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Leeds United 1 v 4 Leicester City
Barclays Premier League
Monday, 2nd November 2020 Kick-off 20:00
Vardy conquers Leeds on the break
Tuesday, 3rd Nov 2020 22:29 by Tim Whelan

Leeds went down to another disappointing home defeat and this time it was Leicester City who were unsporting enough to play with tactics that didn’t suit us.

There were a couple of changes to the starting line-up, one enforced as Rodrigo had to go into isolation, though at least he hasn’t caught the dreaded Covid himself. So Pablo returned in his place. Elsewhere captain Cooper was back in defence and Shackleton retained his place as the defensive midfielder, having impressed in that role in his substitute performance at Villa Park.

In his pre-match interview on Sky Brendan Rogers had said that they would be looking to get in behind our defence using the pace Harvey Barnes and Jamie Vardy, the latter who shows no signs of slowing down these days, even at the age of 33. This was kind of the Leicester manager to let Bielsa know now that he is no longer able to spy on the opposition, but in his intensive preparation our supremo might have well have guessed they would be doing this anyway.

Yet we continued with the usual style of committing a lot of players to go forward when we attack, thinking that if we lose the ball we would have the energy to get back and defend in numbers. But this can lead to problems against teams like Leicester who are so quick on the break they are liable to get in behind us before we’ve had time to get enough players back down the field.

In the first couple of minutes we produced an excellent move, with Costa crossing deep and Harrison heading back across goal to Bamford, but last week’s hero could do no better than to nod it into the arms of Schmeichel. It looked a bad miss, but he needed the ball further in front of him, as he had to turn to get his head on the ball and from there could get neither the power or the direction he wanted.

And our former keeper quickly threw out to set his current side away down their left. Ayling was one of those caught upfield, so it was down to Koch to come across and collect the ball. Yet he got ahead of the ball, perhaps because the conditions meant it didn’t run though as fast as he thought, so he had to reach and play the ball with his right foot rather than being able to put his laces through it with his left.

The result being there wasn’t nearly enough pace on the backpass and Vardy was able to race in to intercept. The wily old fox went past Meslier before slipping the ball to the unmarked Barnes, who had the simple task of knocking the ball into the net to put the visitors in front. The goal seemed to rattle Leeds and for the next 20 minutes we were mis-placing passes all over the field to invite further pressure.

From one cross Meslier almost dropped the ball into his own net, while Leicester were putting on the sort of display that we have produced many times away from home under Bielsa, controlling the game with slick passing moves, when the man in possession always had plenty of options of where to play the ball. From one of them Meslier tipped a shot from barnes over the bar, but the second Leicester goal arrived in the 21st minute.

Vardy got in front of Koch to meet a cross from Albrighton, and Meslier could have done better in dealing with his header, with the ball coming up off his arm to hit him in the face before bouncing out. But the biggest problem was that Tielemans had been able to race into the area completely unchallenged, and he had plenty of time to pick his spot to put Leicester two up.

At that stage I thought the visitors could go on to give us quite a tonking, but for the rest of the half we managed to get some sort of a foothold in the game, and started to enjoy a bit of possession. Our best chance of this period came from an excellent Ayling through ball to Bamford, but a slightly heavy first touch meant that Schmeichel was able to rush off his line to block the shot. Bamford could still have dinked the ball over the Dane as he went to ground, but he didn’t.

At half time Bielsa took Shackleton off, feeling that we needed a bit more experience in that area of the field, so Klich dropped back and Poveda came on. As this meant we had three wingers when there are only two dimensions on the field, Harrison had to move to a more central position. And the boss must have had a few stern words to say, as for a period after the interval we looked the better side.

And we could hardly have had a better start to the second half. A corner was played back to Dallas, who sent a long ball into the area, and somehow everybody missed it and it ended up bouncing past Schmeichel into the net. The keeper always looks bad when this happens, but he has to assume that somebody will get a touch on the ball, so he can’t move until he’s seen which way it’s going to go. And by the time he knows it will continue on it’s present path it’s too late to reach it.

One of my mates had predicted 2-2 for this game, which was starting to look a good shout, as we seemed to have Leicester on the back foot. We came agonisingly close to drawing level as Pablo beat a couple of players outside the box with neat footwork, only for his shot to come back off the post as it didn’t quite curl enough. We also had a shout for a penalty, but the replay showed that Ayling had, er, lost his footing in the wet conditions.

But a couple of substitutions saw the balance of power in the game switch once again. One was our own doing, with Pablo looking highly displeased to be taken off after 67 minutes, obviously feeling he had a bit of life yet in his old legs. And he was probably correct that it was the wrong decision, as with Roberts in his place we never had the same momentum going forward.

Either side of this change Leicester made two substitutions of their own to regain a bit of control, with Maddison and Ünder coming on, and these two played a key role as Leicester killed us off with a decisive third goal in the 76th. On another quick break Maddison sent a great pass down the right to Ünder, who did well to chip the ball over Meslier as our keeper dived at his feet, leaving Vardy the simple task of knocking the ball into an empty net.

To be even more annoying, it was this goal that took a Leicester fan to the top of one of my fantasy leagues, at my expense. At least I could take some satisfaction from Vardy’s failure to score a second when he shot wide soon afterwards, so Leeds stay in touch with Leicester in the fantasy version of the game at least.

We kept going and forced a number of corners, but didn’t come close to scoring again. Instead Klich completed our night of misery, by thinking that his new role of ‘protecting the back four’ involved launching into a daft tackle around the edge of the box. He’s accustomed to giving away needless fouls in relative safety further up the field, but doing so just there caused Andre Marriner to race over to the pitchside monitor.

I’m not convinced the foul was inside the box, but the referee only viewed it from the angle from which it looked most like a penalty, rather than the view from behind the goal. I’ve got to have something to moan about. Sky’s graphic showed that two previous Tielemans had been saved when he put them to the keeper’s left, and that is precisely where Meslier dived, so it’s a shame the Leicester man chose to smash it into the opposite corner.

And that was about it, with just a few minutes injury time before the referee put us out of our misery. On the balance of play I wouldn’t have said we deserved to lose by a three goal margin, but Leicester were always more incisive going forward, despite the burden of having had to play a Europa League game the previous Thursday.

We can console ourselves with the thought that we lost to one of the best sides in the league and we were also missing a couple of key players. A win could have taken us a high as third, but the table is so tight that the defeat drops us back into twelfth. Perhaps this game shows we haven’t got the strength in depth to live with the top sides, but Saturday’s trip to an erratic Palace gives us the chance to get back into the top half.

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