Hesitant Leicester create little of note in Warsaw
FA Cup winners look increasingly vulnerable at the back
Mahir Emreli’s first half strike is enougth to send Legia top and Leicester to bottom of Group C
It is a little over four months since Leicester lifted the FA Cup, sparking those joyous scenes at Wembley, but these are worrying times for Brendan Rodgers.
Leicester’s poor start to the season is threatening to derail their steady progress under Rodgers and this defeat against Legia Warsaw already feels like a damaging blow to their Europa League campaign, with only two games gone.
After they were subjected to jeers at the end of both halves from fans last Saturday, in a home draw against Burnley, Rodgers witnessed another underwhelming performance which lacked all the qualities his teams are renowned for.
Here they were ponderous, lacking intensity and defensively vulnerable, and Rodgers urgently needs a swift response to save Leicester’s European campaign from a premature end.
Mahir Emreli, the Azerbaijan international, scored the only goal to secure the Polish champions their second victory in Group C and leave Leicester bottom of the table.
Nine games into the season, Rodgers has much to consider. “It’s my responsibility to fix that,” he said.
“The group is very open and there’s four games left to go. Our aim is to qualify and we’ve still got every chance to do that. We’ve got work to do and have got one point from two games but there’s enough time and opportunity to do that.
“We’ve got to have that real aggressive mentality, we were too passive in the first-half. We need to be much more active and we’ve spoken to them about that after the match. We’re disappointed with the result and the goal. We had opportunities to get something out of the game.”
Rodgers must have feared a difficult evening when Leicester’s preparations were disrupted barely 24 hours before kick-off when Kelechi Iheanacho was sent home.
Iheanacho, the forward, was scheduled to start in Warsaw but was denied entry into the country by border control after an issue with his passport.
The absence of last season’s regular centre-back pairing of Jonny Evans, who was unwell, and Wesley Fofana, who is recovering from a fractured ankle and dislocated fibula, is also continuing to prove a major concern.
From the start, Legia were clearly targeting Leicester’s left flank, which included inexperienced youngsters Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall and Luke Thomas.
Leicester could not find any rhythm or fluency, with too many players hesitant, slow and frequently making mistakes.
Ayoze Perez did have an early chance when Legia’s goalkeeper Cezary Miszta dropped Dewsbury-Hall’s corner into his path but the Spaniard could not direct his shot on target.
With Leicester’s back-three creaking under pressure, there was an air of inevitability about Legia’s goal in the 31st minute.
With Daniel Amartey dispossessed in Leicester’s penalty area the ball fell to Emreli who drilled a shot across Kasper Schmeichel and in off the far post.
Leicester have now managed only two clean sheets this season, and the defensive solidity they have been renowned for has disappeared. Evans could return for the Premier League match at Crystal Palace on Sunday and his presence in Rodgers’s defence cannot be underestimated.
Leicester were far more dominant in the second half and it was defender Jannik Vestergaard who finally forced the first save from Miszta, powering a header straight at the goalkeeper from a Dewsbury-Hall corner. It was a fine reflex save, but Vestergaard should have scored and Rodgers knew as much.
With Leicester lacking creativity, Rodgers introduced James Maddison and Harvey Barnes with 23 minutes left, but Legia’s defence stayed resilient as the noise around the stadium became louder.
Maddison and Emreli had to be pulled apart after a confrontation in the Leicester penalty area in the final stages, with both players booked by referee Ivan Bebek.
Lirim Kastrati, a Legia substitute, should have killed off the game two minutes from time when he cut inside Caglar Soyuncu before striking his shot against the post.
Leicester now face a tough trip to Spartak Moscow – who surprisingly beat Europa League favourites Napoli – in their next group match on October 20 and Rodgers requires a response.
After two and a half years of success since his appointment, this is a bump in the road he cannot have seen coming.
As it happened
Full time Legia 1 Leicester 0
Legia stay on top of the group after a very lukewarm and conservative performance from Leicester who seemed to lack imagination. Loads of possession but no creativity. With Spartak beating Napoli, Leicester go to the bottom of the group, five points behind Legia.
90+5 min Legia 1 Leicester 0
Maddison bludgeons a left-foot shot high, wide and hideous from 25 yards and that’s that.
90+4 min Legia 1 Leicester 0
Barnes crosses with his right from the left but bends it past the far post after first Thomas and then Barnes himself were thwarted when trying to dribble into the area.
90+2 min Legia 1 Leicester 0
The first of five added minutes begin with Maddison firing a half chance from the left and a tough angle behind for a goalkick.
90 min Legia 1 Leicester 0
Pekhart blazes over after a quick-fire break from Kastrati who should have taken the shot on himself from the left having bombed past Soyuncu. When he chops inside he thinks better of the shot and rolls it to Pekhart who has half the goal gaping but steers it over with his instep.
88 min Legia 1 Leicester 0
Kastrati bombs down the left, leaves Vestergaard breathing out of backside in pursuit, cuts inside the centre-half to shoot and Schmeichel, spreadeagled, manages to get a foot on it to turn the shot on to the post. What a save!
85 min Legia 1 Leicester 0
City clear the corner, work it up the right and Castagne’s cross, when played through again by Tielemans’ astute pass, is turned on by Vardy at the near-post and arrives at Maddison’s feet at the back stick. He takes a touch to control it then shoots but a Legia defender chucks himself in the way. Excellent defending.
83 min Legia 1 Leicester 0
Leicester make their final change: Vardy comes on for Daka.
Legia take off Josue and replace him with Rafael Lopes before the corner. Maddison and Emreli are booked when Maddison tries to get Emreli to leave when his number goes up on the substitute’s board. Eventually he does depart, replaced by Pekhart, once of Spurs, who scored 28 goals in last season’s title-winning campaign.
81 min Legia 1 Leicester 0
Legia break up the right and Emreli, with Kastrati better placed, takes on the shot that is deflected behind for a corner.
80 min Legia 1 Leicester 0
Leicester apply the pressure but their close control when they do get into a crowded box lets them down, Lookman getting the ball trapped under his studs when Castagne fizzes it into him. Nothing’s sticking to Daka.
78 min Legia 1 Leicester 0
Barnes takes the corner short but then whacks the cross out for a throw-in by the opposite corner flag.
Fourth Leicester sub: Lookman replaces Amartey.
Johansson can’t continue – Abu Hanna comes on for the right wing-back.
75 min Legia 1 Leicester 0
Barnes and Madison play a one-two down the left of the box after Madison soft-shoes his way into the box with a sharp turn of pace and a dip of the shoulder. Good block by Wietska from Madison gives Leicester a corner.
73 min Legia 1 Leicester 0
First Legia substitution – Kastrati, an ancestor’s trade, one hopes, rather than a condition, comes on for Andre Martins.
71 min Legia 1 Leicester 0
Maddison picks up Daka’s flick just inside the box, left of centre, shimmies to get it out from under his feet but his chip is blocked. A moment later Maddison chips a pass into the area. Daka has to jump and stretch to bring it down to set up a shot from the left of the spot but his first touch is too heavy and he can’t recover. What a waste.
69 min Legia 1 Leicester 0
Double Leicester substitution: enter Maddison and Barnes replace Dewsbury-Hall and Perez.
67 min Legia 1 Leicester 0
Vestergaard should bury the corner after meeting it bang in the middle of goal on a run but instead shoulders it and Miszta claws it away from the goal-line.
65 min Legia 1 Leicester 0
Nawrocki blocks Castagne’s cross out for a corner when Tielemans’ delayed pass to his Belgium team-mate played the right-back through to the byline.
63 min Legia 1 Leicester 0
Soumare’s shallow cross from the right is met by Daka who has to put all the power on his diving header and loops it harmlessly over because he also had to stretch behind him to crane his neck to reach it.
61 min Legia 1 Leicester 0
Leicester are lining up three substitutions.
59 min Legia 1 Leicester 0
Slisz buys a foul off Dewsbury-Hall after a Leicester thrust down the left with Thomas and D-H combining neatly but unthreateningly.
57 min Legia 1 Leicester 0
Leicester free-kick 19 yards out, right of centre for Kharatin coming through Perez from behind. Dewsbury-Hall takes and continues his disappointing night by sticking it flush into the middle of the wall.
Legia break at pace up the right but Emreli’s shot at the end of the sweeping move from the right is straight down Schmeichel’s throat.
56 min Legia 1 Leicester 0
Daka slips as he shoots from the left of the box and slices the ball out for a goalkick.
54 min Legia 1 Leicester 0
Boos ring out after a sustained spell of Leicester possession. Soumare whips a cross in from the right to end the tippy-tappy probing but no one made the run beyond the defenders. A first sign of not playing it safe in this second half in open play.
52 min Legia 1 Leicester 0
Josue is booked for dissent for contesting the award of a foul on Tielemans.
50 min Legia 1 Leicester 0
Emreli shoots sweetly on the half-volley with his left from 20 yards after turning Vestergaard. It dips alarmingly but not enough and shaves the top of the cross-bar as Schmeichel scrambled backwards.
48 min Legia 1 Leicester 0
Tielemans takes and Perez volleys it in with his right leg at the far post but the whistle kills his celebration. Amartey is penalised for pushing. It was a very Ministry of Silly Walks finish, right leg up with knee bent, he opens his groin to twist the leg to the right and knock it in with the outside of his boot.
46 min Legia 1 Leicester 0
No changes for either side as Legia kick off. Dewsbury-Hall has his standing leg kicked by Kharatin as he came forward. He takes the free-kick himself, 30 yards out and bends it to the 18-yard line. Legia head it out for a corner.
Half-time Legia 1 Leicester 0
Leicester have been too ponderous, too imprecise and seem uncertain of the positions their team-mates’ are taking up on the field after six personnel changes. Passes hit to runners are finding defenders because Perez and Daka are not making the kind of runs Iheanacho and Vardy make. And Thomas, Dewsbury-Hall and Castagne have wasted too many crosses. They are still in this, though, but will find Legia difficult to break down and dangerous on the break. f
45 min Legia 1 Leicester 0
Deswbury-Hall shanks a left-foot shot across goal and behind from outside the box.
44 min Legia 1 Leicester 0
Leicester have upped the tempo, have started to zip one-touch passes about and Legia’s defence is starting to creak.
42 min Legia 1 Leicester 0
Leicester’s bets move – Tielemans slips a pass from 40 yards out to the middle of the D. Daka turns it on to isolate Wietska and intends to follow it in to shoot but he defers to Perez who smears a left-foot shot a yard wide from just inside the box and with no defender between him and goal.
39 min Legia 1 Leicester 0
Nawrocki is vigilant at the back-post when a better Dewsbury-Hall cross from the left takes a deflection and threatens to reach Ayoze Perez running into the six-yard box. Nawrocki slides in to hook it out to the right, facing goal, with a high-kicking leg from a sedentary position.
38 min Legia 1 Leicester 0
Thomas gets a second bite when tackled by Johansson in the box from the left. The Sweden wing-back nicks it off him but slips when he tries to lump it clear and Thomas rolls it to Dewsbury-Hall whose left-foot cross hits the first defender.
36 min Legia 1 Leicester 0
Castagne heads straight at Miszta from the right. Leicester lack control, confidence and boldness. Too many lay-offs and shirking responsibility to beat someone with a pass or a run so far. And a lack of appetite/strength for the physical battle at the back.
34 min Legia 1 Leicester 0
Leicester free-kick in the centre-circle that Vestergaard wastes with a pass up to Daka that invited Wietska to come in front of him because it lacked pace.
32 min Legia 1 Leicester 0
Takes a pass with his back to goal to the right of the D. Spins, holding off Amartey, takes a couple of touches to move it on to his left. Vestergaard is slow to cover and the Azerbaijan centre-forward rifles a left-foot daisycutter into the bottom right corner from 18 yards.
Legia 1 Leicester 0 (Emreli)
29 min Legia 0 Leicester 0
Slisz motors upfield when Tielemans is dispossessed in the centre-circle but pulls the trigger far too early, ballooning a shot from 35 yards into the stands.
27 min Legia 0 Leicester 0
Leicester play the ball from side to side but can’t make the decisive passes down the outside of the wing-backs or between the three centre-backs.
24 min Legia 0 Leicester 0
Emreli spoons a shot over the bar when Slisz and Johansson are played down the right by Jedrzejczyk. Slisz takes it on and bombs infield before whipping a near-post cross that Emreli blazes over. No bother, though, as Slisz was offside. He should have let Johannson run on to it as Jedrzejczyk intended.
22 min Legia 0 Leicester 0
Decent defensive header from Soyuncu puts off Josue who shoots tamely over.
21 min Legia 0 Leicester 0
Thomas is booked for going in late on Johansson once he’d got rid of the ball and trod on his toe.
19 min Legia 0 Leicester 0
Lovely pass from Perez, chopped and curling infield down the inside-right channel. Daka has made the perfect run but Nawrocki slides in as the ball comes to earth and gets enough on it to disrupt the move, flicking it on to Daka’s left foot and out for a goalkick. It would have been difficult as the ball dropped over his shoulder but Daka wanted to hit that with his right to have any chance.
17 min Legia 0 Leicester 0
Castagne trips Nawrocki down by the right corner flag by the Legia goal. Leicester mop up the danger as Legia try to play Johansson down the right again. This time Soyuncu is alert to it and gets there first.
15 min Legia 0 Leicester 0
Emreli makes a meal of a foul by Soyuncu and plants his face in the grass with a fantastic pratfall. It was a foul but that was over-egging the pudding.
13 min Legia 0 Leicester 0
Miszta makes a mess of Dewsbury-Hall’s inswinging corner from the right and gets underneath it. He manages to still get a finger tip on it so that when it arrives at Perez at the back post it comes at an awkward height and surprising pace and Perez can’t control it.
11 min Legia 0 Leicester 0
The free-kick, pumped into the box, earn a corner. Miszta punches the inswinging, dipping cross out and Soumare puts it behind. Wieteska is robbed when they play the goal-kick short, Daka dispossessing him on the 18-yard line and spinning to play Perez in on the right. He opens his body to shoot but his low effort is blocked behind for a corner. Dewsbury-Hall was better placed to Daka’s left.
9 min Legia 0 Leicester 0
Jedrzejczyk is penalised for barging into Daka in an aerial challenge from behind and then Josue prevents the free-kick being taken quickly and is cautioned.
7 min Legia 0 Leicester 0
Johnasson again has the beating of Soyuncu down the right when played down the line by the captain Jedrzejczyk. He gallops ahead then pulls back a pass to the edge of the D where Andre martins meets it with a tepid side-foot shot that Schmeichel drops to one knee to gather.
5 min Legia 0 Leicester 0
Nothing comes from the corner. Leicester clear and work it up the left but Dewsbury-Hall’s pass is too long for Daka to reach before Miszta.
3 min Legia 0 Leicester 0
The right wing-back Johansson gets behind Soyuncu who seems to be dozing and he dribbles into the box. Soyuncu is bringing his dopey Euro 2020 form with him into this season. As he tacks across the box looking for a shooting opportunity, Tielemans touches him and puts him off and he has to settle for a corner with his shot when the VAR says it wasn’t worthy of a penalty.
1 min Legia 0 Leicester 0
Loud boos as Leicester and a handful of Legia players take a knee. City kick off, attacking from the left but knock the ball out for a throw-in deep up the left.
Here come the teams
Legia all in off-white with black trim, Leicester all in royal blue with white piping.
Brendan Rodgers speaks
Confirms Iheanacho and Evans would have played but for problems with the former’s travel documents and the latter’s ‘illness’.
We’re changing the system this evening to keep the team fresh and dynamic.
Luke Thomas has been absolutely outstanding since he came in, every challenge he’s had he’s stood up to it. The club as a whole is very inexperienced.
Notoriously it’s a very difficult place to come but once you step on to the pitch you’re focused on the game and getting result.
A pleasing racket resounds around the stadium
And most but not all of it from Legia fans:
Leicester playing with a back three
With Soyuncu in the middle according to Emile Heskey.
Now for those of you watching in black and white
Legia Warsaw Miszta; Nawrocki, Wieteska, Jedrzejczyk; Johansson, Slisz, Kharatin, Andre Martins, Mladenovic; Josue; Emreli.
Substitutes Holownia, Yuri Ribeiro, Kastrati, Pekhart, Celhaka, Muci, Rafael Lopes, Skibicki, Abu Hanna, Rose, Kostorz, Tobiasz.
Leicester Schmeichel; Amartey, Vestergaard, Soyuncu; Castagne, Tielemans, Soumare, Dewsbury-Hall, Thomas; Perez, Daka.
Substitutes Ward, Bertrand, Barnes, Vardy, Maddison, Albrighton, Choudhury, Ricardo Pereira, Benkovic, Jakupovic, Lookman.
Referee Ivan Bebek (Croatia)
Legia Warsaw starting XI
And welcome to coverage of Leicester City’s second match in Group C of the Europa League, against the reigning Ekstraklasa champions, Legia Warsaw, and a reunion with Bartosz Kapustka, one of the summer of 2016 signings that cost Claudio Ranieri his job 10 months after winning the title. (Do the others still trip off the tongue? Ron-Robert-Zieler? Islam Slimani? Ahmed Musa? Raul Uche? Luis Hernandez?)
Leicester lost a 2-0 lead with 25 minutes to go against Napoli at the King Power to end up with a draw while the Legionisci, who have begun their pursuit of a hat-trick league titles in poor form with three wins and four defeats from their opening seven matches which has left them in 15th place, beat Spartak Moscow with a stoppage time winner in the Russian capital last time out.
Kelechi Iheanacho was sent home by Polish border control. yesterday because of a problem with his travel documents which should give Patson Daka another opportunity to start. Jonny Evans has not travelled as he struggles to overcome a chronic foot problem while Wilfred Ndidi is banned.
“They’re very well organised, the players are very committed, and on the counter-attack they can give us problems,” Brendan Rodgers said of tonight’s opponents.
“In the last game and a half we have been more like ourselves in our football, so hopefully we can bring that to Legia and make it really difficult for them. You travel to play in great stadiums in front of passionate supporters. It should be a great game in a great atmosphere, and it’s something you always have to deal with away in Europe.
“It’s been a great experience and we want to keep achieving it. It’s an ambition of ours to keep playing at this level. You have to earn it and that’s hopefully something we can keep doing over the next number of years.”
The Legia manager, Czeslaw Michniewicz, was quick to knock suggestions that his side are underdogs. “It is not that we are short of Leicester,” he said. W”e have very good players, and we will play with outstanding players.
“I am convinced that there will be no pressure on my players. They are looking forward to this match. They will show their full potential, and then everything is possible in football.
“We will then see where and how much we are missing. From the beginning of the week we paid attention to keeping the ball. Leicester like to stick to the ball for a long time and their actions last a very long time.
“We cannot dwell on individual situations for a long time. We can oppose the organisation of the game and with full commitment. Above all, however, I would like the players to unleash their full potential.
“We often look for simple solutions, not deciding to show technical skills, which everyone in Legia has at a high level. If we get rid of the ball quickly in easy situations, our situation will be difficult.”