Leicester took on West Brom at the King Power stadium in a game which both sides could have done with winning to kick start their respective seasons.
Craig Shakespeare had clearly identified the mismatch of pace in the ranks of the sides and was using Jamie Vardy to his full paced potential in the opening minutes. The first race between Vardy and Egyptian international Hegazi resulted in a freekick – the second, a freekick and a yellow card. Hegazi was in for a long night playing for 80 minutes on a booking.
The game had started with little intensity from either side. The first real chance of the game came from West Brom as Gibbs chipped a ball in for Chadli, who should have done more than scuff his shot wide of the post.
In an interesting turn of events, Vardy decided to man mark Hegazi to tempt him into a second bookable challenge. The fact that this is noteworthy shows the level of play in the first half – there was so little going on with the ball that the entertainment was being sought elsewhere.
The middle of the park was becoming horribly congested, forcing any meaningful attack to be born down one of the flanks. Unfortunately, there were very few balls of any discernible quality being delivered from either side.
Finally, a long throw from Christian Fuchs found its way onto the boot of Danny Simpson which stand in keeper Boaz Myhill did well to get behind. The most disappointing individual performance of the first half was by far from Kelechi Iheanacho, who had fewer than 10 touches of the ball in the first half. Surely the second half could only improve.
The second half started with much more intensity – a poorly hit backpass from Hegazi allowed Vardy to charge down stand-in Myhill who brought the Englishman down on the edge of the box. Mike Dean produced a yellow card instead of red and ruled the foul was outside the area. The resulting free kick was fed dangerously into the back post but dealt with by Dawson; a lucky escape for the Baggies.
Leicester had clearly been told to attack the Baggies flanks from the offset – a great run by Albrighton found Mahrez, who with the goal at his mercy blazed over from about 12 yards out.
By this time Boaz Myhill was hampered by an injury sustained in the earlier coming together with Vardy. The keeper was able to continue for the time being but was clearly suffering with a leg injury.
The intensity of the game began to pick up at around the 55 minute mark; a number of tough tackles and an exchange between the unstoppable force of Solomon Rondon and the immovable object of Wes Morgan got the crowd going.
The first real chance that the visitors had in the second half came in the form of a freekick just past the hour mark – an impetuous tackle from Iheanacho while the Foxes were counter attacking game Mike Dean little choice. The dead ball was struck beautifully by Belgian international Nacer Chadli who buried the chance with some precision, sending Kasper Schmeichel completely the wrong way and marking his first appearance of the season with a goal.Embed from Getty Images
After the goal the Baggies sat back and invited pressure on themselves. Leicester overcommitted too early and were leaving themselves vulnerable at the back; had Rondon produced a more accurate cross the visitors could have doubled their lead on the 68th minute. The Baggies front three were refusing the give the Foxes back line the option to go forward in a rare display of ‘attacking from the front’ from a Tony Pulis side.
Despite this Leicester continued to attack, however the Albion back 4 had become a consistent back 5 with a back 6 in operation when under the cosh. The hosts were struggling to get control of the ball in the heavily congested final third and as such were being limited to long range efforts and crosses from the flanks, which the taller defenders were clearing up with ease and Boaz Myhill was happy to see past the posts. Something needed to change, which came in the form of Ben Chilwell and Islam Slimani
Finally, the Foxes got their breakthrough in the 80th minute – a smart move which stretched the Albion defence allowed substitute Chilwell to deliver a good ball onto the head of fellow substitute Slimani, who provided a deft touch down to Mahrez. There was no mistake this time, drilling the ball hard and low past Myhill to cap off an excellent team goal.
Leicester continued to search for the winner, some long-range shots from Ndidi stung the palms of Myhill, who was now struggling to the extent that Hegazi was on goal kick duty.Embed from Getty Images
As quickly as the game burst into life in the early stages of the second half the game started to fizzle out going into injury time. Shy of an uncharacteristically lax pass from Gareth Barry it seemed that both sides were happy to settle for a point.
A moment of individual brilliance from Chadli and some great team interplay by Leicester (with a goal for struggling talisman Mahrez) lead to what was probably a fair result on balance. Either side could have scored two or three but you got the feeling this one was always destined to finish in a draw.
Man of the Match: Purely based on the totally honest post-match interview, Boaz Myhill. The man needs some credit for playing 45 minutes of football on essentially one leg.
Written by George Bates.