James Maddison

Leicester & Slavia Contest Lively UEL Stalemate In Prague

Slavia Prague and Leicester City had to settle for a 0-0 draw in the first leg of their UEFA Europa League Round of 32 tie at Sinobo Stadium on Thursday evening.
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Ahead of his 71st fixture as a manager in European football, Brendan Rodgers made just a single change from the starting XI which emphatically defeated Liverpool in the Premier League on Saturday, with Academy graduate Luke Thomas coming in for Ricardo Pereira.

Playing in front of spectators for the first time since March 2020 – in the J. W. Madden Stand at Slavia’s 13-year-old ground – the Foxes started a fiercely contested clash brightly in Prague.

Wilfred Ndidi’s interception on the half-way line enabled the Nigerian to cushion the ball into Harvey Barnes, who proceeded to offer an early glimpse of his fearsome pace.

The England international commuted it forward swiftly, until picking out Marc Albrighton at the corner of the penalty area. The 31-year-old's first-time effort, however, whizzed wide of the post.

At the other end, David Zima broke free and missed the target from close range for Slavia. Then, James Maddison added the final touch to a flowing Leicester move by arrowing it over the crossbar of Ondřej Kolář, once the most expensive goalkeeper in Czech football.

Encouraged by a lively home support in Vršovice, Jindřich Trpišovský’s Slavia posed a considerable threat of their own too as Youri Tielemans bravely blocked Lukáš Provod’s strike from 15 yards.

On 14 minutes, though, City broke as Tielemans threaded a pass through to Barnes and Leicester’s No.15 burst free, past the trailing Alexander Bah, but Kolář was able to smother it well.

Barnes hit wide again, too, with Maddison’s free-kick being cleared directly into his path, on the angle of the six-yard box, before Bah’s header at the other end flew off target also as both sides threatened.

Provod, meanwhile, took down a high ball on the edge of Leicester’s penalty area midway through the half before offloading to Peter Olayinka – an international team-mate of Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho.

His effort, though, lacked the precision required to concern Kasper Schmeichel - so often a hero for the Foxes in the 2016/17 UEFA Champions League campaign - on his 14th outing in UEFA competition.

The deliveries of Provod were a concern for City and it was the Czech Republic international’s out-swinging corner which landed on the head of Abdallah Sima with a minute of the first half to go.

To the Foxes' relief, Barnes and Çağlar Söyüncü combined to get in the way, just as it seemed destined to nestle into the bottom corner. While the first half was short of goals, it was abundant in intrigue and the second period continued that trend as Schmeichel denied Jan Kuchta from an acute angle.

Nicolae Stanciu, on the other hand, curled a free-kick over the wall for Červenobílí eight minutes after the restart, prompting Schmeichel into a routine save and catch at his right-hand post.

Stanciu, an ex-Anderlecht colleague of Tielemans, went close again from distance on the hour, with Schmeichel making an impressive, fingertip save as the reigning Czech champions turned the screw.

That shift in momentum prompted action from Rodgers, who introduced Cengiz Ünder and Iheanacho from the bench to inject a different dimension into Leicester's attacking options.

Albrighton and Vardy were those to make way for the visitors. Shortly after joining the action, Iheanacho, City's top goalscorer in the competition with three strikes his name, was booked after a coming together with Jakub Hromada, keeping him out of next Thursday's second leg tie in Leicester.

Rodgers' visitors will have been frustrated not to open the scoring with 20 minutes to go, too, as Barnes skipped into the area, found Iheanacho, who then switched it Ünder, but the Turkey international's low drive had the sting taken out of it by a strong block.

Hamza Choudhury - the third Academy graduate to be involved - then replaced Maddison with 14 minutes to go as they deployed a 4-1-4-1 system in place of the 4-2-3-1 formation preferred from kick-off.

The 23-year-old's first contribution, on 83 minutes, was to whip a delicious cross in for Iheanacho, who just couldn't quite apply a headed finish, before a curler from Barnes on the other side was just too high for the Nigeria frontman.

Major moment

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Kelechi Iheanacho
Kelechi Iheanacho

Kelechi Iheanacho was unlucky not to net a late winner for the Foxes.

With minutes to go, two substitutes combined for Leicester as Hamza Choudhury collected the ball on the right flank before accurately fizzing a perfect cross into the heart of the Slavia penalty area.

Kelechi Iheanacho seemed well placed to accept the invitation to net his fourth goal in Europe this season, too, but the 24-year-old narrowly misjudged his headed effort. As such, City had to settle for a goalless draw.

Who impressed?

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Çağlar Söyüncü
Çağlar Söyüncü

The Turkey centre-back made some key clearances for the visitors.

Gerry Taggart told LCFC Radio at full-time: "When it was a night of defenders coming to the fore and making sure they were on the ball, then there was only one player that stood out for me. On numerous occasions, he got himself across in the deep defensive areas and got his head on numerous balls that came into the box, and that was Çağlar Söyüncü for me. I thought he was outstanding tonight."

Where do we stand?

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Brendan Rodgers
Brendan Rodgers

Foxes manager Brendan Rodgers encourages his players from the sidelines in Thursday's European outing at Sinobo Stadium.

There's nothing to show between the two teams after 90 minutes in the first leg. Leicester's first two-legged European tie since 2017 continues next week.

Coming up…

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James Maddison
James Maddison

Leicester and England midfielder James Maddison has an effort at goal for the visitors at Slavia Prague.

Premier League duties are on the agenda as Leicester travel to Aston Villa on Sunday (2:05pm kick-off) before Slavia visit the East Midlands for the second leg on Thursday (8pm kick-off).

All times GMT.

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