James Maddison’s first home goal of the season helped move Leicester top of their Europa League group with a 3-1 win over Legia Warsaw at the King Power Stadium.
Having started the day bottom of Group C, the Foxes’ fast start set them on their way to only a second win from five games in this year’s tournament, with Patson Daka and Maddison firing them into a two-goal lead after 20 minutes.
A clumsy but inadvertent handball from Wilfried Ndidi gave the visitors the chance to pull one back from the spot minutes later, and although Kasper Schmeichel kept out Mahir Emreli’s initial effort, Filip Mladenovic was first to reach the rebound and fire home.
Ndidi made amends almost instantly, glancing in Maddison’s left-wing corner to restore the hosts’ two-goal advantage, one they rarely looked like giving up from that point.
Events off the pitch marred an otherwise uneventful second period, with Legia fans fighting with stewards and attempting to escape the away end to reach the home support, and riot police were later sent into the stadium to deal with the situation.
Foxes pounce to move top of Group C
Pre-match, Brendan Rodgers had called for perspective amid the Foxes’ inconsistent season. He had a point, having won the club’s first FA Cup in May and earned two consecutive fifth-placed finishes in the Premier League, but his team needed to deliver in Europe on Thursday.
Two home draws – and September’s 1-0 defeat in Warsaw – had hampered their chances of breezing through Group C but with the visitors on their worst run for 85 years, Rodgers conceded Leicester had no excuses.
Their plans were hit early after Jonny Evans pulled out following the warm up to be replaced by Daniel Amartey but the Foxes made light of the change to lead after just 11 minutes.
Harvey Barnes’ jinking run ended when the winger ran into a dead end but he got a lucky break and the ball ricochet through to Daka on the edge of the area for the Zambian to expertly drill past Cezary Miszta.
It created history as Daka became the Foxes’ leading European goalscorer with his fifth goal of the competition.
Legia, who have slumped to second bottom of the Ekstraklasa after seven straight defeats, were compliant victims and Maddison added a second after 21 minutes.
The midfielder collected Ademola Lookman’s pass in the area and, after evading some lacklustre defending, fired in from 12 yards.
Yet Leicester’s tendency to self destruct this season threatened to derail them five minutes later when Ndidi needlessly handled in the area.
Kasper Schmeichel saved Emreli’s penalty only for Mladenovic to covert the rebound – but it was just a blip for the Foxes who made the game safe before the break.
Seven minutes later Ndidi atoned for his error when he capitalised on some wretched Legia defending to glance in Maddison’s corner.
It was decisive and the Foxes played out the second half with a degree of comfort, despite the visitors improving.
Barnes and Timothy Castagne tested Miszta but attention turned to the Legia fans, who were involved in battles with the police mid-way through the second half.
Around 100 supporters ripped down the netting dividing them and the home fans with police forced to stop them.
What the managers said…
Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers: « We’re at the top, in a great position and they (Napoli) will need to win and we need to get a result.
« Going into the last game, if we had said that before we kicked off, we would have taken that.
« You see the quality in the group, like Spartak beating Napoli and all the teams having good results but we are in control where we finish. Our objective at the beginning was to qualify so that’s all in our hands. »
Legia caretaker manager Marek Golebiewski: « It was very difficult from the beginning, for the first goal we were still in the dressing room. We had a penalty and thanks to that we managed to make our loss a little bit smaller.
« We made a mistake for 3-1 and it was too difficult to score another two goals.
« If you play for Legia this is where you’re heart should be. The players know where they are and who they are playing for. »
Opta facts: King Power proves impenetrable
- Leicester have never lost a group stage game at the King Power stadium in either the UEFA Europa League or the UEFA Champions League (P9 W7 D2).
- Legia Warsaw suffered their first away defeat to English opposition in European competition, having drawn their previous two away games against such opposition (1-1 vs Man Utd in April 1991 & 0-0 vs Blackburn in November 1995).
- Leicester scored three goals in the first half of a game in major European competition (excl. qualifiers) for just a second time, previously doing so against Glenavon in the Cup Winners’ Cup back in September 1961.
- Only Jamie Vardy (7) has scored more goals for Leicester in all competitions this season than Patson Daka (6), with five of his six goals for the Foxes coming in the UEFA Europa League.
- All three of James Maddison’s goals for Leicester in Europe have come at the King Power stadium, while tonight’s game was just the third time he has both scored and assisted in a single match for the Foxes in all competitions, previously doing so against Sporting Braga (Nov 2020 in the Europa League) and Brentford (Jan 2021 in the FA Cup).
- Despite conceding from the rebound, Kasper Schmeichel made his first penalty save for Leicester (excl. shootouts), since June 2020 vs Brighton in the Premier League, conceding nine consecutive penalty goals for the Foxes in all competitions prior to tonight.
Leicester host Watford, fresh from a shock 4-1 win over Manchester United last weekend, on Sunday; kick-off at 2pm.