It’s far too early in the season to judge how the Premier League table will look come the end of the season, but it’s well acknowledged that newly promoted sides must take points from their fellow relegation candidates in order to give themselves the best chance of staying up. The last game at the King Power was the thrilling 5-3 win over Manchester United a couple of weeks ago, but Leicester have since put a disappointing display in a 2-0 defeat at Crystal Palace, while Burnley suffered a heavy 4-0 rout at West Brom last Sunday. So Leicester may have been the pre-match favourites for the first time this season, but neither side came into the game thinking it would be an easy victory.
Both managers opted for a 4-4-2 formation, with Leicester playing two strikers and Burnley using Barnes more as an attacking midfielder. Cambiasso hadn’t recovered from his injury, so it was left to Hammond to protect the back four, with Drinkwater providing the creativity. The change in formation did mean a return for the Algerian international, Riyad Mahrez, who had been dropped to accommodate a front three of strikers in previous games, with David Nugent the chosen forward to miss out. Burnley are still without numerous key players so it was once again left to Jukiewicz to lead the line in the absence of Danny Ings and Sam Vokes, while Stephen Ward moved from defence to midfield, with first-choice duo Jones and Marney remaining on the sidelines.
The game began fairly evenly, with both teams keeping possession well, but there wasn’t any real clear-cut chances. Jeffrey Schlupp had a couple of early shots but they were both, almost now characteristically, off target and wild. He does however possess good pace that is a real asset in today’s game, as well as being able to use his defensive ability to add a bit of safety down the left flank, therefore keeping him in the manager’s thoughts despite his shooting needing a lot of work!
Riyad Mahrez created the first meaningful chance of the game after a bold mazy run through the middle and taking a powerful shot at goal from outside the box that forced Heaton into making a finger tip save. From this point Leicester kept building pressure on the Burnley box, and eventually broke through with twelve minutes to half time with the combination of the wingers, Mahrez and Schlupp. Mahrez fortunately received the ball after Burnley failed to clear the ball and cut a hard cross along the ground that was put away by Schlupp who couldn’t miss – thankfully!
Burnley reacted well, and were rewarded minutes later by getting the equalizer through a close range header from Kightly, scoring their first Premier League goal since the opening day of the season, from a clever assist from Jukiewicz who saw Kightly free and nodded the ball to him under pressure from Liam Moore. It felt poor to have conceded like this from a long ball forward and my immediate thought was that surely the goal was offside. It wasn’t, just poor defending from Leicester to have left Kightly unmarked.
You’re probably expecting it now, yes it took less than two minutes before Leicester restored their lead. These ruthless comebacks are something I’ve never seen before, and yet almost every game this season, from falling behind Leicester have almost instantly scored. It was my man of the match, Mahrez, who scored. A good link-up between Schlupp and Vardy led to a floated cross by Vardy with the ball making its way to the head of Mahrez with a touch of fortune.
The score remained 2-1 at half time. I was feeling at this point that Leicester had the better half, but really need a quick goal second half to finish the game off. I was disappointed with Hammond in the first half, who I felt gave the ball away too cheaply at times, and was hopeful that Matty James would replace him shortly. Schlupp had grown in confidence a lot since his goal which was also pleasing to see.
The second half was much less fluid than the first, and I think this suited Burnley more than it did Leicester. It felt like being back in the Championship after some of the football I’ve been fortunate to see so far this season. There weren’t a great deal of chances from either side, but Burnley started to look the more threatening. Jukiewickz got better the more the game went on, and I almost found myself applauding his effort with fifteen minutes left to go, where he expertly spun, deceiving Liam Moore, before nearly curling an effort from just outside the box past Kasper Schmeichel.
It was around this time that both managers began to change their teams. Pearson decided to stick with the 4-4-2 by taking Ulloa off who didn’t have the best of games for Nugent who always seems to score against Burnley. Knockaert came on for the excellent Mahrez, and James replaced Hammond which I hoped would have happened earlier. Sean Dyche changed his formation to a 4-3-3 by taking off record signing George Boyd for Marvin Sordell, another striker. Ross Wallace came on to replace the goal scorer Michael Kightly.
In the last few minutes of the match, it suddenly got eventful. Burnley at this point were really looking dangerous, and Leicester’s lead didn’t look so secure. Trippier suffered a bad injury that led to him being stretchered off and substituted. I thought it could be positive as it might break Burnley’s momentum, and indeed after a long delay, a fine run from Nugent led to a Leicester corner from which Liam Moore almost scored had Heaton not made a terrific save. It was then announced there would be seven minutes stoppage time. It really felt at this point like we’d need to hang on and there were groans of annoyance from the crowd. Burnley fans on the other hand were delighted and clearly felt it was only a matter of time before they would score.
With just a minute left of stoppage time, a poor decision by James to bring down Airfield caused Phil Dowd no choice but to give Burnley a free kick right outside the penalty box. The subsitute Ross Wallace was brace enough to take it, which may have caused frustration with the Claret supporters who have been disappointed with him so far this season. Well he only went and scored it. Truly devastating this late in the game and it really felt like a loss instead a draw. Credit to Wallace for such perfect placement over the wall, but I have to be critical of Schmeichel who I said at the time left too much to aim at. 2-2, full-time.
Absolutely gutted by the result but in hindsight we really didn’t look comfortable and very few of the Leicester players were at their best. Despite Dowd awarding Burnley the freekick, he had been very favour-some towards Leicester, with numerous challenges by Leicester players avoiding a booking that other refs may have given. The Burnley fans were the best supporters I’ve seen and heard at the King Power this season. Throughout the second half they pretty much drowned us out despite our efforts to do the same. I also have to praise Dyche who got the better of Pearson today. I think the switch to 4-3-3 really changed Burnley’s game for the better, while Pearson made like for like changes that didn’t influence the game enough. The only positives I can draw are Burnley’s point caused QPR to drop to bottom, and it took us into the Top 10!
Let me what you made of the game, and whether I should continue creating the team line-up graphics, I’m hopeful that it helps you get a better picture of the team every week but I’d appreciate your feedback. International break couldn’t have come at a better time!