Leeds United 1 Leicester City 4 – Foxes pounce to punish Whites’ mistakes
The order may well change and some establishment names could well come to the fore again as autumn turns into winter, but for the time being at least, the likes of Leeds United and Leicester City are attempting to make hay while the sun metaphorically shines.
Manchester United may have locked horns with old adversaries Arsenal on the previous day, yet this meeting at Elland Road between two of the most progressive sides in the league led by innovative and enlightened coaches was comfortably the division’s stand-out fixture of matchweek seven.
It was a night which lived up to its billing. But on an occasion when United’s strong and in-character second half drew comparison to their stirring rally against Manchester City in September – after comprehensively being second best in the first period – the decisive manoeuvres came from those in blue.
After struggling to get out of their own half on the resumption and being pegged back by a strike from Stuart Dallas, Leicester picked their moment to seal victory with a quality moment 14 minutes from time when Jamie Vardy steered the ball home after a probing pass from substitute James Maddison and an assist from fellow replacement Cengiz Under. It was a strike which Vardy’s overall play merited.
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A late penalty from Youri Tielemens, awarded after a VAR check following Mateusz Klich’s challenge on Maddison – with Andre Marriner also consulting a pitchside monitor – provided the icing and a margin of victory that was harsh on Leeds’s second-half showing.
No side remain unbeaten in the Premier League – the first time this has happened at this stage of a top-flight season since 1967-68 – and this was a night when opportunity knocked for both combatants.
In teeming rain, it was Leicester who looked the part – especially in the first half – and after excelling at the Etihad Stadium and the Emirates Stadium, they also found Elland Road to their liking as they moved up to second.
A first-half masterclass in counter-attacking football, ably led by a gifted Yorkshireman in Vardy provided a sobering lesson for Leeds.
The sub-plot to a fascinating match-up on a night when Leeds could have moved into the top three with victory themselves, revolved around the presence of Vardy and his opposite number in Patrick Bamford.
Both have seen plenty turn to gold at the start of 2020-21. On the night, it was Vardy who won that particular battle after setting up both of Leicester’s goals in the first period before claiming a piece of the pie himself.
For his part, two misses by Bamford – including a point-blank header which he should have buried moments before Barnes’s opener – were poor by his high standards.
The portents suggested it would be a straightforward night when it was confirmed that Rodrigo would not be involved for the hosts and so it proved.
He was forced to isolate after being in close contact with a person who has tested positive for Coronavirus.
A gift of an opener after just 121 seconds for Harvey Barnes – who was teed up by Vardy after he seized on Robin Koch’s poor backpass – quickly unnerved Leeds.
Vardy, a wily operator blessed with clever movement, speed of thought and footballing intelligence to match, would play a leading role in the Foxes’ second goal which had been coming.
He instinctively gravitated towards Marc Albrighton’s centre and after Ilian Meslier blocked his header, Tielemens tapped home the loose ball.
Albrighton’s cross almost embarrassed Meslier, while Barnes went close before Leeds found their feet and proved more like their old selves after the break.
Marcelo Bielsa looked visibly unhappy about his side’s first-half showing, but the second half will have pleased him more.
Dallas’s cross evaded everyone to creep past Kasper Schmeichel and the fightback was on. sublime touch and strike from Pablo Hernandez, with his exquisite curler striking the woodwork, was as close as Leeds got, though, Leicester finding the composure late on to show just why they were homing on equalling a club record of four straight away league wins.
Leeds are a good side as well.
But you cannot afford mistakes against a side as polished as Leicester.
Leeds United: Meslier; Ayling, Koch, Cooper, Dallas (Alioski 81); Klich; Costa, Hernandez (Roberts 67), Shackleton (Poveda 45), Harrison; Bamford. Unused substitutes: Casilla, Struijk, Casey, Davis.
Leicester City: Schmeichel, Justin, Fofana, Fuchs; Albighton, Praet (Maddison 63), Tielemens, Mendy, Thomas; Vardy (Morgan 85), Barnes (Under 71). Unused substitutes: Ward, Iheanacho, Perez, Choudhury.
Referee: Andre Marriner (West Midlands).