A day that had started with a decent bit of noise and a fair bit of visual stimulation ended up with a whimper and a 6th defeat in 7 for United.
The 125 years old birthday celebrations attempted to create a carnival atmosphere but the reality is when Mike Ashley is the club’s owner and we’ve had an appalling run there’s something in the air that doesn’t quite make it feel like party time. The flag displays were impressive but unfortunately the result and overall performance weren’t.
The line-up had the 442 look about it which hasn’t served us particularly well and once again Hayden was preferred to Shelvey. Seeing Atsu and Lascelles on the bench was welcome news as it’s obvious they have been big losses. Clark and Lejeune in central defence meant no place for Mbemba who has possibly been our best defensive performer in Lascelles’s absence.
As we did against Man Utd and Chelsea we made a positive start and within 5 minutes we were one nil up with an excellently crafted goal. A loose ball in midfield was chested down by Merino. He laid off a short pass to Murphy on half way line. Murphy’s ball with the outside of his boot down the line after seeing Gayle make a move was absolutely sublime. Gayle’s run was perfectly timed. He got to the by-line and his excellent cutback was more or less tapped in by Joselu. A very well-worked goal and things were looking up.
Then it’s almost 2-0. Merino wins the ball in the middle and pushes it on to Gayle who runs directly towards goal. A very firm shot low down fizzes just past Schmeichel’s post. 2-0 up would’ve been spectacular but there you go…..the self-doubt and waiting for the opposition to start taking control started creeping up.
Hayden was allowing huge spaces to open up between the edge of our box and the halfway line. Leicester had 3 long-range shots before their equaliser and every one of those shots got closer to the goal each time. There was an inevitability to Mahrez’s equaliser. Joselu puts in a good challenge in their half and Merino picks up the loose ball. However, his lay-off is abysmal and the ball arrives at the feet of Mahrez. A half-arsed challenge by Hayden (he should’ve taken him out) and a shot by Mahrez that was ok but stoppable. Poor play by our central midfield and poor goalkeeping. 1-1
Leicester were now clearly in the ascendancy. Vardy ran through and took a dive underneath a Yedlin challenge which could’ve ended-up as a penalty.
NUFC did almost take the lead on the stroke of half-time. Slack play by Chilwell (who was poor throughout for an otherwise efficient Leicester side) and the ball was picked-up by Murphy whose effort from outside the box drew a good save lowdown. We wouldn’t have deserved a HT lead but of course we’d have taken the bastard.
A fairly tame first 15 minutes of the second half and to me it looked like we’d rode a bit of a storm and were starting to play our way back in to it. And there’s that hope that kills you…..In the 60th minute the ball ends up with Gray after Yedlin gets nowhere near Albrighton on their left hand side. He lays it off to Gray who shoots and scores with the aid of a massive deflection off Lejeune’s arse. Nee chance for Darlow.
That air of inevitability returned and a decent save from Darlow after Mahrez had blindsided the defence on their left side and got a shot in. Murphy went off for Perez.
And then we levelled. Almost unexpectedly.
In the 72nd minute a corner was won after good work by Atsu (on for Ritchie) and Yedlin on the right ended up with Perezhitting the ball off Simpson. Atsu put in an accurate corner that wasn’t quite pacey enough for Merino to get a powerful head on it. However, Merino won the second header which broke to Gayle who stepped inside and hit an accurate shot that got even more accurate when it clipped Maguire and ended up in the net. That was Gayle’s 3rd goal in 5 games and he is exempted from any criticism at present as there is a fair argument to say that he’s doing his job.
Wa ganni win here, aren’t wi?
Nar. 87th minute and Hayden makes an inexplicably piss poor attempt at challenging Okazaki which allows the Leciester player to back heel the ball. Merino tries to intercept it but fails. Mahrez plays it to Albrighton behind him on the left and he plays it up the line to Vardy who makes a direct run into the box. Lejeune touches the ball but then slips and it’s played in to the middle. Clark loses his mind and irrationally runs towards the fallen Lejeune as if he’s a downed colleague on a battlefield. Perez has let Okizaki run through but he then proceeds to tackle him from behind……..and ends up lashing the ball in to the net. As comical as it was demoralising.
Ulloa on. Clock run down. Done.
Poor performances from Lejeune, Hayden, Perez, Yedlin and others. The players are playing with fear and the lack of self-belief is obvious. They look completely shorn of confidence and there’s a feeling that we need to get back to the point at which Rafa is stood on the sidelines giving running step-by-step instructions to the players. There’s no way I’d suggest I have a clue what I’m talking about but I sincerely want to see Shelvey, Atsu and Lascelles back in the side against Everton on Wednesday and I hope we revert back to the pragmatic, uglier and more effective football we played in those (what now seem like glorious) opening 2 months of the season.
It feels like it’s going to be a long, hard winter. HTL.
NORMAN RILEY – FOLLOW NORMAN ON @likethegoat
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