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Perez and Barnes bring the noise at the King Power
Nigeria centre-forward strikes twice to earn Napoli deserved point
Wilfred Ndidi sent off late for two yellow cards
European nights at a noisy King Power Stadium have always retained a sense of magic, and this was an electrifying start with a disappointing finish for Brendan Rodgers and Leicester City.
The memories of those glorious Champions League evenings five seasons ago remain vivid, and Leicester’s new generation are determined to make some history of their own in the Europa League. Harvey Barnes epitomises the youthful core of Rodgers’s squad and produced an excellent individual performance, though Napoli fought back to claim a deserved point in an absorbing Group C encounter.
Barnes was a menace with his direct running, and is now level with Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez as Leicester’s leading scorer in Europe with four goals, but he was ultimately upstaged by Napoli’s Victor Osimhen. The Nigerian forward scored twice for the Serie A club and terrorised the home defence for most of the evening, claiming his second goal three minutes from time.
Leicester will regard the point as a positive after being subjected to so much pressure, while midfielder Wilfred Ndidi was dismissed in added time for a second bookable offence.
Despite such a brilliant spectacle on the field, there were ugly scenes after the final whistle, when Leicester and Napoli fans briefly scuffled before police stepped in to break up the fighting.
Uefa are likely to conduct an investigation into the confrontations, which also included bottles being hurled by both sets of supporters. Away from the post-match trouble, the game was a fine advertisement for the Europa League.
Rodgers said: “We’re disappointed with the end result but there were some exciting and good moments. “The crime isn’t giving away the two goals, the crime is if you don’t learn from it – I’m sure that is something this young team will do. The support was amazing, the noise, how they tried to lift the team, they gave us everything. The effort and mentality was good, it is a shame we couldn’t close it out.”
Playing in front of their own supporters for the first time in European competition since April 2017 clearly lifted Leicester and they were ahead after nine minutes. David Ospina, the former Arsenal goalkeeper, had produced a fine save from Barnes four minutes before, but could not prevent Ayoze Perez giving the hosts the lead.
Barnes was released down the left and his cross into the Napoli penalty area found Perez at the far post, with the Spaniard crashing home a shot on the volley (below).
Napoli were momentarily knocked out of their stride yet soon settled to prove why they are one of the favourites to win the Europa League. Lorenzo Insigne, the Italy international and visitors’ captain, was a constant threat in attack. Osimhen was another player making an impact up front, testing Leicester’s centre-backs Jonny Evans and Jannik Vestergaard with his strength and explosive pace.
Yet there was always a suspicion that Napoli would be made to regret their failure to put away the chances they were creating. They were given a reprieve on the hour when Patson Daka was denied his first goal for Leicester when he was judged by Var to have strayed offside with his arm.
Several minutes later, though, Leicester increased their lead with an exquisite solo effort from Barnes. After being found in the area by Kelechi Iheanacho’s pass, Barnes took the ball on his left foot away from goal before arrowing a low shot across Ospina into the corner.
Game over? Not so. In the 69th minute Osimhen managed to put away one of his opportunities, cleverly flicking the ball past Vestergaard before lifting a shot over Kasper Schmeichel. The tension was ramped up in the final stages, as Napoli peppered the Leicester penalty area in search of an equaliser.
It finally came three minutes from time, when Osimhen rose to head substitute Matteo Politano’s cross into the corner. Ndidi was sent off by referee Tiago Martins in the final moments for a foul, but Leicester secured a point they just about deserved. This was pure entertainment.
Leicester Cityvs Napoli, as it happened
Full time Leicester 2 Napoli 2
Napoli were the better side in a fantastic game but Leicester were clinical on the counter twice to take a 2-0 lead and will be fed up to take only a point from that position. But their defence wasn't good enough to cope with Napoli's passing and movement.
90+5 min Leicester 2 Napoli 2
Professional fouls agogo as Rrahmani now concedes a free-kick 35 yards out rather than let a Leicester attack develop. They easily defend and break like lightning but City race back in numbers and squeeze out the draw.
90+4 min Leicester 2 Napoli 2
Nididi is sent off for dragging back Ounas, I think, a second booking and, despite what the Leicester fans are singing, he can have no complaints.
90+3 min Leicester 2 Napoli 2
Politano swings the free-kick from the left into the box, Soyuncu goes to sleep and plays three Napoli players onside but Rrahmani meets it with more face than brow and skews it over.
90+1 min Leicester 2 Napoli 2
Politano skips between Bertrand and Barnes but Vestergaard hoofs his cross away. Back come Napoli down the left this time and Tielemans commits the foul to halt their progress.
90 min Leicester 2 Napoli 2
There will be five minutes of injury time.
89 min Leicester 2 Napoli 2
Leicester send on Vardy for Iheanacho.
88 min Leicester 2 Napoli 2
Fully deserved and well finished by Osimhen who had to put all the force on the header after Politano stood up a right-wing cross. Osimhen easily beat Soyuncu in the leap and buried it from eight yards.
Leicester 2 Napoli 2 (Osimhen)
86 min Leicester 2 Napoli 1
Bertrand whips in a weird corner, rising high then dipping but Vestergaard backs into his marker as he climbs to try to reach it.
85 min Leicester 2 Napoli 1
Bertrand jogs back on after treatment. Lookman chases a prodded pass that takes a deflection to the byline and then raises his foot to let it dribble over the whitewash for a corner.
83 min Leicester 2 Napoli 1
More subs. This is farcical. Bertrand's block of Ounas's shot has hurt his left calf which delays the introduction of the replacements.
Anguissa and Malcuit depart, Juan Jesus and Andrea Petagna come on.
80 min Leicester 2 Napoli 1
Osimhen runs down the inside left to pock off Di Lorenzo's terrific pass that isolates Soyuncu but he can't get a cross or shot into the middle and has to settle for a corner from which Schmeichel blocks Ounas' dipping, right-foot shot with his fists.
77 min Leicester 2 Napoli 1
Politano takes the free-kick from 22 yards and skelps it over the bar.
Leicester substitution: Maddison comes on for Soumare.
75 min Leicester 2 Napoli 1
Tielemans falls over when Osimhen collides with him as they battle for a bouncing ball on halfway. But they give the ball straight away from the free-kick, allowing Politano to pick off Tielemans' daft pass and ignite a counter that ends when Soyuncu hauls down Ounas to stop him shooting. Yellow card for Soyuncu.
73 min Leicester 2 Napoli 1
Leicester defend a corner from the left and Tielemans is knocked down by Rrahmani as he tried to race upfield.
Insigne departs to be replaced by Adam Ounas.
72 min Leicester 2 Napoli 1
Another City substitution - Lookman replaces Daka.
71 min Leicester 2 Napoli 1
What a beautiful goal. Isigne faces up Soyuncu on the edge of the box, plays a one-two then hooks a pass over him for Ruiz who heads it barely a metre to his left for Osimhen. His sublime first touch takes him further to the left and as the ball bounces up he dinks it deftly over the leaping Schemiechel and into the net.
Leicester 2 Napoli 1 (Osimhen)
68 min Leicester 2 Napoli 0
Another slick mover from Leicester on the counter feeds Barnes storming through the middle but this time his shot was nowhere near as sweet .., or accurate.
66 min Leicester 2 Napoli 0
Leicester win the ball on the right just inside their half. Iheanacho barrels across field diagonally then hits the perfect left-foot pass into Barnes's stride. He lifts his foot over the ball to gull Malcuit who dives in and though it takes him wide he drills a shot under Ospina's dive into the bottom right corner. Lovely finish.
Leicester 2 Napoli 0 (Barnes)
63 min Leicester 1 Napoli 0
Napoli subs: Matteo Politano, European champion, replaces Lozano. Eljif Elmas is also on, for Zielinski.
62 min Leicester 1 Napoli 0
When the VAR puts the lines on the picture Savage says 'Miles offside' and laughs.
Daka was offside when he took the pass 16 yards out from Tielemans lay-off. Robbie Savage says Malcuit was playing him onside three times but repetition doesn't make it true.
Leicester 2 Napoli 0 (Daka) But it's being checked.
61 min Leicester 1 Napoli 0
Zielinski feigns a lack of interest to wander away from the wall then darts to the near post to meet Insigne's cute dink over the top but Schmeichel gets there first.
59 min Leicester 1 Napoli 0
Leicester for the first time in a long time have a few minutes in the Napoli half but when Osimhen is fouled on halfway, Napoli are back on the attack and Bertrand commits another. Free-kick 30 yards out, right of centre.
57 min Leicester 1 Napoli 0
Soumare does a perfect 180 to hare away from Ruiz and inspires the crowd on to their feet.
55 min Leicester 1 Napoli 0
Vestergaard shows his strength to barge Zielinski off the ball, legally, as they closed in on a ball hit deep down the left of the Leicester area.
53 min Leicester 1 Napoli 0
Vestergaard is booked for a a technical/professional/cynical foul and the crowd protests his innocence by questioning the competence of the ref.
51 min Leicester 1 Napoli 0
Koulibaly slides a great pass up the inside left for Ruiz who works it out to Insigne who comes off the left on to his right and curls a pass/cross to the right-side of the box that Lozano just can't meet with necessary force.
49 min Leicester 1 Napoli 0
Iheanacho looks back in disbelief when penalised for putting an arm on Di Lorenzo's shoulder. Napoli free-kick. Lozano works it to Zielinski in the box but Soyuncu is in like Flynn to nip it away and Schmeichel gobbles up the resulting cross.
46 min Leicester 1 Napoli 0
Two half-time changes for Leicester - Soyuncu replaces Evans; Tielemans also comes on, for Perez.
Half-time Leicester 1 Napoli 0
Napoli have been very impressive in creating chances, more than a dozen of them, and lamentable at finishing. Leicester are a constant threat on the break but are being given the runaround in midfield by Fabian Ruiz through the middle, the wonderful Insigne down the left and Lozano from the right.
45 min Leicester 1 Napoli 0
Double save from Schmeichel when Lozano meets Malcuit's right-wing cross with a back-post header. He had to score but went for the post closest to him not back and across. Schmeichel was diving that way and clawed it out. Insigne picks up the ball on the left and taps it to Ruiz in the box and the Spain midfielder tries to thread a shot through the crowd and into the bottom right corner. Schemeichel scrambles across to smother.
43 min Leicester 1 Napoli 0
Osimhen with a golden chance when Ruiz exploits Perez's miscontrol to put Zielinski down the left. He draws Castagne then rolls a pass towards the penalty spot, just where Osimhen wanted it but for some reason he does what he's done three times before and blazes a shot over the bar.
No wonder Spalletti is only wearing a polo shirt. The rage must be keeping him warm. That's 12 shots from Napoli, at least six of them very good opportunities.
41 min Leicester 1 Napoli 0
Insigne gobbles up possession when the corner is headed out to the edge of the box and torpedoes a right-foot shot from the right of the D just past the post and into the hoardings.
39 min Leicester 1 Napoli 0
Insigne pounces on the pass, cuts inside and bends a shot the wrong side of the right post. From the goalkick, Napoli win the ball and send Osimhen down the right. He dribbles forward then squares it into the six-yard box to Zielinski who doesn't meet it on the full and allows the diligent Castagne and Schmeichel get in the way of his stabbed shot and deflect it wide. Should have scored.
37 min Leicester 1 Napoli 0
Leicester are crowded out in the Napoli box after Ospina dawdled on the ball and, under pressure from Daka, shanks a left-footed clearance to Perez in the D. The goalscorer intercepts and prods it to Iheanacho who can't get it out from under his feet and eventually his stabbed shot is blocked and falls to Castagne who is closed down quickly and his shot hits the shins of an advancing defender and Napoli break.
35 min Leicester 1 Napoli 0
Di Lorenzo, European champion, grabs Daka by the arm to stop him breaking from quite deep in his own half. It earns him a yellow card.
33 min Leicester 1 Napoli 0
Vestergaard mops up the Napoli free-kick and they work Barnes free down the left. Daka splits to the near post, Barnes puts the cross into the crowd.
31 min Leicester 1 Napoli 0
Soumare trips Lozano who was in full flight down the right after Napoli had defended Bertrand's near-post cross. A second Leicester booking.
29 min Leicester 1 Napoli 0
Insigne tracks all the way back to make a terrific tackle. Seconds later Osimhen fashions another effort with a dip of the shoulder but follows the pattern set by him and his team-mates of whacking it miles over the cross-bar.
27 min Leicester 1 Napoli 0
Malcuit balloons a right-foot shot over the bar after Osimhen burns away from Evans down the left and turns inside to roll a pass to the right of the box. The Napoli right-back waits for it and goes with his instep, lifting it into the crowd. It was crying out for a finish with his laces.
25 min Leicester 1 Napoli 0
Bertrand's soft header when Schmeichel chips it out to him allows Anguissa to steal in and head into the box. Good, sliding recovery from Bertrand sticks Anguissa on his shirtfront and the referee says it was legally done, waving away Zielinski.
23 min Leicester 1 Napoli 0
Insigne bends in a right-foot cross from the left after some cat and mouse with Castagne. The ball arcs to the far post but Malcuit wasn't quick enough off the mark to reach it and allowed it to hoop behind.
20 min Leicester 1 Napoli 0
Chance for Osimhen after the ball breaks to Ruiz following Ndidi's horribly late foul on Anguissa. Ruiz prods it on to the centre-forward, 25 yards out, who shifts it on to his left and slices it miles wide, swinging further away from goal with every metre it travels.
Ndidi is booked once the ball sails into touch.
17 min Leicester 1 Napoli 0
Evans blocks Ruiz's shot and Leicester usher Lozano's follow-up effort out for a corner. Napoli look menacing on the attack, Leicester look dangerous on the break.
14 min Leicester 1 Napoli 0
Iheanacho is penalised for wrapping his arm around Ruiz's neck as he raced back to help the defence. Insigne lines up the free-kick, 22 yards out, to the left of the D. Blimey. From an ideal position for him, he spoons it horribly over the bar.
12 min Leicester 1 Napoli 0
Ruiz's clever pass splits the lines and sends Insigne down the left. As he has done to the best defences in the world, Insigne feints left and darts right to scamper across the 18-yard line but his right-foot shot is blocked at close range by Evans.
10 min Leicester 1 Napoli 0
Excellent from Barnes after Bertrand wins a defensive header and knocks it up to Barnes who takes it down the line with good control and touch before standing up a cross to the far post. Perez, in space by virtue of Iheanacho's canny near-post run, meets it on the volley and hooks it past Ospina. Didn't belt it but he didn't need power only precision.
Leicester 1 Napoli 0 (Perez)
8 min Leicester 0 Napoli 0
Napoli defend the corner well and Ndidi has to be alert to thwart the quick counter.
6 min Leicester 0 Napoli 0
Good link up between Soumare and Ndidi as they move the ball up the left. Soumare then doubles back and moves it over to the right. Perez races towards the box, rides two tackles and bludgeons over a cross that Daka manages to touch on to the far post and Barnes tries to squeeze a shot from five yards past Ospina who dives towards him and blocks it with his knee.
Brave save. Leicester corner.
3 min Leicester 0 Napoli 0
Poor stuff from Perez, trying to lob a back-pass over the back four for Schmeichel. Osimhen pounces on it and thunders a low shot that bounces just in front of Schmeichel and hits him on the chest and his defenders scramble it away.
1 min Leicester 0 Napoli 0
Napoli play it around at the back, Rrahmani brings it out but they keep going bcak to hang on to possession before moving it up the right. Leicester fans are making a percussive racket.
Has Perez playing in a three in midfield and Barnes in a three in attack. Isn't Barnes more likely to be wide left in a four and Perez wide right or alongside Daka in a trident?
Out come the teams
Napoli in an orangey red. Leicester in blue. Blue flags everywhere in the crowd.
Tielemans contract doubts
Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers insists he is relaxed about Youri Tielemans' future despite contract talks dragging on.
Midfielder Tielemans said this week he was keeping his options open while negotiations over a new deal continue.
He is tied to the King Power Stadium until 2023 and Rodgers said in February he wanted to keep the Belgium international at the Foxes long term.
They host Napoli in their Europa League opener on Thursday and Rodgers remains calm about the ongoing talks with Leicester's £35million record signing.
He said: "There's no drama with it. It's just the reality of the situation. It only becomes a problem to me if there's a lack of commitment or there's not the same intensity but that's never been the case with Youri.
"It's natural, he is a very talented player who is in discussions with the club and we'll see where that takes us.
"I have no idea (why it is dragging on), I concentrate on the football and making sure he is the best player he can be, giving him the support, environment and culture to be that.
"He is a top-class professional and a joy to work with and while he is here - for however long that is - he will always give and I will always give the best to his development."
Jamie Vardy was named on the bench for Leicester's Europa League clash with Napoli as Kelechi Iheanacho and Patson Daka were named up front.
Midfielder Boubakary Soumare was handed his full debut after a £17million summer move from Lille.
Lorenzo Insigne will start for Napoli after shrugging off a knee injury which forced him off against Juventus at the weekend.
Napoli starting XI
— Official SSC Napoli (@sscnapoli) September 16, 2021
Leicester starting XI
— Leicester City (@LCFC) September 16, 2021
What happened to James Maddison?
I can heartily recommend this piece from John Percy on the current travails of the great hopes of English football.
There is no bigger critic of James Maddison than Leicester City’s own No 10, so a run of 15 matches without a goal or assist will be weighing heavily on his shoulders.
Maddison is a perfectionist enduring an imperfect moment in his career, and there is little doubt that the £25 million signing will be more frustrated than anyone.
It seems like a trick of the imagination that in February Maddison had been involved in nine goals in his past 10 Premier League appearances, scoring his fifth in the 2-1 win at Aston Villa, before suffering a hip injury.
That untimely recurrence of a problem ended his hopes of appearing for England at Euro 2020, with Maddison missing a crucial five weeks of the season as Leicester fought for a top-four finish.
A strange analogy from Luciano Spalletti at last night's pre-match press conference has tickled those who reported it. Napoli have been in the Champions League in four of the previous five seasons and reached the last 32 of the Europa League last term, but Spalletti says he will give the competition the respect it deserves.
"It is the bicycle we have dreamt of peddling," he said. "The main thing is being credible with the players. We have spent two months trying to find something attractive and something which will stimulate the players so they can give the maximum they can when they are wearing a Napoli shirt.
"Players shouldn't take this as a lower level of football. They still need to achieve the highest level.
"It's not like clicking a switch, though, you have to do something every day and work at it. It's maximum respect and desire to obtain the best result in this competition."
Napoli have won all three Serie A games this season, including a 2-1 win over Juventus on Saturday.
Lorenzo Insigne came off against Juve with a knee injury but Spalletti confirmed he expects his skipper to be fit.
"Lorenzo has trained this morning and he has done all the training, assuming when he gets up he feels good he could be in the game, He has only missed one proper training session so he is looking like he will be in the starting line-up.
"We are at the beginning [of the season] so we are not thinking about changing four or five players."
Leicester have no fresh injury worries. Two successive fifth-place finishes in the Premier League and a historic first FA Cup triumph in May has raised expectations and captain Kasper Schmeichel is looking for more progress.
"We are in a very good place," he said. "We have had a lot of recent success but that means you have a choice to make. Are you content with that or do you want to progress and move on?
"That's what this club wants to do. The club continues to show it in the backing of the training ground, the expansion of the stadium and the transfer market.
"The club is always looking to improve. That's the most important thing to me, when you are in an organisation which has had success the hunger is still there.
"You cannot become complacent and timid. That's when you take the foot off the gas. We have always got to be looking for what's next. We can't use the past for anything, that past is done.
"There are many steps we can still take, we are looking to improve every day and this season is another opportunity."