Leicester City fell to Napoli by a score of 3-2 in Europa League action at the Diego Maradona on a wet Thursday evening.
The hosts took an early two-goal lead, but goals from Jonny Evans and Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall levelled the score before halftime.
Eljif Elmas scored his second just after the break and City couldn’t find the back of the net a third time. to rescue anything from an eventful match.
Manager Brendan Rodgers was without seven of his Europa League squad but he still had a strong starting XI in: Kasper Schmeichel (C), Timothy Castagne, Jonny Evans, Çağlar Söyüncü, Ryan Bertrand, Youri Tielemans, Wilfred Ndidi, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, James Maddison, Harvey Barnes, Jamie Vardy.
The match almost got off to a dream start for the Foxes as Dewsbury-Hall was given the run of the pitch and advanced deep into the hosts’ territory. Castagne met his cross but didn’t get the right connection on the ball and it was cleared off the line, allowing keeper Alex Meret to gather.
Would City be made to pay for their failure to take an early lead? Yes, and almost immediately. Of course they would.
The defence cleared a corner as far as the edge of the box. It ricocheted to Adam Ounas on the right side in acres of space. Ndidi did well to try to cover, but the accuracy of the shot evaded both the midfielder and the despairing Schmeichel.
Rodgers’ charges attempted to rally and slowly but surely started to get a grip on the game. Vardy wasn’t seeing any of the ball, but Barnes was and he was turning his markers inside out and making life very uncomfortable for the Gli Azzurri defenders and forcing some fairly simple saves from Meret.
It was against the run of play that Napoli doubled their lead. A simple through ball by Piotr Zielinski split the central defenders and allowed Andrea Petagna free run on goal. At the last moment, he squared the ball to Eljif Elmas, who had nothing to do but to tap it into an empty net.
Three minutes later, the Foxes had a lifeline back into the game. Madders whipped in a corner that was met by Elmas, but his header fell directly to the feet of Evans. With the coolness of a seasoned striker, the Northern Ireland defender stroked the ball inside the far post to give City some badly needed belief that they could get something from the match.
Just after the half-hour mark, the match was level. This time, it was a Madders free-kick that was half-cleared by Petagna to the right of the “D.” Dewsbury-Hall showed some excellent technique to meet the ball on the volley with his left peg to sweep it into the back of the net.
The second half started much as the first, which was not a good thing for Leicester. Giovanni di Lorenzo made a good run on the right into the box and fired in a pinpoint low cross. The ball nutmegged Barnes and evaded Ndidi, Castagne, and Cags to find Eljif Elmas at the first post. He turned and blasted a shot back across Schmeichel to give the hosts the lead.
Leicester should have been level moments later. Di Lorenzo tried to play a ball out of defence and passed it directly to Maddison in the penalty area. With only the keeper to beat from six yards, his powerful effort only found the outside of the far post and to safety.
The next twenty minutes were without goalmouth incident which obviously favoured the hosts. Brendan Rodgers finally made his first change with a quarter-hour to go, introducing Patson Daka for Barnes. His first involvement was to knock down a ball over the top for Vardy, but the former Stocksbridge Parks Steel man blasted into the side netting with his first-time effort.
Leicester failed to get a way back and it ended in defeat in Italy.