Following an icon is never easy, but new Leeds United manager Jesse Marsch can take a lot of positives from his side’s 1-0 loss to Leicester City today. The fact the home side’s goalkeeper, Kasper Schmeichel, was awarded man of the match speaks volumes about Leeds’ attacking play. Defensively they looked tighter too, apart from the electric second-half move that undid them for the game’s only goal. Heroic defeats will not be enough to keep Leeds in the Premier League, but if Marsch can take the best parts of this performance and iron out the kinks, they could yet survive.
The game got off to a frenetic start with a pair of good early chances. Daniel James got in behind Caglar Soyuncu and fired across goal, drawing a fingertip stop from Kasper Schmeichel. Leicester responded almost immediately, with a speculative Harvey Barnes shot calling Ilan Meslier into action.
An end-to-end first ten minutes saw the midfield almost entirely bypassed, as both sides went on the attack. Pascal Struijk was booked for bringing down a charging Jamie Vardy. At the other end, Jack Harrison flashed an enticing cross into the Leicester six-yard box, but the chance went begging.
From here, there was a palpable drop in energy levels. Such a development was unsurprising considering the effervescent opening. There was a big chance just before half-time though, as a Marc Albrighton cross found Wilfred Ndidi perfectly-positioned for the header. He was inconceivably unmarked, but still directed his effort straight at Meslier.
The forward plays a one-two with Kelechi Iheanacho before picking out the far corner 👌
We have our opener at the King Power!
Leeds started the second half with the same urgency they began the first. James was unlucky to see a shot cannon off his own man, Raphinha. Schmeichel was forced into a brilliant save from Rodrigo at a corner. The away side were playing with a lot of belief, a commodity that had been in short supply during the waning weeks of the Bielsa era.
Rodgers, perhaps sensing the momentum slipping away, brought Ademola Lookman and Kelechi Iheanacho on for Jamie Vardy and Hamza Choudhry. The change soon paid off, as Barnes played a smooth one-two with Iheanacho, before bending a shot past Meslier from a tight angle. The goal arrived against the run of play, and asked the most severe questions the Marsch regime have faced since the American was asked whether he calls it “football” or “soccer”.
Leeds endured some rotten luck as their final substitute, Tyler Roberts, received treatment soon after coming on. The 23-year-old went down holding his hamstring after a tangle with Daniel Amartey. The Wales international came back on, not wanting to leave his side with ten men, but he could barely move. It was a sad development, only exacerbated by Leeds needing to chase the game.
Leeds found themselves increasingly boxed in as the clock ticked down. Lookman, Tielemans and Barnes were queuing up at times to take potshots as the King Power roared them on. Leeds showed spirit to keep themselves in touching distance, but it wasn’t quite enough on this day. Marsch may have lost his first game in charge, but there are elements of this performance that could help Leeds keep their Premier League status intact.