Burnley 2-1 Leicester City verdict: Europa League hopes dashed by dreadful start


Leicester City’s Europa League hopes were left in tatters after they lost their must-win clash with rivals Burnley at Turf Moor.

City paid the price for a dreadful start which saw them go 2-0 down inside the opening nine minutes and it proved to be a mountain too high to climb, despite Jamie Vardy’s 10th goal in his last 12 games.

It leaves City nine points behind the Clarets, who are in pole position to claim the last potential Europa League spot, with just five games remaining.

It got worse for City at the end as goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel limped off with an ankle injury which could leave him as a doubt to face Southampton on Thursday night.

City manager Claude Puel had been hit with a midfield crisis as Vicente Iborra joined Matt James and Daniel Amartey on the injured list, while Wilfred Ndidi served the last of his two-game suspension.

Puel turned to under-23 captain Hamza Choudhury and handed the Loughborough youngster his full debut alongside Adrien Silva in the City engine room.

Leicester City midfielder Adrien Silva is challenged by Burnley's Ashley Westwood
Leicester City midfielder Adrien Silva is challenged by Burnley’s Ashley Westwood

Shinji Okazaki also returned as the support striker to Jamie Vardy ahead of Fousseni Diabate, while Demarai Gray was preferred ahead of Marc Albrighton on the flank.

City had won on four of their previous five visits to Turf Moor and Burnley had beaten Leicester only once in the last 12 league games, but the Clarets have been the surprise package of the Premier League this season and were six points ahead of City going into the game.

However, they have done so with the emphasis on organisation and solid defending rather than expansive play and goals at Turf Moor have been at a premium. A league-low 24 goals had been scored at Burnley this season, which is seven fewer than at any other ground, so the expectations were that it would be a tight, attritional contest.

After the defeat to Newcastle United last week Puel called for City to show improvement in their first half displays as they had been poor at Brighton and against the Geordies, but not as bad as they were in the opening nine minutes of this game.

It took Burnley just six minutes to open the scoring. Wes Morgan intercepted Jack Cork’s pass but his equally loose pass was straight at Ashley Barnes. He picked out former City striker Chris Wood, who was being played onside by Ben Chilwell, and despite Kasper Schmeichel saving his first effort, he slotted home the rebound.

Three minutes later it got worse for City as from a needlessly-conceded corner, centre back Kevin Long outjumped both Harry Maguire and Danny Simpson to head home at the far post.

Kevin Long celebrates with his Burnley team-mates after putting the Clarets 2-0 up against Leicester City
Kevin Long celebrates with his Burnley team-mates after putting the Clarets 2-0 up against Leicester City

City now faced a mountain to climb against a well-drilled Burnley rearguard, and their passing was too inaccurate to cause Sean Dyche’s men any real concerns.

City began to dominate possession as the half wore on, with Burnley in the comfort zone, but the visitors did create the better chances.

Jamie Vardy had two free headers which he should have done better with, the first from Chilwell’s cross bouncing harmlessly wide and the second just before half-time from Maguire’s cross which was well read by keeper Nick Pope.

Pope had also done superbly to deny Riyad Mahrez, who was racing in to meet Gray’s cross, and on the stroke of half-time Mahrez grazed the outside of the post with a free-kick after Okazaki was tripped 25 yards out from goal.

Puel withdrew Okazaki and introduced Kelechi Iheanacho at half-time, but it was the hosts, who had gone into their shells after going 2-0 up, who looked the brighter, with Johann Berg Gudmundsson going close with a long-range effort.

City had another great chance just after the hour mark when Vardy was played in by Silva, but Pope was again equal to the challenge, diving to his right to push away the striker’s low finish.

Jamie Vardy fires past Nick Pope for Leicester City against Burnley
Jamie Vardy fires past Nick Pope for Leicester City against Burnley

City had a shout for a penalty when Chilwell’s cross hit Jack Cork’s arm, although replays showed he was outside the penalty area, and a Maguire header from substitute Fousseni Diabate’s cross narrowly evaded the on-rushing Vardy.

There was no shortage of effort from City, but the quality in the final ball or finish was missing and they also survived their own penalty shout after Iheanacho dived in recklessly on Aaron Lennon.

City finally got the rewards for their efforts with 18 minutes remaining when Iheanacho played in Vardy from a swift counter attack and he gave Pope no chance with a powerful finish.

Vardy was inches away from substitute Diabate’s low cross shortly afterwards.

It resembled a park match towards the end with players out of position as City pushed desperately for the equaliser, but the Clarets hung on to take a huge step towards European football next season.

As for Puel and City, they will be playing for pride, and some for their City futures, for the remainder of the campaign.

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