Pep Guardiola had his hands on his head. So did the Manchester City fans. They knew they were in serious trouble. Nathan Aké had picked up a back pass but then hesitated for a fatal moment and how Kelechi Iheanacho, the former City striker, replacing Leicester, made him pay.
Aké, the last man in City, made a desperate lunge, lifting his boot to prevent Iheanacho and for a second Guardiola thought that his team would have gotten away with it. The ball ran to another Leicester substitute, Patson Daka, and his shot was blocked by goalkeeper Zack Steffen.
Referee Paul Tierney called the play again to signal the point and, although Iheanacho’s kick was close to Steffen, it had too much impact and it would be him and his teammates from Leicester who raised the Community Shield.
At full time, Aké sank into despair as there was no fairytale debut for Jack Grealish, City’s new £ 100 million signing, who came on as a substitute in the 65th minute. Guardiola had complained that only he had a “half team” and would not have an eleventh national title.
Not much will rival the Leicester celebrations that hosted Youri Tielemans’ FA Cup final winner against Chelsea last season, but Brendan Rodgers and his players reveled in here. Your season is on.
Guardiola will always say that he considers this to be a title, even if historically there has been a question mark in England as to whether it really counts as such, it is certainly not the Spanish Super Cup, and the coach’s selection problems were the result of participation. from a crowd of his players in the later stages of Euro 2020 and the Copa América.
It’s probably worth listing who didn’t have: Kyle Walker, John Stones, Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling, Ederson, Gabriel Jesus, Kevin De Bruyne, Aymeric Laporte, and Oleksandr Zinchenko, who just became a father. Foden and De Bruyne are wounded.
If City had to cope, then Leicester had to do it at the rear, where Daniel Amartey was pressured for emergency service in central defense. Rodgers didn’t have four full butts due to injury (James Justin, Jonny Evans, Wesley Fofana, Thomas Castagne), although it was a tonic to see Harvey Barnes get back in shape on the left wing and eager to show his speed and frankness.
The last time we were here for a Wembley masterpiece, it was the Euro 2020 final, yes, just four weeks ago, and it’s fair to say this was a lot quieter; the stadium is only half full, the stakes are far less. Leicester fans mocked their former favorite, Riyad Mahrez, and that was as heated as the first half.
Leicester had the two big chances and both were created for Jamie Vardy, precisely the player Rodgers would have chosen for the end. And yet Vardy couldn’t.
The first came in half the time, Barnes took a pass from James Maddison, exploded inside the area and shot and, when the ball left the block of Rúben Dias, it sat very well for Vardy, who was in the center, at 10 meters. Under pressure from Benjamin Mendy, he unloaded only to direct it directly to Zack Steffen. Either side of the goalkeeper and he would surely have entered.
The second was in injury time and had the same staff after Ryan Bertrand, the new signing, stepped forward to gain possession. Maddison worked the ball to the left, Barnes retired it and Vardy, off balance at the far post, fired into the other corner. Steffen, who was going in the opposite direction, did well to throw a hand and rest it against the upright.
Guardiola had started with 19-year-old Cole Palmer up front with Ferran Torres and 18-year-old Sam Edozie on the left wing. City’s best effort of the first period came from an early free kick by Ilkay Gundogan, which extended to Kasper Schmeichel, and nearly broke when Calgar Soyuncu cut a Mendy cross over his own crossbar. Edozie also cut when he was well positioned in the left inner channel.
Leicester shadowed him before the interval, with Maddison finding spaces and Barnes a threat. Barnes had seen Dias block an early shot, while Youri Tielemans hit Ayoze Perez only to have the spike lacking power.
Grealish had trained with City for the first time on Friday and it was a surprise to see him on the bench, given that Guardiola has given his other England Euro 2020 players an additional bye week. They won’t report until Monday. City fans gave Grealish an enthusiastic reception when he first came out of the excavation to warm up in the 49th minute and it wasn’t long before they started chanting his name.
City pushed harder with their front foot as the second half began, there was more intensity in their play and they created chances, with Gündogan kicking up a high waste after Mahrez had worked out a short corner routine. Mahrez had launched a high free kick from a good position when Edozie released it at half-time after City cleared a corner kick in the 59th minute and Ricardo Pereira returned the ball to them. With Pereira and Wilfred Ndidi in hot pursuit, Mahrez hit high over the bar. Leicester support enjoyed that.
Grealish’s introduction was a blockbuster, although Rodgers’ quadruple substitution in the 71st minute, when he retired Tielemans, Perez, Maddison and Vardy, felt more in keeping with the tone of the occasion. There are bigger battles ahead. It allowed him to give two of his other new guys, Boubakary Soumaré and Daka, a sample of Wembley. They both showed flashes of promise. Iheanacho, however, made the difference.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism