Leicester City 0:2 Manchester United
City fell at the last against Manchester United, losing 2-0 at the KPS on Sunday, and had to settle for a Europa League spot.
Brendan Rodgers made three changes to his side for this winner-takes-all end of season showdown, with Albrighton, Choudhury and Iheanacho in for Bennett, Perez, and Barnes.
There was an early threat from United when Pogba broke through and appeared to be shoved over by Morgan, but an offside flag spared the ref a decision.
Although United looked comfortable in the opening stages there was an encouraging moment in the 9th minute when Maguire tackled Iheanacho from behind and picked up an early yellow card.
City’s first chance came in the 15th minute when Tielemans set up Ndidi for a 20 yarder, that didn’t go far wide, especially when compared to some of his recent potshots.
City began to press forward and Thomas’s unconventional cut back crosses were causing United some concern. One made it through to Albrighton at the far post, but he fired over from a tight angle.
City should have gone ahead in the 25th minute when they broke upfield three against two. Iheanacho ploughed down the middle with Vardy on his left and Justin his right, but opted to go it alone. His scuffed shot wasn’t held by de Gea but Vardy came from an offside position as he blasted the rebound against the United keeper.
Tielemans then sent a low shot inches wide as City chased the goal that could get them Champions League qualification.
Vardy then got on the end of another Thomas cross but it was a difficult chance and he couldn’t get his effort on target.
United finished the half with a strong spell, Rashford ballooned the ball over the bar from a decent position, and then a timely foot in from Justin saw a goalbound Martial shot deflected wide.
In time-added-on Rashford sent in a thunderous half-volley, but Schmeichel blocked it at his near post.
It had been a very satisfactory first half for City, but they still desperately needed that precious goal.
With Chelsea 2-0 up against Wolves, it was now win or bust for City.
Justin came to City’s rescue again soon after the restart, making up his ground well to deny Martial a run at goal.
United kept City at bay for a while and Brendan Rodgers made his first change just before the hour, bringing on Pérez for Iheanacho.
Two minute later City went agonisingly close when Vardy got a looping header to a Tielemans free-kick that sailed over deGea but hit the angle of post and bar.
But the 68th minute knocked the wind out of City’s ambitions when United were awarded a penalty.
After Choudhury was dispossessed in midfield Martial was sent through on goal. He was sandwiched by Morgan and Evans and went over. VAR watched plenty of replays and it looked as though Evans had got a toe to the ball, but a penalty it was, and Fernandes’ trademark dangling leg style saw him send Schmeichel the wrong way.
City faced a huge task now, and Rodgers brought on Barnes, Gray and Praet for Albrighton, Tielemans, and Choudhury.
The subs combined to make a chance, with Gray landing a shot in the area, but Barnes’ hurried shot on the turn went straight into de Gea’s gloves.
Another good cut back cross from Thomas saw Morgan producing an air shot, though in fairness it was behind him.
A shot from Gray was then deflected wide by Maguire but United got a goal kick, leaving us wondering what exactly VAR is for.
Hirst replaced Thomas late on and City had five minutes of added time to score two goals. But at this stage everything went badly wrong.
Evans, showing some unaccustomed frustration, lunged in on McTominay and was shown a straight red.
Then Schmeichel dithered over a clearance, and was robbed on the edge of the area by Lingard, who scored rolled his first goal of the season into an empty net.
City had fallen at the last, and it was bitterly disappointing that they had been caught by the chasing pack after having a 15 point cushion and looking like certainties for a Champions League place at one stage.
Maybe in time we will appreciate that fact that it was City’s second highest Premier League placing, and their 5th best in the club’s history, but at the moment it doesn’t feel good. The decline set in around Christmas, and didn’t pick up after Project Restart, though the list of injuries and suspensions would have damaged any side.
Jamie Vardy managed to stay ahead of the rest to claim the Golden Boot with his total of 23. We can only hope he continues to defy the passing years.
Europe here we come….
Leicester: Schmeichel, Justin, Morgan, Evans, Albrighton (Gray 73), Choudhury (Praet 73), Ndidi, Tielemans (Barnes 73), Thomas (Hirst 88), Iheanacho (Pérez 58), Vardy.
Substitutes: Gray, Ward, James, Mendy, Bennett.
Man Utd: de Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelöf, Maguire, Williams, Pogba, Matic, Greenwood (Lingard 77), Bruno Fernandes (McTominay 86), Rashford (Fosu-Mensah 90), Martial (Ighalo 90).
Substitutes: Bailly, Mata, Fred, James, Romero.
Referee: Martin Atkinson.
PHOTOS: Simon Kimber
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