Leicester City inched past Brighton and Hove Albion Wednesday evening at the King Power. After a dire ninety-three minutes and forty-five seconds of mind-numbing action, the Foxes finally scored from a corner when Iheanacho powered home Tielemans’ cross deep into injury time.
I’m pretty sure this is from The Onion…
Manager Brendan Rodgers made seven changes to the lineup that drew against Wolverhampton on Sunday. Danny Ward started between the sticks behind a back three of Daniel Amartey, Çağlar Söyüncü, and James Justin. Vontae Daley-Campbell made his senior debut at right wing-back opposite Luke Thomas on the left. Wilfred Ndidi returned from injury to partner with Youri Tielemans in central midfield. The Foxes fielded an attacking trio of Cengiz Ünder, Jamie Vardy, and Ayoze Perez.
The opening exchanges were a testament to patience for the apparent sake of patience. Leicester knocked the ball around in neat arcs outside of the visitors’ penalty area without any urgency to get the ball any closer to goal. The Seagulls were more efficient in their not-threatening-the-goal, breaking at pace when they won the ball and then giving it back almost as swiftly.
If that sounds exciting, then you’d no doubt be thrilled by the next quarter hour which was very much more of the same but somehow less. Brighton were the brighter of the two sides, winning several corners and making the City back three look a little nervous. As the clock ticked over the half hour mark, both side had registered two shoots and none on target. It was an absolutely fair reflection of the run of play.
Nothing would please me more than to report that something changed and the match sparked to life, but it just wasn’t happening. Even referee Mike Dean seemed to be lulled into just watching the match, although he did have no choice but to brandish a yellow card in the direction of Ayoze after the former Newcastle man lost the ball made a poor challenge attempting to retrieve it.
Appropriately, there was no time added on and both sides left the pitch have failed to put a single shot on target.
Baked beans on Weetabix wouldn’t take two hours of my life. Seriously, I’m not exaggerating how poor this was.
Both managers were apparently, and inexplicably, satisfied with the first half and made no changes at the break. The Foxes started with a bit more urgency and nearly took the lead when Ünder whipped in a cross that caught Dan Burn flat footed. The defender caught the ball on his thigh and turned it towards his own goal, sending it just wide with the keeper well beaten.
City came close again on 50’ when Justin dinked a ball over the top for Ayoze to run onto. The keeper was wise to it and just beat the Spaniard to the ball. The winger came off worse from the ensuing collision. He remained on the pitch, but was clearly favoring the injured ankle.
Brendan Rodgers made a triple change on the hour, withdrawing Vardy, Ndidi, and Ayoze for Kelechi Iheanacho, Hamza Choudhury, and James Maddison. The game immediately sprang to life at both ends of the pitch. Andi Zeqiri latched on to a ball behind the Leicester defense and beat Ward with a lovely chip, but he was a good yard offside when the ball was played.
At the other end of the pitch, Iheanacho did very well to recover a ball after slipping and falling, teeing up Tielemans. His shot was blocked, but a confused Burn tapped it to Ünder and the Turkey international blasted home from short range. The flag went up as soon as it hit the net, as Iheanacho was determined to have been just offside from the initial pass.
Leicester’s next change was, in the words of the commentators, “unfortunate and unexpected.” Justin cleared a long ball and landed awkwardly when he planted his right leg. He went down immediately and had to be stretchered off. Christian Fuchs came on in his stead with just fifteen minutes to play.
The first shot on target game in the 84th minute. It wasn’t anything special, a low ball from Zeqiri directly at Ward, but in a match of this quality, it was a moment that stood out like a diamond in a dungheap. In keeping with the symmetrical nature of the affair, the Foxes had their first effort on goal just moments later when Ünder and Maddison played a neat 1-2 in the area, allowing the Roma loanee shoot from a tight angle. It was on-target, but keeper Christian Walton was able to parry it.
With the four minutes of extra time running out, Tielemans won a corner after fine work from Daley-Campbell on the right. Ünder took it quickly, tapping it to Tielemans before the visitors had an opportunity to organize their defense. The Belgium international crossed it to the six-yard box, where Iheanacho was lurking unmarked. The former Manchester City man made no mistake from close range, winning the match literally at the death.
What a brilliant finish to an utterly dire match. Both teams deserved to be punished with extra time, but a moment of quick thinking from Leicester and a loss of concentration by the Brighton defense made the difference. This could prove to be a Pyrrhic victory as the injury to Justin looked as though it might be a serious one. In addition, the knock Ayoze took may keep him out for a while as well. We don’t know how serious either injury is yet, so it’s just speculation at this point.
The victory puts the Foxes through to the quarterfinals of the FA Cup. We’ll discover our next opponent tomorrow evening. We face off Saturday morning against Liverpool at the King Power, and then it’s off to beautiful Prague, Czechia where we face off against Slavia Praha in the first leg of our round-of-sixteen tie in the Europa League