For a time, Leicester were on their way to emerge triumphant from one of the toughest tests they are likely to face in the Europa League this season. Ayoze Pérez and Harvey Barnes gave them a two-goal lead over Napoli, their main rival in Group C and joint favorites to win the tournament. But the elegant visitors fought back through two goals from the excellent Victor Osimhen to win a share of the points, which was the least Napoli deserved. Leicester’s frustration deepened when Wilfred Ndidi was sent off in injury time for a second bookable offense.
This was not the tournament these clubs would have chosen to face each other in, but given that they both dropped out of the top four of their national leagues on the final day of last season, it was the best they could do. That may change if the Napoli president has his way – Aurelio De Laurentiis called this week for a “modern and lucrative” revamp of the continent’s football, including smaller national competitions and “a European league with a democratic entry system.” – but the Italian team manager, Luciano Spalletti, described duels with players like Leicester as “a bike we’ve always dreamed of riding.”
Brendan Rodgers made five lineup changes that started Saturday’s loss here to Manchester City, but was still able to line up a formidable team, including Patson Daka and Boubakary Soumaré, each making their first start for the club since joining. joined in the summer. Spalletti made four changes to the Napoli squad that managed three wins in three Serie A games this season by beating Juventus last weekend.
The visitors were quick to show their threat, with Victor Osimhen testing Kasper Schmeichel in the third minute with a powerful shot from outside the area. Leicester wasted no time in replying. Perez, eager to redeem himself after being sent off against West Ham in his last outing, stormed into the right side of the box and displayed impressive strength in defending himself against Kalidou Koulibaly before feeding Daka, who assisted Barnes behind. mail. David Ospina shot off his line to deflect his shot just wide from six yards.
The pace was exhilarating and Leicester intended to find out if Napoli could keep up. The visitors came up short in the ninth minute, when Barnes whizzed down the left flank and floated a cross to the right, where Perez arrived to guide a side volley into the net from 10 yards despite Ospina’s attempt to keep it out. Local fans broke into a chorus of God save the queen, as if the Spaniard’s goal somehow avenged England’s defeat to Italy in the Euro 2020 final.
Lorenzo Insigne, the winner of that match, tried to disallow Pérez’s goal in the 13th minute but was unable to keep his free kick from the edge of the area below the crossbar. Then Osimhen did the same after beating Jonny Evans with a little nutmeg.
Osimhen again embarrassed Evans in the 28th minute, speeding past him before hitting Kévin Malcuit, who fired from 16 yards. Napoli’s shot went wrong, but their passes and movements caused a lot of problems. Osimhen soon tormented the other central defender, keeping Jannik Vestergaard at bay, who stormed down the right and crossed for Piotr Zielinski, whose shot from close range was blocked by Timothy Castagne. With Insigne firing twice before the break and Schmeichel deflecting a dangerous header from Hirving Lozano, Leicester was grateful to come into the break with the lead intact.
Rodgers, recognizing the need to stop the flow, made two substitutions for the second period. But Napoli became more dominant and Leicester struggled to come out of its own half in the first part of the second half. Daka and Kelechi Iheanacho ran hard off the ball but were rarely able to spend time with him, until shortly before the time the Zambian fired at the net after nimble work from Iheanacho and Youri Tielemans. The hosts erupted with joy and relief, only for a VAR review to rule that Daka had been slightly offside.
But Leicester had a taste for goals again. Five minutes later they got one that no one could object to, Barnes taking a low shot from the left into the far corner after Iheanacho opened up Napoli’s defense.
Leicester wasn’t safe yet, especially not with Osimhen still on the hunt. The forward put Napoli in dispute again by putting the ball over Schmeichel, after an ingenious play by Insigne and Fabián Ruiz. It was no surprise that the Nigerian was also responsible for the latest twist. When Matteo Politano threw a compelling cross from the right, Osimhen jumped over Caglar Soyuncu and headed into the net from five yards.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism