Leicester City edged Huddersfield Town by a score of 1-0 at the Pirelli this Saturday afternoon. Neither side could find a breakthrough in a sloppy first half in an intermittent deluge. The sun came out for the second half and the Foxes got all three points thanks to Stephy Mavididi’s first goal for the club.
It’s been so long since we’ve seen Leicester get an ugly win. The mentality last year was so poor that we crumbled under any sort of pressure in games. As horrible as this win was, it’s a massively encouraging one. Faes and Mavididi both very good again #lcfc https://t.co/BnbyoXssC8— Dan Turner (@dtsturner) August 12, 2023
With the Foxes playing their third competitive match in seven days, manager Enzo Maresca selected a “greatest hits” from his two prior lineups. The starting XI: Jakub Stolarcyzk, Ricardo Pereira (C), Wout Faes, Jannik Vestergaard, Callum Doyle, Dennis Praet, Harry Winks, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, Wanya Marcal-Madivadua, Stephy Mavididi, and Kelechi Iheanacho.
The Foxes came out of the gates like lightning, finding Mavididi on the left in acres of space. The winger flashed a ball across the face of the goal that Iheanacho got a foot to but couldn’t get on target. Unfortunately, that would be the last City attack of note for the first quarter of the match.
The Terriers looked a little shell-shocked in the opening moments, but the hosts quickly grew into the game. Stolarczyk wasn’t called into action, but that was largely down to some comically poor finishing on the part of the Huddersfield attackers.
It should have been 1-0 to Leicester on 22’ when Faes’ through ball found Praet of all people down the middle and several hectares from their nearest defender. The Belgian bore down on keeper Lee Nicholls like an MLS striker in one of that league’s old shoot-outs. Unfortunately, he also demonstrated the quality of an MLS striker from that era and his shot was comfortably saved.
This attack signalled yet another burst of attacking play, and again, it was by the hosts. The City defence handled several dangerous free kicks just outside the area and corners, but they were completely undone by a cross in from the right side. It found fullback Michal Helik alone at the far post. He just needed to bundle it home, but he tried to blast it and put it over the bar with Stolarczyk beaten.
The Foxes had a lot of possession at the end of the half, but they settled for long shots when another pass or two might have resulted in something a little more goal-y. Only one minute of time was added on and it ended with City playing the ball backwards from the Huddersfield area back into their own half. If you’re into symbolic microcosms, you could do worse.
Leicester started the second half with the same XI that ended the first. The hosts got out of the blocks first, pinning the Foxes back in their own half. An early corner found Matthew Pearson unmarked in the area, but his header sailed over the bar with the keeper struggling to get near it. At the other end, a well-worked passing move found Praet in the six-yard box, but his attempt to nudge the ball over the line was smothered by Nicholls.
Only ten minutes passed before Maresca made his first move. Wilfred Ndidi came on for Marcal-Madivadua, with Praet moving out to the right wing. Nothing much changed in terms of the run of play as the match was being played at a glacial pace. More than once, we were treated to the sight of Vestergaard literally walking the ball forward into the Huddersfield half.
The manager could only take so much of this, so he made his second change on 65’, withdrawing Iheanacho for Jamie Vardy. The rate of play picked up immediately, as there were now runs in behind the disciplined five-man Huddersfield back line. The move didn’t pay off immediately, and the payoff had nothing to do with Vardy, but pay off it did.
Instead of walking the ball forward, Ricardo brought it forward with a little more pace. He found Wilf, who tapped it to KDH. Rather than take it himself, he found Mavididi in the area with only his fullback to beat. The former Montpellier man turned his defender inside-out and fired home between Nichollls’ legs from close range.
Good things happen when this man is on the ball.
With just six minutes of regular time remaining, Maresca made a double change, taking off Praet and Ricardo for Marc Albrighton and Hamza Choudhury. This coincided with the Terriers throwing everything forward in an attempt to find an equalizer. Both centre-halfs were in the Leicester box, proving that Warnock was not unfamiliar with the works of one Martin O’Neill.
Five minutes of time were added on. There was a comical moment where Winks was grabbed by his arm and swung around 180 degrees to get him off the ball. Nothing was called and Winks wound up in the book for dissent. That proved the last incident of note of the match as the Foxes saw out the remaining seconds without any undue drama.
The Foxes rode their luck a little bit to get three points from the match, but they were the better side. As frustrating as the match was to watch, City had most of the ball, most of the shots, and twice as many on target (6-3) as their hosts. It wasn’t the landslide victory that many predicted, but it was enough to get three points and there are things to build on.
Old habits die hard. The Leicester attack stalled time after time with a lack of movement. Players settled for low-percentage long shots time after time when teammates were available and I don’t imagine Maresca will be pleased with this tendency.
The win gives us six points from two matches, a total we didn’t reach until late October last year. That places us 3rd on table for what that’s worth two weeks into the season. We host Cardiff City next Saturday at the King Power and then travel to face the Millers two weeks from today.