Leicester City 1 - West Bromwich Albion 1
I think this was a missed opportunity.
I didn't think the starting 11 was too bad although I'd have left Rodriguez out rather than play him off the right - Phillips, Burke, Brunt, McClean, Chadli and Morrison are all better options out wide. I'd also have possibly gone for Nyom's pace and moved Dawson to the centre for Hegazi.
I thought the first half was same old same old - pretty bad on the ball, poor decision making when in decent areas but no shortage of effort. Once or twice Chaldi found space but looked rusty - the promise was there for him though.
It seemed we had no real plan and perhaps had one too many holding players again. I though Rodriguez ran his socks off and battled hard for everything but gave the ball away cheaply and didn't have the pace to hurt Fuchs at all.
Defensively Leicester caused us problems and our lack of pace left Hegazi with a yellow card after 10 minutes. Pulis at least corrected this quickly and swapped him with Evans.
At half time I'd have been tempted to get McClean or Phillips on to balance us up but we left it as it was and put ourselves under terrible pressure with a comedy short backpass and Myhill getting clattered by Vardy having shown the slowest sprint ever seen on a football pitch and nearly conceding a penalty.
From then on Myhill looked like he didn't want to be there and, probably because Pulis wanted it to, the game got really scrappy to the point where neither team got 4 passes together.
Somehow from one of our free-kicks Chadli managed to strike gold with that bit of quality - a 30 yard free-kick that was straight off the "face" Palm Training ground.
After we scored massive gaps appeared and, probably because we didn't want the ball anywhere near Myhill we pushed up and pressed. It worked for 10-15 minutes and the game by this stage was crying out for fresh legs out wide to exploit the massive gaps Leicester were leaving.
But it never came and as we began to concede ground and dig in there seemed to be an inevitability that an equaliser would come, and so it did with 10 minutes to go.
Pulis used to be the master at grinding out the marginal victory but we keep conceding. This time Mahrez finished with great skill on his wrong foot but was left unmarked from a knock down in our box with a line of our defenders 6 yards out.
Having conceded Pulis made the changes and we did have chances to break but again the decision making and final pass was nowhere near good enough.
I also have to question why McClean came on as a right winger with Phillips on the bench - our final break of the game would surely have put a right footer with pace in on goal but McClean's first touch was poor and he contrived to not even win a corner from a near one-on-one position.
I thought Leicester were hard working and pacey in areas but there for the taking in the middle and at the back. I suppose any point away from home with Myhill in goal is a bonus but our home draws have put pressure on us. We need to start winning games as this could well be the toughest league in years.
Is it too much to ask to play wingers our wide and strikers up front? Another team of several changes when we need to be settling down now. We have too many decent players to be messing about.
I want to say a massive thanks to everyone who got in touch to sponsor me for the Birmingham Marathon - I was humbled by that. I managed to finish in 3 hours 20 and raise a decent sum for charity. My lodestar around the course was the vision of a tracksuited man in dazzling white trainers and a baseball cap bellowing at me to work aaard, and in this last few miles I was inspired by the thought of Victor Anichebe and Rickie Lambert running up Austrian hills. It was a torture tantamount to watching the Albion away from home....
With both of these "counter attacking" sides not having managed a win in their last five games, the prospects for much in the way of attacking football seemed bleak, even with the BeIN Sports' "analysts" suggesting that an away-from-home Pulis Albion would be going for it by virtue of deploying a 433. Do the people who set up their lovely touch table graphics actually ever get to watch any real games?
Couple of surprises in the Albion line-up, with Myhill pulled from nowhere to replace Foster, who injured his knee playing with his son in the back garden, whilst Chadli was pulled from nowhere to be given yet another chance to show that he's not really a man for the wide left role, although that choice may simply have been Pulis's Welsh heritage punishing McClean, who is the obvious man for the wide left role, for knocking Wales out of the World Cup. Slight change to the defensive shield too with Livermore the central anchor so as to give Barry and Krychowiak licence to counter attack should the chance to do so occur.
Within seven minutes, Vardy had given Hegazi a torrid enough time to have seen the Egyptian booked, however, Albion's defenders were organised enough to prevent the two coming up against each other all that often after that. Ten minutes later, Chadli would run in off his wing as Gibbs went down the outside, but, after the latter pulled the ball back to the former, the former could only hit a rusty looking off-target shot from the edge of the box. A largely forgettable first-half did contain a fierce drive from Simpson, which Myhill had to dive at some stretch to palm away, and a nice passing movement by the Albion that put Rodriguez in one-on-one against England new-boy Maguire, but Maguire simply eased Rodriguez away.
Albion's second-half kick-off routine ended with Hegazi playing a hospital pass back towards Myhill's box and Albion's backup keeper, who had been out doing a bit of stretching during half time, after the his first first-half in a long, long time, was forced into sprinting to the edge of his box so as to prevent Vardy from capitalising on the dreadful back-pass, and although Myhill got up just enough stream to foul Vardy outside the box, the card he got for his efforts would be the least of his worries as he came off much the worst from the challenge.
Albion's history suggests that even when a goalkeeper can't kick the ball from hand, nor move around his box well enough to come for a cross, let alone show to receive a back-pass, they still aren't going to change the keeper, and so, with third-choice Palmer never really in with a chance of coming on, Albion now had come up with a plan that not only kept Vardy from drawing Hegazi into a foul, but also kept the ball as far away from their goal as possible: an interesting conundrum for a side that typically likes to play as close to their goal as possible.
Even a fully-fit Myhill would have had little chance of stopping Mahrez's shot from the penalty box, around the fifty minute mark but, after Albrighton had dribbled in along the goal-line and laid the ball back on a plate for Leicester's striker, we witnessed the football equivalent of a Greek restaurant climax, as Mahrez tried, metaphorically, to smash said plate against the wall at the back of the stand.
Some ten minutes later, Albion would force their only corner of the game and even though they failed to live up to their reputation from it, the free-kick they gained in the aftermath, some 25-yards out on the right, would see left-winder Chadli put a right-footed shot, indeed our only shot, on target, over the wall and into the top corner.
It's a shame that the goal came when it did, as Albion, forced into playing further up the field as a result of wanting to keep the ball away from the limping Myhill, had looked almost half-decent at keeping possession for a while, but now, with a lead to defend, the habits continually drilled into them on the training pitch won out over the more offensive mindset they had adopted and, with ten minutes or so to go, they'd end up way too narrow as Chilwell found acres of space to the left of the Albion box and delivered a cross to the far post, that Slimani knocked-back to Mahrez, who, despite every Albion player bar Rondon being inside the box, skilfully chested the ball past Barry before firing home.
The introduction of McAuley for Rodriguez and McClean for Chadli pretty much signalled the end of any useful attacking, counter or otherwise from either side. and the game would end with Krychowiak lumping one final clearance high into the East Midlands night.
Apparently, the last time that the Foxes went six games without a win, they chose to sack the manager who had taken them to the title, so Shakespeare, having merely saved them from relegation, might just be feeling a little edgy, although with Albion moving up a place, and still two points ahead of the point-a-game curve, on the back of an away point against a bottom-three side, a similar winless run probably raises few, if any, qualms for our manager.
I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Leicester game thanks to a work conference in Coventry.
As expected, the 2 sides almost cancelled each other out as to me they play a similar style of counter attacking football.
The overall standard of play from Albion was not great (lots of mis-hit passing failing to find the player) and we didn't carry much threat really. Chadli's free kick though was superbly struck, Schmeichel hardly moved as the ball dipped over the Leicester wall and into the top right of the goal. Vardy (who niggled and dived all night) and Mahrez are always dangerous with their pace and it was Mahrez who eventually equalised from inside the penalty area, having missed arguably an easier chance earlier in the second half. I wasn't particularly surprised, but again it made me question the tactics of almost anti-football, trying to stifle the opposition and waste time. We don't seem to be able to defend a 1-0 lead like we did last season at the moment.
Albion's ultimate aim though is to finish 17th in the Premier League, and the style of play seems to reflect that. Football used to be about winning silverware, but for many teams it is about preserving their status and earning power in the Premier League.
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