed out, so Brendan Rodgers was relieved that a couple of long-term absentees were deemed fit enough to take part: Danny Ward, Timothy Castagne, Daniel Amartey, Wout Faes, Luke Thomas, Youri Tielemans (C), Nampalys Mendy, Dennis Praet, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, Harvey Barnes, Jamie Vardy.
The first quarter-hour of the match could be described as “cagey” or “tactical.” You wouldn’t put “scintillating” in your top 100 adjectives. If you’re not familiar with Brighton manager Roberto De Zerbi, he favours patient build-up play that would make Claude Puel blush (albeit with attacking bursts that would baffle the Frenchman). Rodgers responded with a compact block of defenders, meaning that it would take something special to break the deadlock.
That something special arrived on the half-hour mark. The Seagulls broke through the first line of the City defence and found Pervis Estupiñán in Foxes’ half. The Ecuador international worked the ball wide to Kaoru Mitoma. The winger feinted to his left and cut inside past Castagne. He was a long way out, but he couldn’t hit it any better. The shot started well wide of the far post and curled into the top corner. Ward had no chance. Stretch Armstrong probably wouldn’t have stopped it. Sometimes you just have to tip your hat.
Praet’s return from his injury lasted all of 35 minutes. The Belgium midfielder went down under no pressure and immediately removed his boot. Rodgers was forced to make a change, sending Marc Albrighton into the fray. It may have been a forced move, but it proved one of the manager’s most immediately effective moves.
Barnes received a beautiful diagonal ball deep in on the left flank. His shot was blocked, but it fell to Tielemans whose effort suffered the same fate. This time it dropped to Sharky on the right and he slotted home from close range. VAR took a long look at several possible infractions but ultimately determined that the referee got it right and the Foxes were level.
The last few minutes of the half were a bit more physical than what had previously transpired, but nothing so naughty as to warrant a card. The whistle blew with the score level at 1-1 and that was a pretty fair reflection of the run of play.
Rodgers chose to stand pat with the XI who finished the first half. Likewise, the match continued in the same fashion in which it had ended. That fashion being “a little tetchy,” the referee had a busy ten minutes. Mendy, of all people, dove into a crunching tackle on Pascal Groß that went unpunished. Moments later, Danny Welbeck went down under what might be generously described as “minimal contact” from Thomas while shaping to shoot. The ball fell to Solly March, who blasted well over with the goalmouth gaping.
Something magical happened on the hour mark: Leicester City Football Club scored from a corner. Albrighton’s near-post cross was glanced on by Thomas. It fizzed across the front of the goal and found Barnes at the back post. It wasn’t exactly a vintage strike, but bundling home from close range counts precisely as much as a screamer.
.@LCFC’s fans were LOVING Harvey Barnes's go-ahead goal!— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) January 21, 2023
@peacock#MyPLMorning | #LEIBHA pic.twitter.com/vJX8yOIZgB
Putting “LOVING” in all caps here is a little much, isn’t it? How did they expect our supporters to react? Disgust? Indifference? Bemusement? I’m probably reading too much into this, huh?
Rodgers withdrew Dewsbury-Hall on 69’, bringing on James Maddison for his first action since November. He brought a sense of calm when City were in possession, but that wasn’t often the case as the game crept towards a close. Ward was called into action several times, making fine saves from Solly March and Alexis Mac Allister to preserve the lead.
Leicester made their final change on 85’ as Patson Daka replaced Vardy. Disaster struck just three minutes later as Brighton found their equaliser. Estupiñán was again the provider, this time firing in a cross from the left wing. Substitute Evan Ferguson steamed through the area unmarked and planted his header against the far post and into the back of the net.
The Foxes had four minutes of time added on to try to restore their advantage. Madders won a free kick from a Mac Allister challenge just outside the area, but he failed to beat the wall and the whistle blew.
Reading the predictions on Twitter before the match, you’d think a 2-2 draw would be a great result for us. It doesn’t feel that way. It was probably a fair result, but when you give up a late equaliser, it’s going to hurt.
The big takeaway today has to be how much better we look with KDH and/or Madders in the side. We weren’t great today, but we fought and were well worth the point if not the full three. And did we ever need at least a point. This was our first result since the World Cup break, so, while we needed three points, we really needed to avoid losing.
The draw gives us 18 points from 20 matches. That puts us 14th on the table but still only 3 points off the bottom. Not “off the relegation zone” but “off the bottom of the table.” Next Saturday we travel to Staffordshire to face Walsall in the FA Cup. Two weeks from today, it’s back on the bus to the West Midlands to square off against Aston Villa.
January 21, 2023