Boubakary Soumaré

Leicester's 2021/22 Pre-Season Begins In Burton

Leicester City kicked-off their 2021/22 pre-season schedule with a penalty shootout defeat by Burton Albion on Saturday afternoon, following a goalless 90 minutes at Pirelli Stadium.
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For City’s first match of pre-season, manager Brendan Rodgers afforded minutes to 22 players in the travelling squad, as he deployed two different XIs either side of half-time and handed maiden starts to summer signings Ryan Bertrand, Boubakary Soumaré and Patson Daka.

On a much milder day than those that preceded Leicester's first summer outing, a sizeable contingent of Foxes fans - part of a 3,925-strong crowd - welcomed the squad onto the pitch prior to the game in Staffordshire. 

The Foxes carved out their maiden opportunity of the match on seven minutes, when a lovely pass from first-half captain Ricardo Pereira forced Burton stopper Ben Garratt into clearing into the pass of youngster Tawanda Maswanhise. However, his placed effort had too much on it, as the ball settled onto the top of the net.

Both sets of supporters were encouraged in the opening stages, with Tom O'Connor curling high and wide for the Brewers after being teed up by Kane Hemmings, before Eldin Jakupović got down to good effect to tip Tom Hamer's low strike behind for a corner.

Midway through the first period, Portugal full-back Ricardo was able to dispossess Hemmings after a through-ball was flashed into the striker's feet. On 25 minutes, Burton skipper John Brayford went down in the area under pressure from Çağlar Söyüncü, but there was nothing given. 

The Foxes displayed more defensive solidity after the half-hour mark, with Ricardo and Söyüncü both on hand on separate occasions, while Academy graduate Hamza Choudhury - a loanee at Burton on two occasions across 2016 and 2017 - won the ball back on the edge of box in typical fashion.

As the game crept towards half-time, Daka was unfortunate not to get away from his marker and forge an opportunity after challenging for Jakupović's long ball. Then, France youth international Wesley Fofana cut out a low effort and Jakupović made a fine one-handed save from Hamer, while Smith drilled the follow-up flew wide. 

The final attack of the half, crafted by City, saw No.10 James Maddison drift past one defender before his curling effort deflected off target to signal the end of a goalless 45 minutes.

An all-new XI started the second half, and that team included the introduction of a number of youngsters, as well as City's all-time leading Premier League goalscorer, Jamie Vardy, who was handed the captain's armband as Ricardo made way.

The hosts were the first to threaten, with Bryn Morris drilling a half-volley, always rising, over Daniel Iversen's crossbar, and then Vardy had a shot saved by Garratt after Kelechi Iheanacho broke Burton's offside trap and squared the ball for his strike partner. 

Appeals for a penalty followed from the resulting corner as Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall's front-post delivery bounced up and hit Lucas Akins in the midriff, although play continued. 

A combination of Daniel Amartey and Wilfred Ndidi halted a mazing run deep into the box from Smith shortly before the hour mark, while left-back Luke Thomas sent an attempt wide of the goal not long after.

With less than 15 minutes of normal time remaining, an ambitious attempt from Joe Powell sailed over Iversen's bar, and that was followed by a header from Hamer at the far post that nearly broke the deadlock. 

A superb run from Thomas came shortly after, as he beat two defenders and delivered into the box, but there was too much on the cross for Vardy and Kamal Sowah, who arrived into the area with intent. 

With only 15 seconds remaining, Omari Patrick tested Iversen, who held the ball with ease, and after a goalless 90 minutes, a penalty shootout decided the winner of the Bass Charity Vase.  

It proved to be the hosts who would emerge victorious, as Thanawat Suengchitthawon and Thomas were both denied from the spot and Iheanacho lifted his penalty over. While Dewsbury-Hall found the net, so did Powell, Frazer Blake-Tracy and Bryn Morris, and that proved to be enough for Burton, despite Iversen saving from Patrick.

Who impressed?

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Luke Thomas
Luke Thomas

The City left-back threatened Burton's back line after coming on at half-time before also featuring at Wycombe.

Speaking on LCFC Radio’s Matchday Live, Gerry Taggart said: "I think the formation change in the second half helped Leicester City in that 4-4-2 and Luke Thomas was one of the main components of that. In the first 10 or 15 minutes, he was causing an overlap for Leicester and caused problems. They were just unfortunate not to get a goal."

Coming up…

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Kelechi Iheanacho
Kelechi Iheanacho

The Nigeria striker was one of 22 players to face Burton.

City’s pre-season campaign continues on Wednesday with a trip to Adams Park to face Wycombe Wanderers. Then, they take on Queens Park Rangers at Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium on Saturday, before hosting Villarreal at King Power Stadium four days later.

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