Europa Conference League match report: PSV Eindhoven 1 – 2 Leicester City (1-2 on aggregate)


Leicester City came from behind to beat PSV Eindhoven 2-1 at Philips Stadium on Thursday night. A first-half goal from Eran Zahavi gave the hosts the lead, but strikes from James Maddison and Ricardo Pereira in the final quarter of the game saw the Foxes through to their first half. European final in club history.

Brendan Rodgers stuck to the lineup that dominated but drew against PSV a week ago at King Power: Kasper Schmeichel (C), Ricardo Pereira, Wesley Fofana, Jonny Evans, Timothy Castagne, James Maddison, Youri Tielemans, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, Marc Albrighton, Harvey Barnes and Kelechi Iheanacho.

The match started exactly as the reverse match did in an almost odd way. Both teams ran the field with determination, but without the end product. The first chance fell on the hosts when Philipp Max crossed an unmarked Mario Götze at the far post. He volleyed powerfully from close range, but Schmeichel got a strong hand and flipped it over the bar.

A few minutes later, it was Leicester’s turn to miss a golden opportunity. Iheanacho’s through ball put Barnes one-on-one with PSV goalkeeper Yvon Mvogo. The winger tried to pass the ball inside the far post but got the wrong angle, putting it away with the well-beaten keeper.

Die Lampen took the lead on 27′ with plenty of help from City. Deep in his own half, Tielemans played a back pass directly to Götze. The German found Eran Zahavi on the straddle. It looked like a return ball, but the attacker fired from a tight angle instead. It took a slight deflection from Evans and left no chance for Schmeichel to make the save.

The Foxes responded well, winning an immediate corner. The ball bounced off Maddison, whose powerful effort was blocked but was still going to loop on the line before Jordan Teze cleared it with a bicycle kick. Next time on the pitch, Tielemans tried to redeem himself with a deep cross that found Castagne’s run, but the full-back could only steer from a tight angle.

Even though the match continued to be played at a blistering pace, neither team managed another threatening attack for the remainder of the half. Despite Leicester’s best efforts, they had yet to work on the keeper and it is extremely difficult to score without putting in a shot on target.

Big decisions to be made at half-time
Photo by Plumb Images/Leicester City FC via Getty Images

The gaffer made two half-time substitutions, dropping wingers Albrighton and Barnes in favor of Ademola Lookman and Patson Daka. The decision impacted the game exactly as one would expect, with Leicester having sacks of possession but looking vulnerable at the back.

PSV’s crowded defense proved a huge task to overcome. City took advantage of sacks in their opponents’ half but failed to find a way through the wall of red and white shirts. There was room behind at the break, and Daka had the chance to exploit it on the hour mark. A ball from deep inside Leicester’s half sent it back with only Mvogo to beat. Stop me if you heard this one but his weak effort beat the keeper but drifted just wide of the far post.

This marked the end of the Iheanacho/Daka partnership as Ayoze Perez replaced the Seniorman. It may seem like a curious choice, but apparently Brendan knows a bit about the game. Ayoze’s first big contribution was receiving a ball in the correct channel and keeping the ball in play, getting past a defender and putting it out for Madders, who hit home with a first effort.

Perez almost made two on 80′. Lookman sent a low cross from the right. The Spaniard rushed past the covering defender and turned the ball towards the net from an awkward angle. Mvogo did very well to pass the hand when it looked like he was going to force his way over the line.

It didn’t matter, though, as City took their first lead from the draw in the 88th of the second leg. The reverse ball from Dewsbury-Hall allowed Lookman to reach the goal. He opted to square it for Daka, whose shot lacked the power or placement to beat Mvogo. The keeper saved it but only parried it to Ricardo, who finished calmly from a tight angle.

Five minutes of time was added by the referee and, as the hosts huffed and puffed, they failed to fire a single shot in injury time. We left it late, as usual, but the Foxes were in the semis.

Not remotely humble or objective in my opinion, the Foxes were slightly the better side on both legs, but by all accounts it was a finely balanced tie. A better finish by either club would have put the result out of reach, but in the end it was Brendan Rodgers’ side who kept their cool and found the range when it mattered .

Now some might say that the presence of Wesley Fofana completely changes the complexion of this side of City. No wonder they support this, because they are absolutely right. He was in imperious form tonight and made countless critical interventions look effortless. I don’t know what release clause is in his new contract, but if it’s not nine figures, we’ve undervalued him.

This victory allows us to continue our historic journey in the Europa Conference League to the semi-finals. We will face the winner of Bodø/Glimt-Rome tied on April 28 and again on May 5. Next up is a trip to Tyneside to confront Newcastle on Sunday and then it’s off to liverpool to deal with Everton next Wednesday.

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