Aaron Connolly impresses in Brighton and Leicester stalemate

Ireland forward won a penalty but Neil Maupay failed to convert in scoreless draw

Brighton’s Aaron Connolly vies for the ball with Leicester City’s James Justin during their Premier League clash. Photo: Andrew Boyers/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Brighton’s Aaron Connolly vies for the ball with Leicester City’s James Justin during their Premier League clash. Photo: Andrew Boyers/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

 

Leicester City 0 Brighton & Hove Albion 0

Leicester’s charge for Champions League qualification has slowed to a crawl but they can be thankful to Kasper Schmeichel for helping them to eke out a point here. The goalkeeper’s save from a penalty by Neal Maupay in the first half enabled Brendan Rodgers’s team to claim a draw from a match in which they were second best for long spells. Leicester have won only one of their past seven league matches; they remain third in the table but their once-plush cushion is not looking comfortable.

Brighton, meanwhile, can take heart from their performance here, which brought their tally to four points from their two matches since the Premier League’s resumption. But they, too, could have done with a maximum yield and will lament their failure to turn first-half buoyancy into at least one goal.

As a manager who has the courage of his convictions, Potter has never been spooked by the spectre of relegation. That was plain from his team selection here, which showed four alterations to the side that started Saturday’s precious victory over Arsenal. That could be read as a comment on Mikel Arteta’s rabble but is more accurately interpreted as a sign of the Brighton manager’s confidence in the young talent in his ranks: three of the newcomers were aged 21 or under. Nineteen-year-old right-back Tariq Lamptey was the most impressive of the trio, but the 20-year-old Alexis Mac Allister and 21-year-old Aaron Connolly also enjoyed bright moments.

Potter’s approach was vindicated by a first half in which Brighton were perkier, sharper and smarter than their high-flying hosts, who looked tactically flummoxed as Brighton buzzed around them. The chief frustration for the visitors was that they failed to translate their superiority into a lead before the break. Maupay squandered a perfect opportunity to put them in front from the penalty spot in the 14th minute, dabbing a shot towards the bottom right-hand corner. Once Schmeichel read his intentions, it was an easy save for the keeper.

The way the spot-kick came about reflected Brighton’s greater vivacity. Aaron Mooy dropped a teasing pass from deep over the top of the home defence, and James Justin looked well positioned to get to it first but failed to make a decisive intervention, instead tangling untidily with the pesky Connolly.

Despite the boost offered by their goalkeeper’s save, Leicester’s performance still did not take off. They were unable to pass their way through the middle and made little inroads down the flanks, with Lamptey subduing Ben Chilwell impressively while the absence of the injured Ricardo Pereira was sorely felt on Leicester’s right. Jamie Vardy, meanwhile, might as well have been following proceedings via a Zoom conference, as he barely touched the ball in the first half-hour. The three attackers just behind him – James Maddison, Kelechi Iheanacho and Demarai Gray – offered paltry service.

Connolly showed his sharpness again just before the half-hour, when he embarked on a shredding run through the heart of the home defence before his shot from the edge of the area was deflected wide by Caglar Soyuncu. Not until five minutes before the break did Vardy threaten – thanks to a comical error by the visiting goalkeeper, Matt Ryan, who accidentally threw the ball backwards when attempting to pick out a teammate. The mortified keeper scampered back pronto to stifle Vardy’s attempt to deepen his embarrassment.

For all their impressive work in the first period, Brighton were thankful for a close-range miss by Soyuncu just before the break, as the defender nodded wide after a shot by Gray following a clever free-kick by Maddison ricocheted into his path at the back post.

Surprisingly, Brendan Rodgers made no changes during the interval. But his team did show a little more cohesion in the second half. Wilfred Ndidi, hitherto eclipsed by Yves Bissouma, began to shine in midfield as the hosts applied pressure. But Leicester did not look like creating an opening until the 54th minute, when the ball broke to Chilwell amid frantic play in the Brighton box. Unhappily for the hosts, Chilwell’s right-foot is a far lower grade of a weapon than the left one he used to fire Leicester into the lead at Watford last weekend. Here he dragged a feeble shot wide.

Even though Brighton could no longer generate much forward momentum, Leicester sagged again after that, so much so that by the time Rodgers made his first substitutions, in the 68th minute, change felt overdue. Brighton had to defend well in the last quarter of an hour and that is exactly what they did, snuffing out crosses and blocking shots with under only moderate duress. – Guardian

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