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NICK SZCZEPANIK'S PRESS VERDICT: LEICESTER CITY

27 February 2019

Paul Hazlewood

So it appears that Leicester City have a new manager, then. And that is all you would have learned from some of the coverage of Albion’s 2-1 defeat at the King Power Stadium from one or two of Wednesday’s papers.

It was only to be expected that most reports concentrated on the instant effect on the Foxes of the arrival of Brendan Rodgers to replace Claude Puel. After all, most of the Midlands beat writers were as glad to herald a quotable new manager and see the back of the whispering Frenchman as were a majority of Leicester fans. But it takes two teams to make a match.

The i was especially culpable. Daniel Storey’s report contained only 60 words – one paragraph – of match action, dismissing the efforts of Chris Hughton’s men with the observation “That Leicester were left clinging to victory after Davy Propper’s goal for Brighton will have meant little on the night the Leicester fans welcomed Rodgers.”

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But others admitted that Albion had had their chances and could have grabbed a point.

Steve Madeley, for The Independent website, wrote that “only poor finishing – most notably an extraordinary miss by Glenn Murray in the second half – allowed Leicester to start the post-Puel era with a victory.

“In the opening seconds of the second half, Vardy glanced a header wide from a cross by Gray before Murray squandered a glorious chance to draw Brighton level.

“Knockaert fed Gross, whose impudent backheel was perfect for Murray, only for the striker to blaze a shot over the crossbar from six yards out.

“Substitute Yves Bissouma fired a 20-yard effort narrowly off target on 61 minutes as Brighton continued to look more threatening despite some dangerous Leicester possession.

“Yet on 64 minutes their hopes of a comeback were diminished by the predatory instincts of Vardy.”

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Dave Armitage, reporting for the Mirror, also praised the way Albion forced their way into the game and added some welcome context.

“Manager Chris Hughton would have hoped to find Leicester on a real downer after their fourth successive home defeat against Crystal Palace at the weekend.

“But that 1-4 reverse cost Claude Puel his job and suddenly there was a buzz about the stadium with the announcement of Rodgers as his successor.

“There was an eagerness about Leicester from the start and Gray could easily have had a second five minute after his goal when Ryan did well to save his well struck shot.

“But Brighton suddenly seemed to rally and former Foxes man Anthony Knockaert started to cause real problems.

“Only a superb diving save from Kasper Schmeichel foiled him as he thumped a powerful left foot shot towards the bottom corner.

“When Vardy slammed a shot home to make it 2-0 after great work by Maddison you fancied it might be job done but Brighton had other ideas.

“Propper cashed in with a rising shot from 12 yards to suddenly give the home side another anxiety attack in front of their own fans.

“Hughton said: ‘We had good chances. I thought it was a fairly even game. We made some poor decisions. Their second goal hurt us. It’s a very low changing room at the moment.

“’There will be nobody more disappointed than Glenn. If there was anyone you wanted chances like that to drop to, it would be him’.”

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Graham Hill in The Sun had a slightly different take while still noting Albion’s good play.

“You could have staked your house on Jamie Vardy finding the net in front of new Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers,” he wrote.

“If any player at the King Power Stadium did not see eye to eye with sacked boss Claude Puel it was Vardy.

“And sure enough, it was the Foxes’ star striker who kicked off the Rodgers era with three points.

“The former England striker made it clear Puel’s methods did not suit his game as he cut an isolated figure at times this season.

“But, with Rodgers watching on from the stands, Vardy proved he still had the taste for goal with his ninth of the season.

“And Leicester needed it as they secured their first win in almost two months.

“Because Rodgers will have seen first-hand that the problems that have dogged the Foxes this season as Brighton had the better of things for long spells.”

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Laurie Whitwell of the Daily Mail seemed to think that Leicester are still capable of securing a European place.

“[Brendan Rodgers’] task at the King Power will be to extract the best from a talented squad and ultimately get back into Europe. This display reminded that the materials are all there.

“Brighton did cause problems, with Glenn Murray guilty of a remarkable miss before slashing a late chance into the side-netting.

“Schmeichel was helpless five minutes after the break when Gross' clever backheel near the byline took him out of the game and teed up Murray for the simplest of tap-ins. But from six yards out Murray leant back and hammered the ball over the bar, with a couple of Leicester defenders strewn in front of him. It was an astonishing miss.

“Shortly after the hour, Jamie Vardy made no mistake from similar range. But Brighton responded quickly. There was an element of fortune as Knockaert's cross deflected off Chilwell into Davy Propper's path. His shimmy and shot beyond Schmeichel was pure quality, however.”

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Sadly, there was no avoiding of Muzza;s misses. But at least Paul Doyle, in The Guardian, also highlighted the contrast between Albion’s poor start and their later improvement.

He wrote: “Having spoken of his desire to create a ‘really aggressive’ side, Rodgers must have been impressed by the way Leicester got stuck in. Then again, they could hardly have asked for more obliging visitors than Brighton, who began with a timidity that showed why they are among the Premier League’s worst travellers, without an away win since a narrow victory at Huddersfield in early December.

“Leicester made the breakthrough thanks to Gray. Chris Hughton must have been aghast at how feebly his team defended after Harvey Barnes dispossessed Anthony Knockaert near halfway. Youri Tielemans ran free from midfield before slipping a pass through to Gray, who was free to fire low into the net from 15 yards.

“Leicester had begun strongly but became dishevelled. They should have been punished early in the second half when Maddison was caught in possession but, after a lovely move involving Knockaert and a backheeled pass by Gross, Murray lifted the ball over the goal from eight yards.

“Worse, Gross suffered an injury when performing his nifty tee-up. His replacement, Yves Bissouma, soon went close with a shot from 20 yards that whizzed inches wide.

“Moments later Leicester eased their anxiety with a classy goal. Advancing nimbly from midfield they cut through Brighton, Vardy applying the finish by running on to a clever pass by Maddison and ramming the ball past Ryan from 10 yards.

“Leicester were not comfortable for long. Three minutes later Pröpper slashed their lead, firing low into the net from edge of the box after Knockaert’s cross from the right was deflected into his path by Chilwell.

“Brighton’s best chance to equalise fell to Murray in the 87th minute but the normally trusty striker again misfired, blasting wide from seven yards.”

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Emlyn Begley, on the BBC website, also emphasised Albion’s mixed evening.

“Brighton played really well in parts, but their worrying slide continues,” he wrote. “The last time they won in the Premier League, on 29 December against Everton, they were 11 points clear of the bottom three and looked in no danger.

“But their only three wins since then have all been in the FA Cup on their run to the quarter-finals. Two points from their past seven games have left them in real relegation trouble.

“They created plenty of chances at Leicester, with 15 shots in total, and Murray was guilty of their two worst misses.

“The 35-year-old, who has scored 106 goals in two spells for Brighton, hopelessly fired over after Pascal Gross' backheel had picked him out in space. The playmaker injured himself in picking out Murray and had to be replaced.

“Murray replaced his boots immediately after missing that chance but his new footwear also let him down two minutes from the end as he slammed a volley into the side-netting.

“Anthony Knockaert forced a good save from Kasper Schmeichel in the first half while most of their other chances came from corners, with Shane Duffy and Lewis Dunk missing several opportunities each.

“They did not defend poorly, with both of Leicester's goals coming from pacey forwards chasing through-balls, but Chris Hughton knows his team need to start taking their chances and conceding fewer goals if they do not want to drop back into the Championship.

"’It's only us who can turn things around,’ said Hughton. ‘We can't keep speaking about character after every game, we need to make sure we get results. It doesn't matter how the results come. Sometimes you need a bit of fortune, resilience and grit’.”


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