Leicester v Leeds had all the makings of a pulsating Premier League match and it certainly didn’t disappoint. The first ten minutes were over in a flash, I barely had time to draw breath with the tempo and intensity on show. Leeds manager Bielsa would certainly have been happy with the opening exchanges. Leeds had set their stall out and pressed Leicester within an inch of their lives, there was always pressure on the ball and no space in midfield for the likes of Maddison or Barnes to operate. However on 12th minute that changed. A misplaced switch from Cooper was picked off by Justin and for the first time in the match, Barnes found himself in possession in the middle of the pitch without a Leeds player in sight. Bielsa will certainly be disappointed with the part his defenders played in Leicester’s goal. Leeds’s style is based on intensity and winning duels; Leeds were 5v3 as Barnes drove forward on the transition. 1.88m centre back Cooper had a chance to block Barnes’ run but was weak in the duel, even Ayling (who had followed Barnes run inside) took a step back in the box rather than being aggressive to get tight and stop the shot. The result, 1-0 Leicester. Leeds’s early good work seemingly undone as they failed to execute their own principles.
One thing we know about this Leeds side is they don’t panic. Did they retreat or back off? No they didn’t. They simply went about their business with the same intensity and found parity within a couple of minutes. Ayling regained the ball from Maddison’s mis placed pass and began to burst forward. Fofana lacked intensity or aggression to get tight enough to Bamford who slipped a lovely ball through for the onrushing Dallas who finished 1st time. All those Bielsa ‘murder ball’ sessions clearly paid off as Dallas burst past Tielemans and inside Castagne (both of whom had at least a 10 metre head start). You can’t help but think this was a clear example of Leicester missing their midfield general Ndidi, who thrives on breaking up such attacks. The first time Tielemans actually looked at Dallas, the Leeds midfielder had already ghosted past him!
Another big miss for Leicester was of course their talismanic #9 Vardy. As Leeds continued to press and close Leicester in midfield, this was a game crying out for runners behind the Leeds defence and clinical finishing on the moments when Leeds lost possession. This was greatly highlighted on the 19th minute when Perez latched onto a Maddison deflected shot after Leeds lost the ball inside their own half. The Spaniard finished well with his weaker left foot but had failed to keep himself onside. Vardy has forged his career playing on the last defenders shoulder; Perez lack of concentration and poachers instinct to stay onside would prove extremely costly for the Foxes.
As the first half ticked on, Leeds grew stronger and stronger. Passing and moving the ball freely whilst Leicester continued to struggle to find their rhythm and continued to miss place passes. Leicester were clearly lacking runners behind whilst Leeds bombarded that space and created chance after chance through that tactic. A great run from Harrison (again behind full back Castagne) forced a smart save from Schmeichel. The resulting corner was nudged home by sub Klich (after a commanding Bamford header was saved). However just like Perez at the other end, Klich had failed to stay onside after initially fulfilling his role to block the goalkeeper. Just moments later, Rafinha forced another fine save from Schmeichel after playing an incisive give and go with Bamford.
Leicester’s finally got behind the Leeds defence on the 34th minute and really should have scored through Albrighton’s give and go with Maddison. Castagne’s final action saw him just about deal with another of Harrison’s inside bursts before being replaced by Ricardo in the 36th minute.
Leicester started the second half stronger and had a few threatening moments from shots from outside the box and some really good set-piece opportunities but ultimately, it was those runs behind and shear energy from Leeds that would seal the Yorkshiremen another 3 vital points. Bamford’s lovely 69th minute finish resulted from a Leeds high regain and their 3rd goal came from a Bamford run behind before unselfishly laying on Harrison who ran the length of the pitch in 13 seconds to tap home. It was Harrison’s 3rd that summed up everything good about Leeds’s performance that day; forward runs, energy and workrate.