James Maddison dazzles as Leicester City move up to third in the table

Jamie Vardy also on target in comprehensive win over Brighton

Leicester City’s  James Justin  congratulates James Maddison after he scored the third goal and his second during the  Premier League  match against Brighton  at the  King Power Stadium. Photograph:  Michael Regan/AFP via Getty Images

Leicester City’s James Justin congratulates James Maddison after he scored the third goal and his second during the Premier League match against Brighton at the King Power Stadium. Photograph: Michael Regan/AFP via Getty Images

 

Leicester City 3 Brighton 0

Two goals from James Maddison in a sumptuous first-half showing enabled Leicester to capitalise on their rivals’ lapses to move to within a point of the Premier League summit but it was the manner in which the playmaker showed signs of a return to his best as much as the league table that augurs most brightly for Brendan Rodgers.

The Leicester manager gave his No 10 greater freedom in a role to match his shirt number and Maddison, clearly over the hip problem that restricted his availability earlier this season, rewarded the faith by claiming his first pair of goals for the club.

With both Tottenham and Liverpool failing to win their away games against lower-half London sides earlier in the day, Leicester made light work of seeing off a Brighton side who had been gaining momentum on their travels.

Considering some of the key personnel Leicester have missed through injury this autumn, and indeed their indifferent home form, this seemed remarkable, especially as they had been busy winning their Europa League group while so stretched.

Wilfred Ndidi made his first Premier League start after his abductor operation but it was Maddison, after his own struggles with a knee injury, who gave Leicester a commanding half-time lead.

The England hopeful was already enjoying himself at the central point between a front two and two more defensively-orientated midfielders behind when he arrived late to score his first goal with a left-footed shot in the 27th minute.

There had been a series of positional changes as the teams adapted to their opponents’ tactics but the switch of James Justin from left wing back to right back proved significant.

Maddison laid the ball out to Justin whose cross towards Jamie Vardy was cleared by Ben White only as far as the edge of the penalty area. There Maddison steadied himself to place his shot carefully even if it may have taken the slightest deflection off Lewis Dunk to put Mat Ryan off.

Danny Welbeck had enjoyed the best opening chance as Brighton, so good on their travels recently, started well. But the former England striker, sent in on goal by Alireza Jahanbakhsh, allowed Kasper Schmeichel to save.

Brighton had changed from the three-man backline they used in the 2-1 home defeat by Southampton to 4-2-3-1 which caused Leicester, who started 3-4-1-2, to move Marc Albrighton from right wing back to left wing. It was in this 4-1-3-2 formation that they started to open up Brighton at will.

The second goal was also sourced by Justin rampaging freely down the right. Sent in by Ayoze Pérez, Justin squared for Vardy to slot in his 12th goal of the season three minutes before the break.

If the inevitable VAR check sucked the joy out of that celebration briefly, there was no such deliberation when Maddison, receiving a short ball from Vardy, jinked one way then the other before swerving an exquisite left-footed shot into the far top corner.

Maddison had his eyes on a first senior hat-trick as he attempted to dribble through the middle of the more compact Brighton defence early in the second half but his shot was weak.

For all the respect Brighton have earned under Graham Potter – they started the evening as eighth in the table, above Manchester City – they lacked intensity and did not adapt in time to the gaping flank that allowed James to create the first two goals.

Only two points above the relegation zone, they face Fulham and Sheffield United this week. It is time to turn those expected goals into real ones. – Guardian

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