Leicester City

Leicester Win UEL Group With AEK Athens Victory

Leicester City secured top spot in UEFA Europa League Group G after a 2-0 triumph over AEK Athens at Leicester City Stadium on Thursday night.
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Following Sunday’s 2-1 Premier League triumph at Sheffield United, manager Brendan Rodgers opted to make seven changes to his side, with centre-back Jonny Evans wearing the captain's armband on the night.

Following a moment of silence in memory of Italy great Paolo Rossi, who sadly passed away on Wednesday, City’s final Group G fixture began, as they lined up in a 4-2-1-2-1 formation, with Wilfred Ndidi shielding the four-man defence during his fourth start of the season.

Attempting to make it four wins from six group games, the Foxes began their attack on AEK's goal on seven minutes, when Belgium midfielder Youri Tielemans dragged a low drive wide of the mark from 20 yards out.

Their early pressure paid off after just 12 minutes, as Turkey star Cengiz Ünder scored his first goal for the Football Club. Tielemans' cross looped up into the air and Ünder was there to smash a fine volley into the net.

Just two minutes later, it was 2-0. Winger Harvey Barnes cut in from the right flank and sent a deflected strike past Panagiotis Tsintotas for his sixth goal of the season in all competitions.

As the match approached the half-hour mark, a chance for a third goal fell to Nigeria striker Kelechi Iheanacho, but he couldn't connect with Barnes' dangerous delivery and the ball flew out for a goal-kick.

Shortly before the interval, meanwhile, Ndidi nearly found the net after Evans nodded the ball back across goal, only for the Nigerian's header to loop the wrong side of the post. 

Then, on the stroke of half-time, Dennis Praet hammered a shot on goal that Tsintotas was equal to, before the Athens stopper tipped a curler from Ünder wide, bringing to an end a dominant first 45 minutes for the Foxes.

Iheanacho threatened again after the interval, heading wide from an Ünder cross on 53 minutes - the wideman dancing past Mario Mitaj before delivering - as the dark Leicester sky filled with rain.

Ünder was denied by Tsintotas again on 63 minutes, before Rodgers made his first change of the evening as Papy Mendy came on for Ndidi, who benefitted from more minutes as part of his recovery from an adductor injury sustained at the start of the season.

Shortly after, Ayoze Pérez, having scored his first goal of the season on Sunday, entered the action in place of Iheanacho to make his 50th appearance for the Club in all competitions.

A trademark drive from Barnes on 69 minutes, meanwhile, nearly resulted in the No.15 extending his side's advantage, but he drilled off target while under pressure as City pressed for a third goal.

Five minutes later, good work from Barnes saw him tee up Pérez - operating as a striker - only for the Spaniard's shot to be saved by the legs of Tsintotas in the AEK net.

More fresh legs were introduced with nine minutes to play, with Wes Morgan and Hamza Choudhury replacing Wesley Fofana and Tielemans respectively.

Indeed, it was Morgan who prevented the visitors from pulling a goal back on 84 minutes as the skipper threw himself in the way of Nélson Oliveira's first effort before the former Norwich City frontman blasted the rebound over Danny Ward's bar.

A superb interception from substitute Choudhury led to another opportunity for Rodgers' side, and while Praet looked as if he would make it 3-0 with a minute remaining, Konstantinos Galanopoulos slid in to deny the Belgian a third goal of the season.

Goalscorer Barnes followed up with a strike from James Justin's cross in injury time, but he couldn't hit the target with a powerful effort and the final whistle arrived soon after at Leicester City Stadium.

Major moment

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Cengiz Ünder & Kelechi Iheanacho
Cengiz Ünder & Kelechi Iheanacho

The Turkey winger opened the scoring with a sweet volley after just 12 minutes.

An early goal for the Foxes would be crucial if they were to break down an AEK Athens side that fell to a narrow 2-1 defeat to Leicester in Greece in late October.

The opener came after only 12 minutes, via the left boot of Cengiz Ünder, whose first strike in City blue saw him instinctively volley home after a defensive mistake from the visiting side.

City's early threat again paid dividends just two minutes later, and it was Harvey Barnes who added to his 2020/21 goal tally to put his side into a commanding 2-0 lead inside the opening 15 minutes.

Who impressed?

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Cengiz Ünder & Brendan Rodgers
Cengiz Ünder & Brendan Rodgers

After Cengiz Ünder netted his first Foxes goal, Gerry Taggart selected him as his Man of the Match in the 2-0 win over AEK Athens.

Speaking on LCFC Radio as a summariser, former Leicester defender Gerry Taggart said: "There were some solid performances. Wilfred Ndidi coming back, he never put a foot wrong. I thought he was excellent, Wilfred. Ayoze Pérez looked really hungry when he came on and James Justin put in a good performance.

"For me, it’s a pick of the two wide players and on this occasion, the young Turkish winger, Cengiz Ünder, nips ahead of Harvey Barnes. He was excellent tonight."

Where do we stand?

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Harvey Barnes
Harvey Barnes

The Academy graduate's sixth goal of the 2020/21 season doubled Leicester's advantage over their Greek opponents.

After their fourth win from six Group G outings, Leicester City finish top of their pool with 13 points. They will find out who they face in the Round of 32 when the draw takes place on Monday afternoon.

Coming up…

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Leicester City
Leicester City

The Foxes celebrate their second goal of the evening en route to victory over AEK Athens.

Brighton & Hove Albion visit Filbert Way in the Premier League on Sunday (7:15pm kick-off) before Leicester City host Everton three days later (6pm kick-off) and then head to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday 20 December (2:15pm kick-off).

All times GMT.

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