Slavia Prague 0-0 Leicester: Foxes struggles on the road in Europe go on as hot shots Jamie Vardy and Harvey Barnes fail to fire in last-32 first-leg tie
- Leicester failed to create many clear-cut chances on a frustrating evening
- Barnes came closest in first-half but was denied from close range by the keeper
- Vardy had just 13 touches, failed to create a chance or have a shot on target
If Brendan Rodgers is to break his Europa League hoodoo, there is work to do at the King Power Stadium next week after the away goal alluded Leicester City on Thursday night.
That was not for a lack of trying on Harvey Barnes’s part. The 23-year-old England international was the stand-out player on a night when Leicester’s attack otherwise struggled.
Rodgers’ record at the Europa League’s round of 32 reads four attempts, four exits – twice suffered with Liverpool, and twice with Celtic. Leicester will remain favourites to quality from the second leg, but how they would have liked to give themselves a head start here.
Jamie Vardy touched the ball 13 times, failed to create a chance or have a shot on target
Leicester (4-2-3-1): Schmeichel 6.5; Amartey 6, Evans 6.5, Soyuncu 6.5, Thomas 6; Ndidi 6, Tielemans 6; Albrighton 5.5 (Under 54, 6), Maddison 5.5 (Choudhury 76), Barnes 7; Vardy 5.5 (Iheanacho 64, 6)
Subs (not used): Ward, Jakupovic, Fuchs, Flynn, Mendy, Leshabela, Tavares
Booked: Ndidi, Iheanacho, Tielemens
Manager: Brendan Rodgers 6
Referee: Marco Guida 6
After scoring in each of his last three matches in major European competition, Jamie Vardy was unusually quiet and substituted by his manager after an hour in the Czech capital.
Vardy may be needed for a full 90 in next week’s second leg, given his replacement, Kelechi Iheanacho, was cautioned within 10 seconds of his introduction and will now be suspended.
Slavia’s main stand was a sight to behold with the club using the empty seats to spell out the words: ‘Fox hunting.’ That attempt at intimidation was lost on Barnes who, in the first half, was causing all sorts of problems for the hosts’ defence.
Brendan Rodgers has yet to win a game or celebrate a goal in knockout stage of Europe League
Leicester would have taken the lead in the 15th minute were it not for Slavia goalkeeper Ondrej Kolar keeping his legs closed. Barnes had broken behind into space left by right back Alexander Bah and tried to finish by nutmegging Kolar, who blocked the shot.
Barnes spoke before this match and stopped short of saying he wants to claim Vardy’s top-scorer crown when asked. He has upped his game this season with an eye on an England call-up for Euro 2020, however, and was the one asking questions of Slavia.
While his runs behind were worrying Slavia’s defenders, goalkeeper Kolar was showing good awareness and judgment in rushing out of his box to kill any attacks.
Slavia’s Michael Beran, left, challenges Leicester defender Caglar Soyuncu, right, for the ball
It remained 0-0 at half time and Bah was glad to get a breather. Barnes had ran him ragged on the left wing, but the end product had alluded the 23-year-old and Leicester.
Slavia’s most dangerous player had been Abdallah Sima, the 19-year-old with 11 goals in 14 league games this season and the hosts emerged for the second half looking confident.
Leicester were struggling to get going. A 25-yard free-kick from Slavia’s Nicolae Stanciu was caught by Kasper Schmeichel. Stanciu then forced the 34-year-old Dane into tipping another effort over his crossbar. The visitors had offered nothing in front of the opposition goal.
Leicester winger Harvey Barnes takes on Abdallah Sima of Slavia Prague in the first-half
After an hour, Vardy was removed and replaced by Iheanacho. If Rodgers told his substitute to make his presence felt in the final third, he took it too literally.
Iheanacho was cautioned within 10 seconds of being brought on – for an elbow into the throat of Jakub Hromada – and will miss the second leg as a result. That was not the sort of instant impact Rodgers was after, and it will all come down to next week.
Leicester winger Harvey Barnes sees his shot saved by Slavia Prague goalkeeper Ondrej Kolar