Brendan Rodgers has long been preaching that things will click for Leicester City and this was one of those nights when everything came together. By the time Jamie Vardy walked out for the start of the second half slurping a can of Red Bull, the damage was already done, an own goal by Robin Koch and a Harvey Barnes strike paving the way to only Leicester’s second league win of the season. Barnes celebrated capping a slick team move by pretending to putt a golf ball into the corner flag but the relief of this victory was more akin to leathering a drive down the fairway.
Victory for Leicester lifts them off the bottom of the table and plunges Leeds deeper into trouble. Jesse Marsch’s side, who host Fulham on Sunday, are now seven games without a win. The last time they tasted victory Boris Johnson was still in office as prime minister. Leicester remain in the relegation zone but they are three games unbeaten at home before a trip to Wolves on Sunday.
At times it has felt as though the walls have been closing in on Rodgers, who last weekend was jeered by a section of Leicester supporters calling for his dismissal, but his chairman, Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, has been determined to give him time to turn things around. The Leicester owner alluded to the power of momentum and the commitment of Rodgers and his players to turn the tide. Leicester were not flawless – Youri Tielemans stormed in to prevent Patrick Bamford from running clear on goal after a mistake by Daniel Amartey – but they played with freedom.
Leicester relaxed from the moment they took the lead on 16 minutes. Dennis Praet, who replaced the suspended James Maddison on the right side of midfield, preyed on Koch’s clunky touch and pickpocketed the ball from the defender. Vardy was then fouled by Marc Roca but the referee, Peter Bankes, allowed play to run and Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall freed Praet with a first-time pass.
Praet played a wonderful teasing ball in between Meslier and Koch, across the six-yard box, and with Barnes lurking behind him Koch panicked and slid in to intervene, only to inadvertently put the ball past his own goalkeeper. Rodgers, hands in pockets, returned to his seat.
It was a night built on fine margins. Tielemans’s shot being blocked on the edge of the box on the half-hour was the trigger for Leeds to counter through Luis Sinisterra. The ball pinballed back where it came from and Sinisterra piled forward before curling a shot on to the crossbar from the edge of the D.
Moments later Sinisterra was allowed to playfully surge upfield before dropping a shot wide. Marsch was kicking his heels on the touchline and Rodgers was left shaking his head at the manner in which Leeds continued to tap into space in front of the Leicester back four.
Five minutes later the Leicester goal music sounded once more. Leicester shifted the ball from right to left and Vardy backheeled it into the path of Dewsbury-Hall. He swept the ball towards Barnes, who sent his shot through the legs of the exposed Illan Meslier. Marsch hooked Koch and Roca at the interval, with club captain Liam Cooper and Rodrigo introduced in their place. Koch had endured a miserable first half, which was typified by a swipe at Barnes that earned the Germany defender a booking.
Marsch’s decision to drop Cooper and Rodrigo did not seem too clever at the break. Rodrigo’s cross on the hour caused concern in the Leicester box, leading Wout Faes to fling a leg and then James Justin to head over his own goal. Crysencio Summerville was bright on his first league start but Bamford struggled to get into the game and was replaced by Jack Harrison on 65 minutes.
Praet missed a chance to put the game to bed after being slipped in by the substitute Patson Daka, an opportunity that left Marsch cussing on the touchline. The feeling was echoed in the away end, where Leeds supporters vented their anger as Sinisterra was withdrawn.