PL2 Campaign Ends With Late Derby Victory
After Timi Max Elšnik's early 25-yard stunner, the Rams held on until a brace from Harvey Barnes and Sam Hughes' 12th goal of the season sealed victory in the dying moments.
City move up to second in Division 1, ahead of third-placed Liverpool’s fixture against Chelsea on Tuesday 8 May, while Derby, who had Louie Sibley sent off in the second half, preserve their top tier status.
While Eldin Jakupović was replaced by Daniel Iversen following a defeat at Sunderland, the first team representation continued with Yohan Benalouane coming in for Josh Knight.
Callum Wright, meanwhile, was handed his second Under-23s start since joining from Blackburn Rovers in January as Belgian attacker Josh Eppiah dropped to the bench.
Following a two-game spell with Claude Puel’s seniors, Academy graduate Hamza Choudhury returned as captain with Romania Under-21s international Alex Pascanu among the substitutes.
Hughes: Great To Get That Winning Feeling Back
Development Squad defender Sam Hughes spoke to LCFC TV following Monday's 3-1 success over Derby County.
Derby got off to a flyer in the early summer sunshine as the ball fell to Elšnik on the edge of City’s area to rattle it into Iversen’s net via the far post with a wonderful strike.
In a first half of few opportunities, Leicester’s best chance to fell to Hughes in the area, but the former Chester defender couldn’t get enough contact on Connor Wood’s cross.
At the interval, Under-23s boss Steve Beaglehole elected to swap Wright for Knight and the Foxes made an industrious start to the second period on Filbert Way.
On 52 minutes, Mitchell was forced to make an impressive fingertip save to deny Barnes after the City youngster had twisted and turned smartly on the edge of the area.
With 15 minutes to go, the Rams were reduced to 10 men when forward Sibley was dismissed for a second bookable offence after appearing to kick the ball away between a passage of play.
Shortly after, the Foxes broke, looking to capitalise on their numerical advantage, and Barnes was unlucky to see his inventive header come back off the near post from a tight angle.
Their pressure eventually told in the 87th minute, though, when Mitchell denied Eppiah, but there was little he could do to prevent Barnes from slotting in the rebound.
Not content with a point, Leicester pressed again and Wood laid on an exquisite cross from the left channel for Barnes to convert his sixth goal of the season one minute into the five of added time.
As Derby struggled to contain the Foxes, Hughes leapt into action inside the box with seconds to spare to beat Mitchell, registering his 12th strike of a remarkable debut year at the Club.
In what seemed at first to be the final flashpoint of the game, Harvey Barnes flipped matters on their head with three minutes of normal time remaining to get City back into the game.
The Countesthorpe-based youngster, winner of the PL2 Player of the Month award, galvanised his team-mates further in the latter moment to secure an 11th victory of a memorable campaign.
Where do we stand?
Choudhury returned to the Under-23s line-up as captain on Monday.
Despite fourth-placed Swansea City’s 1-0 victory over Sunderland, which condemned the Black Cats to relegation to Division 2, City sit second in the top tier on 39 points.
However, Liverpool, on 37 points, could replace them in the top two if they overcome Chelsea at Anfield on Tuesday 8 May, but it nonetheless remains a remarkable achievement for City to rank so highly.
Primarily a defender, Hughes has impressed at both ends of the pitch this term.
Now the PL2 campaign has concluded, the Foxes can concentrate fully on their Premier League Cup semi-final against Aston Villa at King Power Stadium on Friday (7pm kick-off).
City: Iversen, Johnson, Wood, Dewsbury-Hall (Ndukwu 58), Benalouane, Hughes, Thomas, Choudhury (c), Gordon (Eppiah 72), Barnes, Wright (Knight 45)
Subs not used: Pascanu, Yates
Goals: Barnes 87, 90+1, Hughes 90+4
Derby: Mitchell, Cover, Karic (Stabana 71), Bird, Wassall, Bateman, Knight, Elšnik, Cresswell (Walker 80), Babos (c), Sibley
Subs not used: Barnes, Whittaker, Mitchell-Lawson
Goal: Elšnik 9
Referee: Alan Dale
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