Patson Daka strikes four as Leicester roar back from brink at Spartak Moscow

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Patson Daka did more than relaunch Leicester’s Europa League ambitions. With four expertly taken goals in Moscow, the Zambia international announced himself as a striker who could thrill Leicester for years. If he gave a hint of his talent when scoring his first Premier League goal against Manchester United on Saturday, then on Wednesday – with 34‑year‑old Jamie Vardy watching from the bench – the 23-year-old signed for £23m last summer blazed a trail towards a bright Leicester future.

“It’s been an amazing few days for me and the team,” said Daka after scoring all the goals in a spectacular comeback. Until he weighed in with a hat-trick in nine minutes – and then added a fourth goal – Leicester’s Europa League ambitions lay in smithereens.

Related: Manchester United v Atalanta: Champions League – live!

Trailing 2-0, they looked to be on course for a result that would have made progress out of a difficult group highly improbable. Daka rescued them with a demonstration of precision that will live long in the memory.

“With our next two games at home, this was a game we needed to win and now we can still hope to top the group,” Leicester’s manager, Brendan Rodgers, said.

Daka’s inclusion from the start was one of only two changes that Rodgers made to the lineup that started against United on Saturday, the other being Luke Thomas for Timothy Castagne. Leicester began strongly. Kelechi Iheanacho could have opened the scoring in the first minute if he had been able to react quicker to a flick on by Daka, whose clever movement was already making him a nuisance to the home defence. But Daka’s finishing was shoddy at first, as he slashed wide from the edge of the area in the 10th minute.

Spartak soon showed that they, too, could be elusive movers. Zelimkhan Bakaev proved especially meddlesome, continually finding space between the lines to knit together the home side’s swift counterattacks. When Spartak took the lead in the 11th minute, there was no surprise that Bakaev was heavily involved but the way the ball reached the net had a hint of the bizarre. Leicester seemed to be relatively safe when his blocked shot rebounded to Aleksandr Sobolev at the left-hand corner of the box. The forward attempted to dig out a cross but the ball deflected off Boubakary Soumaré and bounced rather slowly past Kasper Schmeichel, whose reaction in Leicester’s goal was uncharacteristically slow.

The visiting side’s immediate response was good, except when it came to shooting, as Jonny Evans and James Maddison both failed to find the target when presented with clear chances. Then Spartak began to neutralise the visitors, and in the 44th minute the hosts exploited sloppy defending. Victor Moses forced Caglar Soyuncu into an error on the left side of defence, then Daniel Amartey fell over when attempting to cut out Moses’s cross, which Jordan Larsson turned first-time into the net from eight yards.

The home crowd began to believe in a famous triumph, but then Daka sprung into goalscoring action. He cut Leicester’s deficit just over a minute later, running off the back of the centre-backs again to collect a deflected through-ball from Iheanacho and fire a low shot into the net.

Leicester emerged with a keener hunger in the second half after Rodgers demanded more vigorous pressing, from his midfielders in particular. He later explained: “They are not naturally aggressive people, so sometimes you have to poke them.”

Within three minutes of the restart Daka struck again. This time Iheanacho peeled wide of the right-sided centre‑back to receive a pass by Maddison, then dodge the goalkeeper and lay the ball across the six-yard box, where Daka again showed his sharpness, beating Georgi Dzhikiya to the ball to nudge it into the net.

Daka completed his rapid-fire hat-trick with another shrewd run and emphatic finish, racing on to Youri Tielemans’s delivery before lashing a crisp low shot beyond the goalkeeper. The striker was equally nerveless in the 78th minute, when he raced on to a Maddison pass and fired beyond the keeper again, this time with his left foot. Sobolev’s late goal could not change the result.

Afterwards Daka did not hide from the comparisons with Vardy. “He has been one of my inspirations,” Daka said. “You can tell from the kind of playing style I have. It’s a very big privilege to be working alongside him. He helps me a lot in training.”

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