Leicester City 2 Brentford 2
Utilising the new allowance of five substitutes will be a key factor in the Premier League this autumn and Thomas Frank’s decision to utilise all of his replacements encouraged Brentford to rally from 2-0 down to earn a point courtesy of Josh Dasilva’s late equaliser.
While Leicester, seemingly cruising to victory after goals from Timothy Castagne and Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, wilted in the East Midlands heat but made only one change, Brentford were the better side from when Ivan Toney scored just after the hour mark and it was no surprise when Da Silva, granted the freedom to advance forwards and cut inside, swerved home a fine goal four minutes from time.
As Brentford, fresh from replenishing a squad that finished 13th in their first season in the Premier League, left their fans celebrating their self-mocking status as just a “bus stop in Hounslow”, Leicester supporters traipsed home wondering just what is happening to a club that seemed set for better things after two fifth-place finishes and an FA Cup final triumph.
With their captain Kasper Schmeichel gone and aspiring clubs circling with big-money bids for star players James Maddison, Wesley Fofana and Youri Tielemans, it is hard to avoid the feeling Leicester are a club in decline. Yet their first-choice line-up is so full of quality.
They may not have made any signings but Brendan Rodgers, the Leicester manager, did a fine job of fielding a new-look shape. Maddison was allowed the most licence of the three attacking midfielders, playing in front of Wilfried Ndidi, in a wing back system, and the home side’s most creative player was involved in most of their best moments in a slow-burning first half.
After Bryan Mbeumo had a volley saved by Danny Ward, Kasper Schmeichel’s successor, at one end, and David Raya parried Youri Tielemans’ shot at the other, Maddison timed his run superbly to dive and head Tielemans’ lofted pass just wide.
Brentford have had to adapt in the close season, with Christian Eriksen choosing to leave for Manchester United but four new players joining so far, and they also had to react to Leicester’s surprising formation in the first half. Thomas Frank had a quiet word with Mbeumo to ask his winger to track back out of possession, with James Justin ushering new signing Aaron Hickey inside so that Brentford effectively switched to a wing back formation to match Leicester’s.
This did not prevent Jamie Vardy running the ball at Pontus Jansson down the inside left channel to win a corner in the 33rd minute. And from Maddison’s in-swinging delivery, Timothy Castagne found a chink in Brentford’s split of zonal and man-to-man marking to glance his header beyond Raya.
Maddison volleyed just wide seven minutes before the break and Tielemans shot from distance against the post as Leicester sought to convert their territorial dominance into a second goal.
This duly arrived 25 seconds into the second half. A spree of sweet one and two-touch passing culminated in Ben Mee, on his Brentford debut, donning his Toblerone boots to miscue the ball straight to Jamie Vardy. From his first-time pass, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall took aim from the edge of the D to score via the bottom of a post.
Mee was soon substituted, with Vitaly Janelt dropping in as the left-sided centre back, and offering Brentford fans a first competitive glimpse of Keane Lewis-Potter, their £16m signing from Hull City. Josh Dasilva also came on and within three minutes Brentford were back in the game.
Rico Henry played a lovely pass in to the feet of Ivan Toney and last season’s 12-goal leading scorer took a superb first touch before firing home with his left foot.
Both of last season’s meetings ended 2-1 to Leicester but this one looked far from done. Wesley Fofana headed Tielemans’ free-kick against the inside of the far post, with Raya scrambling across his line to parry gratefully away, while Brentford started taking more risks and leaving more gaps in their bid for an equaliser.
When Mbeumo jinked inside and crossed from the right, Toney ghosted in behind and should have done much better than head into the side-netting. But Brentford kept believing. — Guardian