Leicester City have not been enjoying too much good fortune of late, but luck turned their way in spectacular style during this match. Having gone ahead with a first-half goal from Riyad Mahrez, Nigel Pearson’s side spent almost the entire second half defending, much of it desperately and in their own penalty area, but they saw Hull City twice hit the post, have one shot cleared extraordinarily off the line and squander numerous other opportunities before the final whistle brought blessed relief.
And what a relief, acknowledged Pearson. Leicester had taken just two points from their previous 13 games, and lost their last seven on the road, making this match as important as any they have played since winning promotion.
“I know how Hull must be feeling, they’ll win more matches than they lose if they put teams under that sort of pressure, but you need a bit of luck and we’ve certainly not had that on this long run of ours,” said Pearson. “I’d be the first to admit we didn’t play nearly as well as we can, but let’s not underplay the art of defending, and our desire to keep the ball out of the net couldn’t be faulted. Defeat would have meant we were in danger of really losing touch.”
As it is, they will go into the new year bottom of the Premier League, but with Burnley, Crystal Palace and Hull only three points ahead. In short, with hope.
The first half was a cagey, increasingly messy affair, until the moment shortly after the half hour when Mahrez, who had shown himself throughout to be the player with the neatest touch, picked up a loose ball on the right, drifted towards the Hull penalty area and, realising the defenders were standing off, side-footed a delicate, curling shot beyond Alan McGregor’s reaching right hand and inside the Hull goalkeeper’s far post.
Hull should have gone in level when, around six yards from the goal, Ahmed Elmohamady’s right foot met Stephen Quinn’s glorious cross from the left, only to direct the ball over instead of under the Leicester goalkeeper Ben Hamer’s bar.
Hull manager Steve Bruce’s reaction was to replace the ineffective Gaston Ramirez with Nikita Jelavic at half-time, and just after the hour, send on Abel Hernandez and Tom Ince, and the subsequent traffic was almost entirely one-way.
Jake Livermore was the first to hit the post for the Tigers. His attempt to smash in the rebound was blocked by Wes Morgan, and the subsequent cross headed just over angle of post and bar by Jelavic.
As the pressure built, Hernandez too hit the woodwork with a diving header. From perhaps six yards Curtis Davies thrashed the rebound past Hamer, but against Marcin Wasilewski on the line: the ball struck the Pole’s elbow, but he knew little about it. Then, in added time, Hernandez, criminally, scooped the ball over the bar when it looked easier to score.
Bruce arrived with the expression of one who had been sucking on lemons. “We’ve been in the Premier League 18 months and I can’t remember when we made so many chances, but at this level you have to take them, and there are one or two we’re very disappointed were missed,” he said. “It means all the good work we did in winning at Sunderland [on Boxing Day] has unravelled. The situation at the bottom has concertinaed.”Reuse content