Brendan Rodgers laments three ‘avoidable’ goals as Leicester’s re-promotion stutters
“How do Leicester lose this? And how on earth are they close to the relegation battle?”
Those were the words of a perplexed media representative at halftime.
But Leicester City, this season’s Leicester City, set the record straight with a second-half performance at Old Trafford that resulted in a 3-0 defeat and answered those two questions.
After back-to-back victories away at Aston Villa and home to Tottenham Hotspur, with Leicester scoring four goals from behind in both games, there was plenty of optimism for ending United’s 1-0 lead at half-time. earned by a goal by Marcus Rashford.
Brendan Rodgers’ men were excellent in the first half, especially in attack. Harvey Barnes slid across the lawn to the left; Tete lured from the right; James Maddison was inspirational in the #10 role and Kelechi Iheanacho was dangerous as a lone striker.
David de Gea had been forced into two superb one-handed saves as Leicester created chance after chance. There was a liveliness to Leicester’s game, a spark in their transitions. United were on the backfoot. It was indeed the old Leicester when they faced off against the giants of the Premier League.
Although United were ahead, Leicester seemed more comfortable. After all, this was not uncharted territory. If the pre-game Premier League table only reflected away form, Leicester would have finished ninth and only Arsenal and Brighton & Hove Albion would have scored more goals away.
However, if the table were based solely on home form, Leicester would be second from the bottom, engrossed in the relegation zone and nervously peering over the precipice.
At home they look open and vulnerable when they have to force the issue and watch a game. Somehow Old Trafford transformed into King Power Stadium after the break.
Defensively, Leicester have big problems to solve. Only seven sides have scored more than Leicester’s 36 goals – even Newcastle United in fifth and Fulham in sixth have scored fewer – but only Bournemouth (44) have conceded more goals than Leicester (41) in the Premier League this season.
In their last five Premier League games, Leicester have conceded ten goals, one more than in the previous eleven.
“We’re not going to score four goals in every game,” Rodgers warned in his pre-game press conference on Friday, but it’s getting to the point where they need to score a few goals to give themselves a chance.
“We created some really good chances and it was a continuation of the past few weeks,” Rodgers said. “But all three goals were avoidable.” They were certainly a little more cautious in possession and aware of the dangers.
The arrival of Victor Kristiansen has helped and Harry Souttar has started life well at Leicester but they are trying to shore up a rearguard who are far too exposed at times.
Poor Wout Faes. He would have dreamed of playing at Anfield and Old Trafford growing up in Belgium, but his early appearances on both hallowed grounds were the stuff of nightmares. It wasn’t as bad as his double own goal at Liverpool, but it was still an afternoon to forget – one on which he was unlucky.
The 24-year-old wasted an easy pass for the first goal, his toenail played Marcus Rashford on the side for the second and he was chasing shadows for the third, like the rest of those around in a blue shirt.
He was also cautioned quite harshly in the first half during Marcel Sabitzer’s painful, uphill battle against Faes, which Sky Sports pundit Graeme Souness – no stranger to such a tackle in his playing days himself – thought was a red card. remained unpunished. Rodgers certainly agreed with Souness.
“It was a farewell,” says Rodgers. “You straight leg on your knee, how you didn’t see it and didn’t think it was really unbelievable. I don’t know why it wasn’t.”
It wasn’t Leicester’s day, it must be said, but there’s no hiding from the fact that all the praise they’re getting for their attacking play won’t get them points until they can solidify their defence.
Following next week’s visit from leaders Arsenal, they have a five-game run in which they face Southampton, Crystal Palace and Bournemouth, as well as Chelsea at the King Power Stadium.
Certainly progress has been made, but although it was the first defeat in the last four games and their attacking qualities give a lot of hope, there must be no complacency. Leicester need to find a way to be just as adept at the other end of the pitch.
There are still 15 games to play, but crunch time is fast approaching.
(Top Photo: Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images)
https://theathletic.com/4227815/2023/02/20/leicester-defending-allows-three-preventable-goals/ Brendan Rodgers laments three ‘avoidable’ goals as Leicester’s re-promotion stutters