Kelechi Iheanacho’s penalty put the Foxes in front before the break, while Kasey McAteer’s fourth goal of the season settled a fraught clash in Norfolk. Enzo Maresca’s men had to dig the trenches in during the second half, valiantly refusing the Canaries a way through. A superb stop from Mads Hermansen and brave defending from his colleagues helped them to a sixth win in seven league games, leaving City a point adrift of early pace-setters Preston North End at the summit.
Maresca surprised some by making five changes from the XI which left Southampton with a 4-1 victory five days earlier. Hamza Choudhury was one of those to come into the line-up for the visitors, with the Academy graduate adorning the captain’s armband in Norfolk. As is often the case where Leicester go this season, a full house awaited them at Carrow Road, eager to overcome a side fancied by many to mount a promotion charge in 2023/24. These are the nights where those ambitions will be put under the most scrutiny through the campaign.
Mads Hermansen made an outstanding stop to keep Leicester on course in the second half.
Hermansen was tested early as Jack Stacey broke into a pocket of space on the right. City’s Danish ‘keeper, though, got his right hand to it. There were fleeting moments for the Foxes inside the first 15 minutes too. Cesare Casadei and Iheanacho found roadblocks in their way, however, as soon as they got into the Canaries' 18-yard box. A well-worked corner routine saw Gabriel Sara play it low to Christian Fassnacht, lurking at the near post. His one-touch pass to Jonathan Rowe invited a shot, but Norwich’s No.27 fired over. There was plenty of running, but few moments of opportunity for either side early on. Link-up play between Yunus Akgün and Stephy Mavididi enabled the latter to go for goal just after the half-hour, although Sara blocked bravely. Akgün’s free-kick was nodded towards the net by Wout Faes too, with the Belgian stretching his 6ft 2in frame to get there. Home goalkeeper Angus Gunn, mind you, was able to catch it.
A spot-kick on the cusp of half-time handed the visitors from Leicester a precious chance to take control. Composed play from Harry Winks recovered the ball in the midfield. The former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder gave it quickly to Mavididi on the flank – and he then raced straight at goal. Fassnacht was on the back foot and bundled the former Montpelier winger to the ground in the box. Penalty. Iheanacho was the man to step up. The locals – still reeling from the referee’s decision – did their best to put the Nigerian off, but he hit it hard and true, side-footed, to beat Gunn in the Norwich net.
Kasey McAteer made sure at the end for the Foxes.
Mavididi then missed the target after a quick release from Iheanacho. City were pressing high and breaking quickly on the transition. The frustration was clear to see – and hear – in the stands. Norwich came out after the break with a newfound intent, trying to pin Leicester into their defensive third. Maresca’s response was to introduce Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall and Wilfred Ndidi, two players who have been encouraged to push upfield this season, but they also possess a sturdiness which the visitors needed to hold back the flood of yellow shirts. Shane Duffy’s header – onto Sara’s corner – struck Jannik Vestergaard in the box. There were cries for handball from the home terraces, but referee Graham Scott was unmoved.
The Foxes were operating in tight pockets, but Ndidi was able to thread a pass through to Iheanacho on 60 minutes. The opening scorer looked to be through, until he turned to his left and saw Duffy sliding in to make an impressive last-ditch challenge. The Norwich fans vented their frustration again moments later when no penalty was awarded as Faes took the ball away from Dimitris Giannoulis on the byline, to the right of Hermansen’s goal. The introduction of Jamie Vardy offered opportunities for Leicester. Not only does the Club’s third all-time top goalscorer present a threat of his own, but he drags defenders away from where they need to be. Mavididi looked to capitalise by crossing quickly for Dewsbury-Hall shortly after Vardy’s arrival. If the midfielder was a few inches taller, his header may have had more venom.
A moment of true goalkeeping brilliance was next up. Much has been made of Hermansen’s footballing ability since his arrival from Brøndby, unlocking a new style of play under Maresca. He’s an excellent shot-stopper too – as Duffy discovered on 72 minutes. The ball was chipped into the area and Duffy nodded it at goal from two yards out. Hermansen calmly watched the drama unfold in front of him, before palming the header onto the bar and also seizing Kenny McLean’s follow-up.
Enzo Maresca toasts the Blue Army at full-time.
McLean had Leicester’s crossbar rattling soon after, trying to curl it over Hermansen, who was off his line. Norwich were really knocking now. On came James Justin and Abdul Fatawu. Steel and flair. One half of Carrow Road thought their side were level when Sara’s free-kick bulged the side netting. No such luck, however, for Norwich. A huge chance came and went for McAteer as the clock struck 84 minutes. Fatawu’s sudden cross found the youngster at the far post, but he couldn’t keep his header down. Not to worry, McAteer – who’s turning into a hero for the Blue Army this term – had his goal moments later. Vardy fed Dewsbury-Hall, on the area's left-most angle, and his exquisite touch left him looming down on goal. He had the wherewithal to spot his fellow Academy graduate, though, and unselfishly squared the ball to McAteer to tap it into an empty net.
Ui Jo Hwang’s low drive was deflected behind late into eight additional minutes for Norwich, who knew the night was done by that point. Leicester march on. This was one of those nights. They stood up to the task and got the job done.
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