Leeds – Leicester provided the perfect ending to matchweek 7 of the 2020-21 Premier League season, and three points for Leicester City’s 4-1 victory, at Elland Road on Monday.
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Harvey Barnes, Youri Tielemans (twice) and Jamie Vardy got the goals for the Foxes, who move up to second place in the Premier League table as a result, sandwiching a singular tally from Stuart Dallas a thorough scare from Leeds during a dominant spell early in the second half.
3 things we learned: Leeds – Leicester
1. Play over Leeds, not through them: Over the weekend, we discussed the contrasting ways in which Leeds and Leicester victimize teams with very different counter-attacking styles. Brendan Rodgers had a very
clever simple approach (at least in the first half) to avoid being bitten by Leeds’ incessant press in the middle third of the field: if you don’t possess the ball in the middle third, they can’t take it off you in the middle third. Leicester did their damage, as they frequently do, with very aggressive balls into the channels and out to the wings, effectively bypassing the 40-yard section in the middle of the field where Leeds tend to attack in numbers.
2. Bielsa always has a plan: Marcelo Bielsa is often referred to as a crazed football genius not only for his high-intensity approach, but for his tactical acumen and ability to make adjustments mid-game. Having seen what Leicester did in the opening 45 minutes, Bielsa crafted a plan to contest the game on Leeds’ preferred
terms turf, as it were: by dropping the backline ever so slightly deeper, the channel pass was no longer there for the taking and Leicester were forced to dwell in possession and, ultimately, give it away. And it almost worked, but for Leicester playing through the middle third with one long pass to cut Leeds open and set up their third goal.
3. Top-four race… pretty interesting: Leicester have done what very few thought they could do, on the heels of what absolutely no one ever thought they could do: take their 2015-16 Premier League and parlay it into an extended stay in and around the top-four in the ensuing seasons. With so much uncertainty surrounding some of the league’s biggest sides this season, Rodgers’ side will almost certainly be in the conversation for the duration. They lack a certain level of consistency due to their style of play, but their upside is tremendous on their good days.
Patrick Bamford started the game with perhaps the easiest chance he’ll have all season to build upon mark of his six goals in six games, but Leeds prolific striker headed the ball straight into the hands of Kasper Schmeichel from five yards out in the 2nd minute.
That turned out to be a terrible outcome for Leeds, as Schmeichel quickly started the ball the other direction by rolling it out to Christian Fuchs. Fuchs played it long and into the left channel for Harvey Barnes, who quickly played it to Vardy inside the penalty area. Vardy danced around the out-rushing Illan Meslier and slotted it into wide open space for Barnes to run onto and pass it into an empty net.
Goal no. 2 came in the 21st minute, and again Vardy was heavily involved without scoring himself. Marc Albrighton crossed from the right wing and found Vardy at the near post, but his crouched header was saved by Meslier. The ball wasn’t held, though, and it spilled to the top of the six-yard box for Tielemans to come rushing in and make it 2-0.
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Leeds needed just three second-half minutes to grab a goal and make the remaining proceedings highly interesting. It was more chaotic and opportunistic than fanciful, but Stuart Dallas’s strike from outside the box was precisely the tonic Leeds needed to get back into the game.
The momentum had well and truly swung when Pablo Hernandez went a crossbar’s thickness of making it 2-2 in the 55th minute. The Spaniard weaved past one defender to find acres of space and curled a right-footed effort that looked destined for the back of the net, only it never stopped rising and crashed off the top of the post and went high into the air.
Leeds remained the aggressors for much of the second half, until they switched off for a brief moment in the 76th minute, and that’s all Vardy and Co., would need. Fuchs played a 40-yard pass to James Maddison and he quickly slid Cengiz Under into the penalty area with a through ball. Under made the unselfish decision to dink the ball around Meslier and into Vardy’s path for the tap-in.
Tielemans put the game to bed with a stoppage-time penalty kick after Mateusz Klich fouled Maddison on the edge of the box.