Leicester City kicked off their Championship campaign with a come-from-behind 2-1win over Coventry City at the King Power. After a goalless first half, the Sky Blues took an early lead through Kyle McFadzean. A late Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall brace reversed the scoreline and gave City a perfect start to their season.
It was a near thing, Daniel.
Only two players from the final Premier League match, Wout Faes and Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, made the starting XI for Enzo Maresca’s first match in charge at the King Power. On the other hand, four of the five summer signings got the nod, with only Conor Coady missing out through injury. The lineup: Mads Hermansen, Ricardo Pereira, Faes, Jannik Vestergaard, Callum Doyle, Wilfred Ndidi, Harry Winks, Dewsbury-Hall, Stephy Mavididi, Kasey McAteer, Jamie Vardy (C).
The Foxes started well, pressing aggressively and getting into dangerous positions, albeit without doing dangerous things once we got in said positions. Mavididi was a willing runner on the left and KDH was pushing forward, but the final ball was missing. There was more space on the right, but between McAteer and Ndidi, the quality to exploit it wasn’t quite there.
Coventry only looked dangerous on the break, but thanks to Faes’ alertness and some poor decision-making, nothing came of it. In fact, the Sky Blues didn’t get their first shot on target until the very end of the half and it was a tame effort.
For Leicester supporters, you’d be excused for thinking that very little had changed in spite of swapping managers, dropping a division, and losing several key players. The Foxes bossed possession, got all of their shots from the midfield, couldn’t find Vardy, and looked vulnerable to the break.
The best chance of the half fell to McAteer at the death. A low cross found the academy man in acres of space on the right. His first touch was a good one and his effort was goalbound, but Sky Blues keeper Ben Wilson did well to push it wide for a corner. At least, it would have been a corner had the referee not blown for halftime.
It is difficult to imagine a worse way to start the second half. With Winks caught deep in the Coventry half, a ball over the top found Ellis Simms streaking behind the Foxes’ defence. He tried to volley it from outside the area and missed badly. Would City heed the warning?
Friends, they most assuredly would not. The very next trip down the pitch, Simms won a cheap corner. That corner was converted to a goal courtesy of Kyle McFadzean, who rose unmarked at the near post to nod home pass the stranded Hermansen.
The Foxes responded with urgency but not much quality. This resulted in no chances of note for the hosts, but many, many chances for the Sky Blues. Good goalkeeping, poor shooting, and a little good fortune prevented the Foxes from conceding again, but they easily could have done so.
Dennis Praet was the first substitute of the Maresca era, coming on for Ndidi. He was followed by Kelechi Iheanacho, who replaced the marginalized Vardy. It was the first change that made a telling impact. After exceptional work from Mavididi on the left, Winks swing the ball out to Praet on the right. The Belgian swung the ball into the centre, finding the run of KDH, who planted his header past Wilson to bring the Foxes level.
It was now all Leicester, with Dewsbury-Hall and Mavididi running the show. This was the cue for the inevitable counterattack by the visitors. Raise your hand if you knew USA striker Haji Wright had the legs to outpace the entire Foxes’ defence. Now put that hand back down, you dirty liar. Wright was one-on-one with Hermansen, who just got a fingertip to the strike, but it was enough to put it onto the post.
The Foxes took the lead with only five minutes of regular time remaining. Mavididi and KDH combined on the left, with the former Montpellier winger finding an inch-perfect pass to Dewsbury-Hall. The midfielder swung his left peg and curled it into the inside of the side netting because that’s what he does.
Maresca introduced Hamza Choudhury for the impressive McAteer to see out the nine minutes of time added on. Nine? Get used to it. The referees have been instructed to calculate actual stoppage instead of a set “30 seconds per substitution,” so we’re going to be seeing much more extra time this season. Nine wasn’t nearly enough for the visitors, who were out of gas, out of ideas, and out of time.
That was satisfying. There were so many talking points to take from this match, but those will have to wait for a more analytical piece. This squad is clearly still in transition and we have some square pegs trying to fit round, #8-shaped holes. The new boys were very much as-advertised in the positive sense. McAteer more than held his own on the right and KDH is too good for the Championship.
Glenn’s not wrong. Also, I cannot say enough good things about Mavididi’s work rate.
According to our fancy new quantum supercomputer, the victory gives Leicester City 3 points from 1 match played. We’re joint-fourth on the table along with six other clubs, not that the table tells us much at this stage of the game. Next on the agenda is a trip to Staffordshire on Wednesday to face Burton Albion in the first round of the League Cup. Our League Championship campaign resumes next Saturday with a trip to the John Smith’s to face Huddersfield Town.