James Maddison

City Exit Europa League After Napoli Loss

An intense 3-2 defeat by Napoli, which saw Leicester City come from two goals down before ultimately losing out at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona on Thursday, saw the Foxes exit the UEFA Europa League after finishing third in Group C.
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Ahead of kick-off, thunder rumbled around the Bay of Naples and lightning illuminated the deep, dark sky. The reflection of the floodlights bounced off the Olympic running track wrapped around a pitch that had endured a heavy downpour for the 24 or so hours that the Foxes had been in southern Italy.

It was a fitting preamble to a big European night in Naples. For the decisive Group C showdown, manager Brendan Rodgers was able to welcome back Belgium midfielder Youri Tielemans after a calf problem, while Ryan Bertrand and Jamie Vardy were the two other changes to the XI. Youngsters Oliver Ewing and Kasey McAteer were also named as substitutes for the first time.

A significant chance inside the first three minutes presented itself to full-back Timothy Castagne, who forced Alex Meret into a good stop. Birthday boy Harvey Barnes was alert to the follow-up, but he couldn't get there quick enough. Napoli quickly raced up the other end, with Adam Ounas finishing low into the far corner for 1-0.

After Ounas saw a strike deflect over at one end, Wilfed Ndidi had an effort blocked by Amir Rrahmani, who did well to get in the way as City searched for a way back into the game after Napoli's early opener. The 600 Leicester fans in attendance were encouraged, and bellowed out songs from a concentrated area of the stand.

Napoli were soon two up, with Eljif Elmas converting after Andrea Petagna squared to the no.7, however the deficit was halved just moments later when Jonny Evans was in the right place at the right time to fire home a loose ball - his second goal in three outings for the Foxes.

That inspired Leicester, who equalised thanks to a magnificent strike from Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall. The Academy graduate watched the ball all the way after James Maddison's free-kick was cleared by Petagna, and his sweet volley flew into the bottom corner for 2-2. A big stage for his maiden goal for the Football Club.

As heavy rain continued to lash Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, Napoli were forced into an early change when Hirving Lozano was taken off on a stretcher. Play resumed, with five minutes of added time to be honoured at the end of the first period, but it remained two apiece at the break.

Just 45 seconds into the second half, skipper Kasper Schmeichel executed a fine stop to deny Ounas' powerful, left-footed attempt. At the other end, Barnes drove towards goal before seeing his low shot collected by Meret with 50 minutes on the clock.

North Macedonia international Elmas then headed off target, but he'd find the net not long after. He collected a low delivery into the area, taking a touch before firing beyond Schmeichel to put Napoli back in front for his second of the game.

City very nearly responded instantly with their next attack. After Vardy urged his team-mates to pin Napoli into their own half as they prepared to take a throw-in, the pressure told and a loose pass across the face of goal from Giovanni Lorenzo fell to Maddison, who struck the outside of the post.

With just under 20 minutes of normal time remaining, Rodgers introduced Patson Daka in place of Barnes, whose final action of the evening saw him have a strike halted in the box. Daka's first involvement saw him tee up Vardy with a neat touch, but the No.9 fired wide into the side-netting. A second change soon followed, with Boubakary Soumaré coming on for Tielemans.

Another chance fell to Dewsbury-Hall on 81 minutes, however after bringing Castagne's cut-back under control, he couldn't trouble Meret after losing his footing and lifting the strike high and wide.

In the closing stages, Schmeichel reacted well to a Kevin Malcuit drive, before Marc Albrighton replaced goalscorer Dewsbury-Hall as the game approached time added on. 

Leicester knew a goal would send them through to a Europa League play-off in February, however three added minutes proved not to be enough to find a leveller, as they fell to defeat in Italy.

Major moment

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Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall

Goals from Jonny Evans and Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall weren't enough for Leicester City on the night.

After battling valiantly to recover from two goals down thanks to strikes from Jonny Evans and Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, Eljif Elmas scored Napoli's third - and most decisive - goal of the night.

That ultimately meant City, who later hit the post through James Maddison, would return to England empty handed.

Where do we stand?

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Leicester City

The 3-2 loss to Napoli saw Leicester City play their final UEFA Europa League match of 2021/22.

Following Thursday's loss, the Foxes will enter the inaugural UEFA Europa Conference League, with the draw taking place on Monday 13 December.

Coming up…

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James Maddison

James Maddison struck the post in the second half for the Foxes.

Leicester next return to King Power Stadium on Sunday for a Premier League encounter with Eddie Howe’s Newcastle United (2pm GMT kick-off).

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