Magical Mahrez sinks stubborn Whites
Wednesday, 25th Oct 2017 08:38 by Mark Monk
Former Premier League champions Leicester City needed their big guns to see off a spirited Leeds side who made ten changes following last weekends win over Bristol City. A near capacity crowd watched Leeds even take a deserved lead against the managerless Foxes.
Kalvin Philips was the sole survivor from the slaying of the Robins at Ashton Gate. Thomas Christensen brought back Felix Wieldwald from the cold in goal. In defence Pontus Jansson partnered Conor Shaughnesey at centre back with Vurnon Anita at right-back and a rare start for Cameron Borthwick-Jackson at left back. The midfield consisted of Pablo Hernandez, who was captain for the night along with Philips, Matteuz Klitch, Jay Roy Grot and Kemar Roofe with Pawel Cibicki completing the 4-2-3-1.
Leicester made eight changes from the weekenf as caretaker boss Michael Appleton shuffled his squad, however according to the local radio report Leicester fielded the same side that so convincingly crushed Liverpool in the previous tie. This included the £55m strike force of Slimani and Iheanacho to complement their embarrassment of riches over our bargain basement signings.
I'd managed to get a ticket with relative ease in the Leicester City Family Stand given that Leeds sold out their allocation. The family stand was somewhat a misleading as the row to my left, which was the last line of City fans between me and the travelling whites' consisted of the usual gammon-faced beer monsters and pre-pubescent stone Island wannabe casuals. A line of police mixed with stewards stepped in to assure the mutual abuse traded stopped at verbals. A former colleague who is a regular at the King Power estimated there were 5000 Leeds fans there, the usual Premier League allocation is a flat 3000 and he described our fans who sung throughout as a "class apart" particularly as West Bromwich Albion barely mustered 1000 just over a week ago for the game that defined Craig Shakespeares fate.
Indeed, the happy chappy sat to my right commented that he wished Leicester would hurry up and score to shut the Leeds fans up if nothing else. To be fair, we had plenty to sing about as Leeds controlled the game from.thr early stages. Meanwhile the less partisan contingent of the family stand dementedly waved their "happy clappers" in the unusually mild October air and posed for selfies with the City mascot Filbert Fox.
Leicester's rotating electronic ad boards offered remembrance to his majesty King Bumhibol Adulyadej, who obviously meant something more to Leicester's Thai owners than the locals sat around me. However they were soon consoling their own loss having gone a goal behind on 26 minutes and trust Pablo Hernandez to crack home a stunning 20 yard drive which ricocheted off the cross bar and past Ben Hamer in the City goal. Roofe was the architect of this brilliant strike. Me and my two sons silently screamed with joy as the Leeds fans to our left went Ffin mental.
However the joy was to last a mere 4 minutes, a rush of blood saw Wiedwald come charging off his line to deal with Iheanacho's advance, but he only partially cleared the danger and our defence retreated to cover the German's exposed goal leaving the Nigerian all the time in the world to pick his spot and net his first Leicester goal.
The equaliser partially woke the Leicester fans in the near capacity crowd from their slumber and they considered themselves unlucky not to go into the break in front when Demarai Gray clipped the crossbar.
Borthwick-Jackson was withdrawn at half-time, assumingly he was injured as the much maligned on-loan Manchester United man ended the first-half in a crumpled heap and to be fair played his part in making Leeds the better side during the first-half, which was totally solid bar Wieldwald's latest indiscretion.
Luke Ayling's arrival saw Anita switch to the left-hand side, however I began to get the gut feeling that Leicester's quality was starting to show and the "happy clappers" became more frenzied. Albrighton and Slimani missed ssitters and around the hour mark Mahrez, rated in the £30m bracket came on to replace Albrighton.
It turned out to be an inspired move as the Algerian set up Slimani to slide Leicester in front on 71 minutes and two minutes from time he completed a wonderful solo effort to send Leicester into the quarter finals of the Carabou cup.
We however must take heart from this performance. Pre-match I made the point that our squad depth has massively improved from that dark day in January when Sutton United humbled us out of the FA Cup, however I must say I was far from impressed with Grot, Cibicki, Klich and not to mention Wieldwald's latest calamity. No doubt they will all make way for arguably the more important business of dealing with third-placed Sheffield United in just 48 hours time.
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Photo: Action Images
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