Leicester City 3:0 Huddersfield Town
After a poor first half at the KPS on New Year’s Day, City produced a fine display after the break to brush Huddersfield aside, with goals from Mahrez, Slimani and Albrighton…
There were a few surprises when Claude Puel’s squad was announced, with James in for Iborra, Slimani replacing the injured Vardy, and a place for the long-awaited Adrien Silva on the bench, with the FA giving him special clearance after his four month exile.
Although City pressed forward in the early stages of the game, it was Huddersfield who had the first shot on goal when Lolley struck a 25 yarder straight at Schmeichel.
City’s first chance came in the 8th minute when Fuchs whipped in a cross from the left and Slimani’s header forced Lössl to tip the ball over the bar, but the linesman’s flag was raised for offside.
Referee Graham Scott had the travelling Town fans up in arms in the 20th minute when Williams broke through the middle and was halted by a clumsy challenge from Maguire on the edge of the area. Williams did, however, go down a little too easily and the ref waved play on.
In the 25th minute Morgan slid into an ungainly and unecessary tackle on Mounie on the halfway line and appeared to pick up a groin injury.
Although he tried to carry on for a couple of minutes the City captain had to limp off, replaced by Dragovic.
It was a poor game by this stage, summed up when the ball fell for Ndidi after a goalmouth scramble but he sliced his shot well wide.
The tough December schedule had seen plenty of poor games and injuries across the Premier League, and this game wandered to half-time almost without incident.
However, City rallied themselves at the break and produced a far better second half performance.
In the 50th minute Slimani improvised a header to reach an Albrighton cross that was slightly behind him, forcing a save from Lössl.
Two minutes later a moment of inspiration lit up the afternoon as City took the lead.
Albrighton hooked a high ball towards the far post, where Mahrez met it with a superb volley across Lössl and into the net.
City had the ball in the net again two minutes later, but Okazaki was judged to have fouled a defender on his way to goal.
City didn’t have long to wait for a second, however. In the 59th minute Mahrez played a defence-splitting pass to send Slimani in on goal. As Lössl advanced swiftly to meet him, Slimani chipped the ball over the keeper and it bounced into an unguarded net.
You could see Slimani’s confidence grow, and soon after his goal he almost set Mahrez up with a back-heel, that struck a defender’s arm.
Claude Puel made a change in the 75th minute, bringing Gray on for Mahrez. The crowd gave him a huge ovation, hopefully not for the last time.
It was all Leicester now, and Ndidi headed against the bar from corner.
In the 86th minute, Puel introduced Adrien Silva to the game in place of James, and the crowd responded with something close to hysteria with his every neat pass, and ball-winning challenge being cheered to the rafters.
City got a third in time-added-on when a Gray cross from the right deflected off a defenders arm, but the penalty appeals were snuffed out when Albrighton popped up at the far post to guide it home.
It was an outcome that had looked unlikely at half-time, but City had ended their run of four games without a win in style, and Slimani had proved that there is a viable option to Vardy up front. The cameo played by Silva was a bonus, and even that brief glimpse promised that he could be a huge player for City in 2018.
Happy New Year!
Leicester: Schmeichel, Amartey, Morgan (Dragovic 28), Maguire, Fuchs, Mahrez (Gray 77), Ndidi, James (Silva 86), Albrighton, Okazaki, Slimani.
Substitutes: Iheanacho, Hamer, Iborra, Ulloa.
Huddersfield: Lössl, Smith (Depoitre 82), Jorgensen, Schindler, Löwe (Malone 76), Williams, Mooy, van La Parra, Ince, Lolley (Quaner 59), Mounie.
Substitutes: Hogg, Coleman, Cranie, Hadergjonaj.
Referee: G Scott. Attendance: 31,748.