Ahead through Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall's 44th-minute penalty, Abdul Fatawu was shown a straight red card just before the interval, changing the landscape of this M69 Derby contest. The Foxes held out until there was just 11 minutes to play, when Callum O'Hare struck an equaliser for the Sky Blues. Milan van Ewijk's 88th-minute effort put them in front before another from O'Hare inside added time. City remain top by 10 points despite suffering a fourth loss of the season - and their first in 12 outings in all competitions - in Warwickshire.
Maresca elected to make eight changes from the XI which sealed safe passage in the Emirates FA Cup at Millwall last weekend, with Ricardo Pereira wearing the captain’s armband. A first trip to this side of the M69 since 2011 attracted a lively capacity crowd in Coventry, with 4,500 of them hailing from Leicester. Twenty-eight points separated the teams ahead of kick-off, but that stood for little once the whistle blew. The home side started brightest. Matty Godden’s curler was the first Coventry effort to test goalkeeper Mads Hermansen, who was facing low-hanging sunshine on the far side. His next contribution was more important, tipping Tatsuhiro Sakamoto’s powerful hit onto the near post. It wasn’t long before the Danish shot-stopper was handed a cap to cope with the blinding sunlight. Kasey Palmer also drilled a low drive wide from range for Mark Robins’ home side. Twenty-one minutes in, the Sky Blues worked the ball into Leicester’s area, but there were enough bodies in the way to deflect Godden’s hit behind. A brave Fatawu block nullified Jake Bidwell’s half-volley before a gutsy header dealt with more danger soon after.
Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall's spot-kick put City ahead in the first half.
The Foxes started to play as the half wore on, finding more room to manoeuvre in the final third. Referee Darren England waved away penalty appeals when the ball bobbled up off Dewsbury-Hall’s shin and into Liam Kitching in the Coventry box. No handball. Dewsbury-Hall then slipped a calm, measured pass into Cesare Casadei. The Italian, on loan from Chelsea, was on the scoresheet at The Den seven days earlier, but saw this side-footed effort skid wide of the far post. After absorbing pressure since the start, that was an opportunity for Maresca’s men to punish their hosts for not taking one of theirs. The clash was bubbling away but soon reached boiling point as the half-way stage approached.
A counter-attack caused City some concern with six minutes of the half to play. A hopeful long ball landed at the feet of the energetic Sakamoto on the right channel, with the Japanese offloading it to van Ewijk, further forward. His low delivery into the area was a gift for O’Hare, bursting into the middle, but the former Aston Villa man scuffed his shot and the threat fizzled away. There were more protests for a Leicester penalty later on, as another Dewsbury-Hall attempt appeared to cannon off an arm. A third cry for a spot-kick would be more successful in the 43rd minute. It was Dewsbury-Hall again at the centre of things, scampering into the 18-yard box and forcing Bobby Thomas to intervene. The defender’s follow-through turned a 50-50 into a knee-scraping foul and the Academy graduate stepped up himself from 12 yards. Leicester’s No.22 rolled it one way, to his left, and Brad Collins went the other – sparking jubilation in the away end.
Enzo Maresca offers instructions from the sidelines.
There was a twist before the break, however. A rash challenge from Fatawu on Bidwell handed the hosts a numerical advantage, the Ghanian seeing red in first-half added time. That was Leicester’s first red card of the season and handed Maresca and his table-toppers an almighty challenge to deal with after the interval. Naturally, Coventry put the pedal down at the start of the second half. Although the flag would later be raised, a super Hermansen stop – smothering Godden’s strike from close-range – initially kept the home side at bay. James Justin’s snapshot at Collins perhaps lacked the power it needed, while the Coventry ‘keeper had to be alert to catch substitute Kasey McAteer’s looping header on the follow-up. A free header from Godden represented a huge chance for Robins’ men on 55 minutes. The Coventry man, though, nodded it straight at Hermansen. City were having to yield their usual dominance over possession, trying to remain compact and contain Coventry. When Casadei won his header down the left, it teed Tom Cannon to spin on the spot and belt it towards goal. A strong arm from Collins was needed to parry it.
The pressure finally told with just over 10 minutes to play. O’Hare, often a source of creativity for Coventry, came to life in the box. He found a pocket of space to exploit and used it well, sliding a low shot into Hermansen’s bottom far corner. The Sky Blues' extra-man was starting to show. The hosts were ahead on 87 minutes. Camped in Leicester's half, Jamie Allen's header was knocked away by Hamza Choudhury, with van Ewijk lurking on the angle of the box. His controlled hit flew through a busy penalty area and was too close to the bottom corner for Hermansen to get a hand on it. Casadei sent a rocket over the bar before the end of 90 minutes, but Coventry then inflicted a third upon Leicester, with O'Hare capitalising on a loose ball in front of Hermansen, prodding it past the Dane in the final minute of added time. An afternoon to forget for the Foxes.
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