Mystique of Sven wears off rapidly
Leicester City 1 Hull City 1: Swede waves magic wand for fastest goal of day but former Leicester manager earns share of spoils.
Sunday 17 October 2010
The evidence of the Sven effect was easy to spot. As Leicester's biggest crowd of the season made their way into the stadium, if the former England coach's face was not beaming down from a giant TV screen, it was staring at you from a souvenir mug or signed photograph in the club shop; and the matchday programme, naturally. The Swede, besieged by fans, took 25 minutes to walk from his car to the stadium entrance.
Journalists from Thailand and Sweden swelled the press box numbers to more than 100. The teamsheet showed the instant results of Eriksson's pulling power, as Kyle Naughton and Curtis Davies, two Premier League defenders signed on loan, bolstered the leakiest defence in the Championship. Davies, Aston Villa's £10m misfit, was outstanding, as calm and composed on the ball as his manager – as always – appeared in the dug-out.
When Andy King scored after two minutes and two seconds, Leicester fans may have felt Eriksson had mystical powers. It was a dream start. But there the effect ended. Leicester failed to build on King's fifth goal of the season and Robert Koren equalised seven minutes into the second half, after which the result could have gone either way, as Eriksson acknowledged.
"We started well and scored early, and we created chances to score more goals," he said. "Some of our football was very good. But in the second half, though we still created chances, we gave the ball away too much. We could have won but we could also have lost. So maybe 1-1 was a fair result.
"It was a little similar to the game I watched against Scunthorpe. We could not sustain our energy for the full 90 minutes. Is there a fitness issue? Maybe. We'll see, starting tomorrow."
The result suited the mood of the stadium in a way, given the nature of the sub-plot to Eriksson's first League match in charge since he succeeded Paulo Sousa, scandalously sacked after a mere nine games at the helm.
In the opposite technical area, by coincidence, stood Nigel Pearson, whose reign at Leicester ended when he left in the summer for Hull, his nose put out of joint when the club's new Thai owners invited Sousa to be their guest in the directors' box at the end of last season.
Pearson dragged Leicester back into the Championship after dropping into the third tier for the first time, and came within a penalty shoot-out of reaching the play-off final last season, when they would have seen themselves as favourites to beat Blackpool to a place in the top flight.
Little wonder, then, that he remains a popular figure and the welcome he received was perhaps even warmer than the one offered to Eriksson. "I was pleased to hear that," Pearson said. "I'd like to think it was a reflection of what the staff achieved here.
"I was mindful of not wanting to disrespect the Hull fans but I am grateful for the reception. It was very nice. But my thoughts now are on the rebuilding job I have to do at Hull, and Leicester certainly have a very experienced manager at the helm."
Leicester's goal was a poor one from Pearson's viewpoint, a block-tackle by Matt Oakley falling kindly for King. His shot seemed to deceive the goalkeeper Matt Duke, who was diving to his right as the ball nipped past him on the left, inside his near post.
Martyn Waghorn drew a save from Duke, and Davies flashed a header narrowly wide as Leicester dominated the first half, with further chances falling to King and Bruno Berner.
Koren's leveller, from Hull's first shot of the match, after Nolberto Solano's cross had been half-cleared, came as a surprise. But Pearson had clearly delivered some well-chosen observations at half-time. Chris Weale made two important saves, from Caleb Folan and substitute Kevin Kilbane.
Leicester stepped up their tempo towards the end and had Jack Hobbs or Paul Gallagher reacted more effectively to chances that fell their way, they might have sneaked three points and measured the Eriksson effect in the way they had hoped for most.
Long after his career in English football has ended, Emile Heskey's impotency in front of goal remains an object of ridicule.
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