Leicester City left it late against Cardiff City at the King Power on Saturday afternoon, winning 2-1. A Wanya Marcal-Madivadua stunner gave the Foxes the lead in the first half, but this was cancelled by an Aaron Ramsey goal at the death. The match looked as though it would end in a draw, but Cesare Casadei popped up to score on his debut in injury time to secure the three points.
Manager Enzo Maresca selected a predictable starting XI (at least as predictable as you can get for the gaffer’s third league match): Mads Hermansen, Ricardo Pereira (C), Wout Faes, Jannik Vestergaard, Callum Doyle, Wilfred Ndidi, Harry Winks, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, Wanya Marcal-Madivadua, and Kelechi Iheanacho.
Leicester dominated possession in the early going but seemed stuck in second gear. Unable to move the ball quickly enough to draw out the packed Bluebirds’ back line, the Foxes settled for long-range efforts. The visitors sallied forward at pace whenever they won the ball back and looked, if not menacing, mildly threatening. The only nervy moments came, as usual, from set pieces.
I should probably just copy and paste that paragraph and use it every week, huh?
Anyway, Leicester were inches from taking the lead through a bit of Iheanacho magic. Marcal found the Nigeria man on the edge of the area. He shifted the ball to his left foot because he was always going to do that. The Seniorman curled a shot around the keeper, but it came off the inside of the post and the rebound eluded the blue shirts in the box.
On 36’, the Foxes finally got their breakthrough. Ndidi got on the end of a ball over the top (yes, I had to read that again after I wrote it, so don’t feel bad) and won a corner. The ball was cleared from the near post, bouncing kindly to Marcal who took it on the half-volley and fired it across the keeper for his first senior goal. It was a stunning strike worthy of a player who had scored 100 times.
I’ll be honest. Watching this in real-time, I just assumed it was Ricardo given how he hit it. Well done, lad!
Leicester had their tails up now and threatened to put the game out of sight. Mavididi did a brilliant Harvey Barnes impression, cutting inside and working a give-and-go with Iheanacho, but keeper Jak Alnwick did well to keep it out. Dewsbury-Hall saw a shot saved, and Mavididi had a decent penalty shout denied. Unfortunately, the Foxes couldn’t find a way to make their advantage pay.
What happens when Leicester fail to make their advantage pay? At the death, Cardiff overloaded the right side of the host’s defence. The Seagulls worked the ball to Aaron Ramsey, who was unmarked 10 yards outside the box. He lined it up like a golf shot and blasted it from fully 30 yards. It sailed into the far corner and no keeper on the planet would have been able to stop it.
That was the last kick of the half. After 44 minutes of bossing the match, Leicester went into the tunnel level at one.
Maresca kept the faith with his starting XI, a faith that almost proved disastrous at the start of the second half. The first ten minutes were all Cardiff City. The Bluebirds’ press (and Josh Bowler’s elbow). With both Faes and Dewsbury-Hall on the deck, Cardiff peppered the Leicester goal. Hermansen was equal to everything they threw at him and kept the match level.
The Foxes regained momentum and patiently carved out a couple of chances that would make the manager smile. Sensing that the winner was coming, Maresca made his first move, handing Cesare Casadei his debut and withdrawing Ndidi. The run of play didn’t really change, with the Foxes having essentially all the possession but the visitors getting the best chances on the break.
With a quarter-hour of regular time to play, Jamie Vardy came on for Iheanacho. Again, it was Cardiff who threatened to take the lead. The Bluebirds broke the Leicester press and got Yakou Méïté in behind the entire defence. He snatched at the shot and put it wide when he really should have scored.
On 85’, scorer Marcal was hauled off for Marc Albrighton. Time was running out for the Foxes to keep their 100% record. Would they find it? Well, you already know the score, so I’m guessing you probably know the answer. Dewsbury-Hall drove to the edge of the area and fired in a...let’s be generous and call it a “low cross” instead of a shot. It found a defender but bounced to Vardy in the six-yard box. The former England man went down over the leg of the defender and he appealed for a penalty. The referee waved it off, but it didn’t matter, as the ball fell kindly to Casadei, who blasted it into the roof of the net as the crowd went mad.
Things got a bit tetchy at the end as Mahlon Romeo picked up two really foolish yellows. Leicester probably could have had another goal or two, but every time they broke at pace, they took it to the corner. It is really strange to see Vardy in full flight behind the defence, taking the ball to the corner instead of trying to score, but it was the right thing to do. The whistle went as Leicester were about to take a corner. That would normally annoy me, but this time? I’ll allow it.
Two 20-year-olds scoring their first goals for the club, one on their debut? An injury-time winner? Glimpses of a side that is starting to understand what the new manager is trying to put in place? This was a good day. There’s still a lot to work on as we’re entirely too vulnerable when we’re loose with the ball and we’re very loose with it. But, you can see hints that it’s starting to gel, and that is exciting.
It’s also exciting to have a perfect start to the season without ever playing particularly well for 90 minutes. We’re very much a work in progress and still getting results. We (probably) won’t win every match, but we will play much better than we have so far and, when we do, there’s not a team at this level that will be able to match us.
You’d think it wouldn’t be, but on current evidence...
The victory gives the Foxes three wins in three matches. This puts us second on the table behind Ipswich Town due to the Tractor Boys’ advantage in goal differential. Next Saturday, we travel to New York..er..the New York Stadium...to face Rotherham United. After that, it’s off to Merseyside to square off against Tranmere Rovers in the league cup.