Leicester City

City Soar To Zorya Success On Europa League Debut

Leicester City's first European fixture in 1,283 days resulted in a convincing 3-0 UEFA Europa League Group G victory over Ukraine Premier League outfit Zorya Luhansk at Leicester City Stadium on Thursday evening.
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Manager Brendan Rodgers made two changes to City’s starting XI, with left-back Christian Fuchs and attacking midfielder James Maddison both making their second starts of the 2020/21 season, while multiple Foxes made their bow on the European stage.

A first effort of the game came from Ukraine youth international Vladlen Yurchenko, who, wearing the no.80 shirt, fired a wayward shot that failed to trouble Kasper Schmeichel in the City goal on four minutes.

Schmeichel followed up with a superb save midway through the first period as he smothered a strike from midfielder Vladyslav Kabaev as the visiting side attempted to find an early opener in Leicester.

Maddison had the ball in the back of the net just seconds later after a delicate chip saw him beat the onrushing Zorya skipper Mykyta Shevchenko, only for the No.10 to have his goal disallowed for offside.

City continued to absorb the Ukrainian side’s pressure and shortly after, Papy Mendy did well to close down Yehor Nazaryna, whose effort from range deflected over and behind for a corner-kick.

The Foxes’ solid defending paid off on 29 minutes, as Maddison bundled home from close range. Harvey Barnes’ initial effort hit the inside of the post before it fell to Kelechi Iheanacho and then Maddison, who finished from close range to score the Club’s first goal in the Europa League.

Barnes then headed over from a Timothy Castagne cross as Rodgers’ men pressed for a second, while his left-footed strike on 37 minutes drew an instinctive save out of ‘keeper Shevchenko.

A committed Schmeichel was nearly caught out five minutes before the interval, but thankfully, No. 21 Dmytro Ivanisenya lifted just wide after the Denmark international came off his line.

An opportunity to make it 2-0 fell to Dennis Praet on the stroke of half-time, only for his low drive – after good work from Iheanacho – struck the body of a sliding Vitalii Vernydub before it could make its way through to Shevchenko.

However, a minute later, City were able to double their advantage. The Academy graduate collected a pass from Iheanacho and ghosted past two Zorya defenders before lifting the ball past Shevchenko.

Six minutes after the break, Barnes threatened again, but this time had an effort blocked deep in the opposition box, while France Under-21s international Wesley Fofana glanced a header wide from Maddison’s corner as City hunted a third goal of the evening.

A comfortable save from Schmeichel followed as Vladyslav Kochergin curled into the Dane’s chest, while at the other end, the Foxes broke through Praet, who teed up Maddison for a powerful but off-target strike.

Turkey winger Cengiz Ünder was introduced on 65 minutes to make his second appearance in Leicester colours, replacing Maddison, who shone in attacking midfield throughout the evening at Leicester City Stadium.

Soon after, City were 3-0 up. Iheanacho received the ball centrally, 20 yards out, and shifted it out of his feet before rattling a strike into the bottom corner with his right boot to extend the Foxes' advantage.

With 20 minutes to go, good play from Castagne down the right saw him deliver into Barnes, who then laid it off to Praet, only for the Belgian to side-foot straight at the well-positioned Shevchenko.

Castagne then hit the side-netting, just before a double change from Rodgers meant Hamza Choudhury and Ayoze Pérez took to the pitch in place of goalscorer Iheanacho and Youri Tielemans

A header from Jonny Evans then flew into the stands just before James Justin and Wes Morgan - a hero of City's 2016/17 UEFA Champions League campaign - came on with eight minutes of normal time to go.

The late stages produced a handful of attacking chances for either side, but there would be no further goals as Leicester opened their Group G account with three points and a clean sheet.

Major moment

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Harvey Barnes
Harvey Barnes

Harvey Barnes first European goal for the Football Club saw him double City's advantage just before the break.

While City took the lead just before the half-hour mark, Zorya had goalscoring opportunities of their own, and were a consistent threat throughout the opening 45 minutes. 

That made Harvey Barnes' second goal all the more important. 

Good forward play from Kelechi Iheanacho saw the Nigeria striker roll the ball into the path of Barnes, who darted towards the box before finishing neatly beyond Mykyta Shevchenko.

Who impressed?

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Harvey Barnes
Harvey Barnes

Gerry Taggart selected Harvey Barnes as his Man of the Match on Thursday night.

Speaking to LCFC Radio, summariser Gerry Taggart said: “It’s between two players. There was only one man who got us on the front foot. He stood out in both halves tonight. Harvey has torn everyone to shreds down that left wing. The pace and the fitness levels, they just can’t handle him."

Where do we stand?

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James Maddison
James Maddison

The City No.10 punches the air after scoring his side's first UEFA Europa League goal.

After their first matchday, the Foxes sit joint-top of Group G with SC Braga, who also beat AEK Athens 3-0 at the Braga Municipal Stadium.

The victory proved to be City's biggest success at home in Europe and their joint-best of all time, matching the 3-0 success at Club Brugge in September 2016.

Coming up…

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Kelechi Iheanacho
Kelechi Iheanacho

Kelechi Iheanacho's persistence paid off as he made it 3-0 to City with a neat turn and finish.

Arsenal, who were also in UEFA Europa League action on Thursday night, host the Foxes in the Premier League at Emirates Stadium on Sunday (7:15pm kick-off), before City head to Greece to take on AEK Athens (5:55pm kick-off) in Group G four days later.

All times GMT.

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