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Match report: Fulham 5 - 3 Leicester City

It wasn’t as close as it looked

Fulham FC v Leicester City - Premier League Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

Leicester City fell to Fulham by a score of 5-3 at Craven Cottage on Monday morning. The hosts took a 3-0 lead at the half with goals from Willian, Carlos Vinicius, and Tom Cairney. The Foxes won the second-half 3-2, with a brace from Harvey Barnes and a James Maddison penalty against additional goals by Cairney and Willian for the hosts. Jamie Vardy also missed a penalty.

We found the basement on 4 May, 2008.

Manager Dean Smith had the majority of his weapons to select from, and he went deployed every Belgian he had at his disposal: Daniel Iversen, Timothy Castagne, Çağlar Söyüncü, Wout Faes, Victor Kristiansen, Boubakary Soumare, Youri Tielemans (C), James Maddison, Dennis Praet, Harvey Barnes, and Jamie Vardy.

The hosts wasted no time establishing dominance over the Foxes who seemed, as a unit, to be suffering from a coronation hangover. Fulham had over twice as much of the ball in the early going and City looked well off the pace. It seemed more a matter of “when” than “if” the Cottagers would take an early lead.

The answer to “when” was 10’. Fulham won a free kick on their left wing. Willian lined it up and bounced curled it across the face of goal. It was one of those nightmare balls that forces the keeper to choose between positioning himself for an attacker making contact or covering the far corner in case it snuck in. Iversen stayed central to deny the attackers.

The ball nestled inside the post untouched and it was 1-0 to Fulham. Would there be an instant response?

Yes, but not the kind any Leicester supporter would want. The Foxes gave it away in midfield and Fulham were off to the races. Neat interplay between Harry Wilson and Carlos Vinicius unlocked the defence as Cags and Faes were completely at sea. With the lack of a defensive midfielder, Vincius found himself alone in front of goal. He played his shot back across Iversen and found the back of the net.

The Foxes finally awoke from their slumber, calling Fulham keeper Bernd Leno into action a couple of times, but they were unable to find the back of the net. The next goal would determine the tenor of the rest of the match. Would the Foxes claw one back or would the Cottagers put it to bed?

It was the latter.

Fulham worked the ball down the left and into Vincicius in the box. Cags had him covered, so he tapped it to the unmarked Tom Cairney. Söyüncü was now trying to cover both players and, good though he is, that’s asking an awful lot of him. Cairney feinted with his left, shifted the ball to his right, and curled a shot across Iversen and into the back of the net right at the death.

Smith made one change at the half, withdrawing Praet and throwing Tete into the fray. Would it pay immediate dividends? It was, in fact, Tete, who was involved in the next goal, but it was Fulham’s Kenny Tete. Another turnover in midfield allowed the fullback to tear down the right wing unopposed with Kristiansen out of the picture. Cags picked him up on the wing, allowing a low cross to find the unmarked Cairney in the middle. His first touch was perfect, and his second found the net.

Down 4-0, the Foxes finally got one back. Castagne did spectacularly well to get on the end of Tete’s through ball. His lofted cross evaded the entire Fulham defence and fell to Madders 10 yards out. You’d have bet the ranch he would have taken it himself, but instead, he laid it off to Barnes who blasted it off the underside of the bar and just over the line.

Fulham FC v Leicester City - Premier League
We needed this about an hour earlier. “Better late than never” does not apply in this instance.
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

Was the comeback on? It could have been. Vardy got on the end of a through ball just inside the right side of the area. For some reason, Leno came charging out and wiped out the former Stockbridge Park Steels man for about as blatant a penalty as you’ll ever see. Vardy took it himself, but Leno guessed correctly and saved it.

The gaffer took off Youri and brought on Ndidi, attempting to get a better grip on the midfield. Another goal would bring with it belief that the Foxes could get something out of the match. Well, another Leicester goal would. The next goal was not a Leicester goal. It was a wonderstrike out of nowhere, with Willian drifting inside and launching a thunderbolt that curled just inside the far post.

With a quarter-hour to play, Smith made a triple substitution, introducing Patson Daka, Luke Thomas, and Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall for Vardy, Kristiansen, and Soumare. The Foxes got another one back just minutes later in, let’s call it “soft” fashion. João Palhinha, who had spent the entire match shoving and kicking City players without any interest in playing the ball, was adjudged to have taken down Madders in the box. There wasn’t much in it, but VAR was satisfied. The former Norwich City man’s penalty was a carbon-copy of Vardy’s, but this time Leno went the wrong way.

Fulham FC v Leicester City - Premier League
That’s how it’s done.
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

The Foxes got yet another one back in the 89th minute. A mediocre long ball from Faes was headed back by Shane Duffy, which was a surprise to Leno, who’d come for it. Daka raced in to pounce and, while Leno got to it first, the Zambia man was able to get a toe to it and tap it back to Barnes who slammed it home from close range.

That was the worst half of football I’ve ever seen from Leicester City. In a match we desperately needed to win, we came out flat and didn’t offer anything whatsoever until we were already buried. We couldn’t get on the ball and when we did stumble into some possession, we were somehow both too slow and too sloppy.

Sometimes xG tells a story. Not this time.

This match was absolutely winnable and we were defeated before we even got out of the gates.

All we can do today is hope. If Forest and Everton win, we’re in a very bad place (I see Doucoure scored in the first minute for Everton so...sigh).

The defeat leaves us on 30 points from 35 matches which is (at this moment) good enough for 17th on the table. If Forest get a result against Southampton, we’re 18th. Up next, we host Liverpool a week from today. In a paradox worthy of Zeno himself, this is both an “unwinnable match” and a “must-win match.”