Leicester City

Leicester Mark Filbert Way Return With Villarreal Success

Leicester City's only home pre-season friendly of the summer ended in a 3-2 victory over La Liga outfit Villarreal at King Power Stadium on Wednesday.
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Kasper Schmeichel, a star for Denmark's UEFA EURO 2020 semi-finalists, and James Maddison, who became a father at the weekend, came into the XI as Brendan Rodgers made just two changes to City's line-up after the 3-3 draw at Queens Park Rangers on Saturday.

In front of a crowd of over 17,000 - the largest on Filbert Way in 513 days - Leicester were immediately on the front foot with home debutant Ryan Bertrand locating Jamie Vardy with a long ball forward. City's No.9, though, was adjudged to have fouled El Submarino Amarillo defender Raúl Albiol.

Unai Emery's UEFA Europa League winners then threatened themselves as Juan Foyth, formerly of Tottenham Hotspur, crossed for Fernando Niño, but the Spain Under-21s international nodded wide. Niño was unlucky not to reach another cross, from Alberto Moreno, moments later too.

The Foxes, though, were keen to exhibit a crisp style of play on their Filbert Way return. A neat one-two between Ricardo Pereira and Ayoze Pérez ended with the latter's ball into the box being cleared, before James Maddison's free-kick was headed into Sergio Asenjo's gloves by Çağlar Söyüncü.

On 27 minutes, Leicester carved out the best chance of the game. It came as Bertrand curled a free-kick in from 30 yards out. While Asenjo was able to prevent Wilfred Ndidi from getting a head on it, there was little he could do about Pérez's nodded effort on the rebound, which bobbled just wide.

That opportunity was followed by another on the half-hour with Vardy flicking Ricardo's low cross towards the bottom corner. Asenjo, however, was alert to the dangers of City's all-time top Premier League goalscorer. Emirates FA Cup hero Youri Tielemans' 20-yard drive was also blocked by Foyth afterwards.

Villarreal were struggling to get out. Leicester were always there to seize on a loose ball or a stray pass. A goal was coming, it seemed. The pressure paid off with five minutes until the break as Gerard Moreno's ball was cut out by Bertrand, who won a free-kick, before laying it up for the home side's opener.

It was the ex-Southampton man's delivery which was emphatically headed home by Söyüncü too, creating the loudest roar on Filbert Way since March 2020. The loudest roar until three minutes later, anyway. City's second was dispatched calmly by Harvey Barnes and originated from another Bertrand pass. 

Maddison's industry created the opening for the Foxes with the England midfielder feeding Bertrand, in his own half, before Barnes raced clear of the visiting defence to apply an assured, central finish beyond Asenjo. Rodgers' men were two up at the break and had four fresh faces for the second half.

On came Danny Ward, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, Patson Daka and Boubakary Soumaré - the latter two making their home bows for Leicester - as Schmeichel, Tielemans, Ndidi and Vardy made way. Just as they finished the first half, the Foxes were in the ascendancy early on in the second period.

Firstly, Ricardo located the run of Daka, only for Asenjo to halt the Zambia international's advance. Then, Söyüncü won the ball and found Barnes, who teed up Daka, forcing an admirable stop from the Villarreal 'keeper to tip it around the post. It wouldn't be long before Leicester's third of the evening, though. 

Shepshed-based Dewsbury-Hall started it, dispossessing Manu Trigueros high in Villarreal territory, before rounding Asenjo and trying to set up Daka in the area. City's exciting new forward couldn't quite get there, but Pérez could, slotting it into the bottom corner to further assert Leicester's dominance.

On the hour-mark, after receiving treatment, Wesley Fofana was forced to withdraw on a stretcher with an injury sustained contesting a tackle with Niño. Ben Nelson was his replacement, while Daniel Amartey, Filip Benković, Marc Albrighton, Dennis Praet, Luke Thomas and Kelechi Iheanacho also joined the action.

Iheanacho almost made it four for the home side shortly after arriving on the pitch, heading inches wide at the far post, from Albrighton's corner. With 75 minutes on the clock, meanwhile, Niño got a goal back for the La Liga visitors, racing onto Rubén Peña's through ball and converting past Ward.

It was 3-2 with seven minutes to play, as well, when the referee allowed Villarreal to take a quick free-kick, after stopping play for a head injury, with Foyth playing in Dani Raba, who was halted in his tracks by Ward. The Wales shot-stopper was unable, however, to prevent Alejandro Millán from finding the net.

That would prove to be the last moment of action on Filbert Way, but it was followed by a rapturous reception from the Blue Army at full-time, as Leicester's players thanked them for their support this summer ahead of the 2021/22 season. 

Major moment

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Çağlar Söyüncü
Çağlar Söyüncü

Çağlar Söyüncü nets the first goal of the game in front of the Blue Army.

Leicester's opener came after sustained pressure and charted a path towards a deserved victory. It was a well-worked set-play which did it. James Maddison's dummy allowed Ryan Bertrand to curl the ball into a dangerous position, before Çağlar Söyüncü's header beat Sergio Asenjo.

Three minutes later, City's lead was doubled, by Harvey Barnes, while Ayoze Pérez wrapped up a comfortable night, regardless of Fernando Niño and Alejandro Millán striking late on for the visitors.

Who impressed?

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Ryan Bertrand
Ryan Bertrand

New signing Ryan Bertrand provided the assists for both of City's goals in the first half.

Foxes legend Matt Elliott, speaking on LCFC TV's live coverage, said: "Tonight was a huge tonic and has conjured up a lot of anticipation for the new season. Ryan Bertrand's deliveries in the first half provided a real threat for Leicester - and two goals."

Coming up...

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Leicester City
Leicester City

First-half goals from Çağlar Söyüncü and Harvey Barnes handed the Foxes a 2-0 lead.

The Foxes' schedule of pre-season friendlies is now complete and they are next in action on Saturday in the FA Community Shield against Manchester City at Wembley Stadium (5:15pm kick-off). Then, seven days later, it's Wolverhampton Wanderers on Filbert Way on day one in the Premier League (3pm kick-off).

All times BST.

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