|Leicester City 0 v 1 Leeds United
Friday, 3rd November 2023 Kick-off 20:00
Farke gives due praise after fine win at Leicester
Saturday, 4th Nov 2023 21:46 by Tim Whelan
Whether you call it a ‘statement victory’ or a vital win in our efforts to close the gap on the top two, this was an excellent team performance against a Leicester City side who had won all bar one of their 14 games before last night’s match.
So it was no surprise that Daniel Farke sounded very upbeat when he spoke to the media after the final whistle. “I think to be brave, to play football with courage and to go for it with confidence was the key today. Leicester are such a good footballing side, possession side, they have so far one of the best starts in history of the Championship, unbeaten in months, terrific performances, so when you want to get something in such a game you have to be brave”.
“You have to make sure that you have periods in the game where you bring the game to their half, press them really high with bravery, then you’re good in possession also, with your possession obviously you can’t have the spirit over 90 minutes, also periods when you have to be structured and allow them possession in areas where they can’t hurt you”.
And although every member of the side contributed to this win, he singled out the two players involved in the key moments that decided the outcome of this match. First of all Rutter. “He’s great in his linking of the play and creating moments for teammates, with assists and the only thing we spoke about that he can improve is his goal tally. He scores and this right now is also like a typical striker's goal to be there for the rebound, I am pretty delighted for him”.
Then he moved on to our occasionally maligned custodian. “He can be any goalkeeper at one point, he’s still unbelievably young. He is also crucial for six clean sheets, shown a really good defensive behaviour and also for our build-up. He’s still not completely playing without a mistake, the last home game was probably not his best one, but if I judge his games so far I think he is excellent and the best goalkeeper in the league.”
And yet it was a player in the heart of midfield who played perhaps the biggest role in this win, working tirelessly to protect the back four and get possession into our attacking third of the field. Kamara has begun to form an excellent partnership with Ampadu since he’s been granted a run of games in the side, and the need to accommodate him might be one of the reasons for moving Archie Gray to right back.
Young Gray was restored to this position after being rested for the last game, replacing Shackleton, who was out of the squad altogether with something called a gluteal injury. We’ve made a slow start to a few of our games this season, but that wasn’t the case last night, with our high press leading to two good chances in the opening few minutes.
Ampadu won possession as Leicester tried to come forward, finding Rutter who then played an excellent cross to Piroe. But unfortunately the Dutchman didn’t quite manage a big enough turn before shooting, and he sent the ball narrowly wide. Then Rutter himself had an opportunity, but took too long as he found the Leicester defence reacting faster than the other Championship defences he’s become accustomed to.
A few minutes later the Frenchman was appealing for a penalty after having his ankle clipped by Casadei as he made his way into the box, but this was a ‘tangle of legs’ rather than an intentional trip, so the referee ignored his protests. And as the half wore on Leicester began to have more of the play, finding their best option would be to move the ball down the flanks, where neither of our full-backs were playing in their best position.
Byram in particular seemed to be struggling, making a couple of fouls after finding himself caught out of position. He got a warning after the first one and picked up the inevitable yellow card for the second, which left him walking a bit of a tightrope. His need to stay on his feet contributed to Leicester’s best chance of the half, when Fatawu went past him twice before hitting the bar with a shot that curled but didn’t dip quite enough.
And straight from the rebound one of our trademark breaks led to another penalty appeal, when a hand on his shoulder knocked Summerville off balance as he raced through on the edge of the area. Again the referee decided that the contact was insufficient to be worthy of a spot kick, causing a furious reaction from Daniel Farke on the touchline, who picked up a yellow card for his protests.
I thought that Byram might have been replaced at half time, but we emerged with no changes having been made, probably because there was no obvious contender to take his place at left back. And it was a good job that Byram did stay on, as not only did Leicester fail to offer the same level of threat in the second half, but he was to play a key role in the moment that won the game.
We began the second half as we started the first, by building up a head of steam and having the better of the chances. Piroe forced Hermansen into the best save of the game so far, before a Dan James shot was deflected wide for a corner. And it was that man Byram who was there to meet it, making a late run to catch the Leicester defence off guard.
Byram is our secret weapon at corners (remember his bullet header against Watford) as the opposition will mark our forwards and the central defenders who go forward, but fail to notice he’s quite tall for a full back. This time his header forced Hermansen into a save, while his late arrival drew the defender who had been marking Rutter, leaving the Frenchman to tap the rebound into the net with the keeper on the floor.
Once we’d got ourselves in front we started to defend a lot deeper to protect the lead we had, occasionally with every player behind the ball, so there was no outlet when we had won possession back. But we did manage a couple decent breakaways, one of which was stopped by a perfectly timed tackle from Choudhury as Summerville was racing into a dangerous position.
Soon after these same two players were involved in the only real flare-up of the night, both receiving yellow cards after Summerville did well to throw the larger man to the ground. That was his final contribution before he was replaced by Gnonto, in a move that maintained the potential for outbursts of bad temper on our left flank.
That was just one of a number of changes in the closing stages, with Gruev, Bamford, Ayling and Anthony coming on, and Gray, James, Piroe and Rutter departing. I make that four subs more or less like-for-like and one slightly defensive, as well as introducing fresh legs as we tried to hold on. Six minutes injury time we announced, but this was extended after Gray had sat down with cramp and the sub was made.
That gave Leicester time for one final assault, and I thought they’d snatched an equaliser when I saw the net bulge after Dewsbury-Hall’s header. But that was Meslier falling back into it after just managing to claw the ball away before it crossed the line. And that was it, leaving the team and manager to come over to celebrate a vital win in front of the Leeds fans in the corner who had given them excellent backing throughout the ninety minutes.
All of which now means we’ve beaten both of the two clubs away from home, and that we’re responsible for two of the three defeats Leicester and Ipswich have suffered between them all season. A welcome bonus was that Ipswich were close to spoiling that stat today by going two goals down at Birmingham, and could only manage a draw in the end.
Which now reduced the gap to the automatic promotion positions to seven points. We might expect Ipswich to win their game in hand at Rotherham during the week, but it’s possible they are starting to stumble after also losing their EFL cup tie at Fulham. And if they do falter in the games that remain, this victory shows that we will be there to take advantage.
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