Khanya Leshabela

City’s Under-23s On Wrong End Of Five-Goal Thriller

Leicester City Development Squad’s ended the season with a 3-2 defeat to Crystal Palace Under-23s at Crystal Palace Training Ground on Monday afternoon.

Goals from Tawanda Maswanhise and Lewis Brunt were ultimately not enough to take anything away from their final game of the Premier League 2 campaign, as the Eagles held on despite having two players sent off in the second half.

Last week’s injury to Ben Nelson led to a change in personnel and formation for the side coached by Ben Petty, with the young Foxes reverting to a four-at-the-back system. Khanya Leshabela came in, while there was a switch up top with Kian Pennant handed a first start, replacing Chris Popov.

It took eight minutes for City to fashion their first opportunity and it came from a set piece as Thanawat Suengchitthawon saw his free-kick held by opposing shot-stopper Joe Whitworth.

However, it was the Eagles who broke the deadlock on 10 minutes. Killian Phillips applied the finishing touch to Jesurun Rak-Sakyi’s cross and set them on their way.

Another neat Palace move almost brought a second goal. Omotayo Adaramola crossed for Rak-Sakyi, whose left-footed volley was well held by Brad Young.

The dangerous Rak-Sakyi continued to cause problems during the opening quarter of an hour, dribbling into the box before firing past the far post, before setting up Scott Banks, who blazed over the bar.

Those missed chances allowed the young Foxes to level in stunning fashion with 18 minutes on the clock. Will Alves made a strong run forward, picking out Maswanhise with a perfectly-weighted pass that allowed the winger to take a touch before sending the ball into the far corner with a curling strike.

Maswanhise soon looked for his second via a free-kick 25 yards from goal, but saw it deflect wide and just before the half-hour mark, Crystal Palace regained their advantage. Banks made amends for his earlier miss, curling a left-footed strike in off the post.

The home side threatened to run away with it late in the first half, with Phillips’ latest effort blocked, before Young produced a fine save to prevent Banks adding his second. John-Kymani Gordon also looked to get in on the action, directing a header onto the roof of the net.

There were still signs that there was something in the game for Leicester as Shane Flynn headed Suengchitthawon’s free-kick wide, while Leshabela fired high and wide from distance.

A nightmare start to the second half allowed Palace to establish a two-goal cushion. Seconds after the restart, Phillips was felled in the box as he took his shot, allowing Banks to step up and convert the resulting penalty, slotting it into the bottom left corner.

Gordon could have added a fourth when he beat the offside trap and chipped the ball over Young, but also took it past the post, though the Eagles were soon reduced to 10 men, as Adaramola was shown a second yellow card five minutes into the second half for pulling back Pennant as he looked to launch a counter attack.

From there on in, it was pretty much all Leicester. Maswanhise shifted the ball inside and fired over, ahead of Alves bringing a low diving save out of Palace’s increasingly busy shot-stopper.

Wanya Marcal-Madivadua then combined with substitute Popov, who flicked his cross wide and the forward soon had a header saved by Whitworth, with Maswanhise’s follow up blocked by Dan Quick and a third attempt from Maswanhise landing in the side netting.

Rak-Sakyi showed that the Eagles were still dangerous on the counter, but could not take advantage after breaking through, seeing Young equal to his effort, before Gordon lacked the precision needed to find the back of the net.

A lifeline came City’s way in the form of a penalty 15 minutes from time. Leshabela was taken down in the area, allowing Brunt to step up and send the ‘keeper the wrong way with his right-footed spot-kick.

Even before substitute Luke Dreher was shown his second yellow card for a tackle on Marcal-Madiavdua, reducing Palace down to nine for the remaining seven minutes, there was a Leicester onslaught as they looked to equalise.

Ethan Fitzhugh, off the bench in the closing stages, launched a powerful long-range shot that was headed over by Quick, after Leshabela had his shot blocked in the box, while Marcal-Madivadua’s quick one-two with Popov led to another Whitworth save.

The tempo increased further after Dreher was given his marching orders, with Brunt’s cross to half-time replacement Ronny Nelson cleared off the line, ahead of Maswanhise blasting over the bar from the edge of the box.

The chances kept coming as Maswanhise teed up Fitzhugh for a first-time strike, but Whitworth claimed it, before Fitzhugh tried his luck again, curling wide. And when Flynn’s shot was also blocked in the six-yard box, the visitors knew it was not going to be their afternoon.

Major moment…

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Lewis Brunt
Lewis Brunt

Captain Lewis Brunt converted a second-half penalty, playing less than 24 hours after making his Premier League debut for the first team.

A crazy contest which included five goals, a penalty for either side and two red cards for the hosts, City will come away disappointed that they were unable to capitalise on a two-man advantage to take away at least a point.

Who impressed?  

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Sammy Braybrooke
Sammy Braybrooke

England youth international Sammy Braybrooke played alongside Khanya Leshabela in the middle for the Foxes youngsters.

Sammy Braybrooke was the man to start many of the Leicester attacks from the centre of midfield, particularly in the second half, spraying balls out to wide areas, while there were positive impacts from substitutes, including Ethan Fitzhugh, who might have claimed a couple of goals on another day.

Where do we stand?  

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Will Alves
Will Alves

Will Alves has shone for the Under-23s this season and grabbed another assist against the Eagles.

Following their final fixture of 2021/22, Leicester sit seventh in the Premier League 2 Division table, finishing on 37 points from 26 matches, collecting 10 wins across the campaign.

The details...


City: Young; Wormleighton (R. Nelson 46’), Brunt (c), Flynn; Marcal-Madivadua, Braybrooke, Leshabela, Maswanhise; Suengchitthawon; K. Pennant (Popov 57’), Alves (Fitzhugh 69’).

Subs not used: Doherty, T. Pennant.

Goals: Maswanhise 18’, Brunt (p) 75’.

Images: Micah Crook/PPAUK.

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