Leicester City’s progress to the Europa League round of 16 is in sight but a win secured by goals from Patson Daka, James Maddison and Wilfred Ndidi was marred by crowd trouble between Legia Warsaw fans and the police.
Brendan Rodgers’ side need a point in Napoli next month to be sure of progressing to the next round in February, while a win in Italy would see Leicester finish top of Group C and go straight into in the round of 16.
That win over a Legia Warsaw side who have lost every European league and game since beating Leicester in September was overshadowed, however, as the traveling supporters battled with more than 100 police during the second half. “It’s not something you want to see in a football game,” Rodgers said. “I haven’t heard too many details. I hope no one was hurt.”
In scenes reminiscent of Hungary’s World Cup qualifiers at Wembley, the passion of the traveling fans boiled over after the 65th minute when many of the 1,134 in the outside corner of the stadium lit red flares.
A heavy presence of police and stewards appeared to limit the problems to this neighborhood as home fans prioritized cheering their team on for a first win in six games.
Maddison was at the forefront of Leicester’s first half and he can’t wait for the foundations for last season’s FA Cup victory to be laid. Injuries have plagued Leicester’s fluidity this season and Jonny Evans was lost to a thigh injury moments before kick-off here, Daniel Amartey stepped in to perform well alongside Caglar Soyuncu.
Back-to-back troubles robbed Maddison of the fluid form that saw him compete for a place in England two years ago but, playing just behind a top three last night, he capitalized on Legia’s tentative start.
“I’m really happy,” Maddison said. “It’s trust; when you’re an attacking player, goals and assists are what you want. That’s what I mean. I’m at my best when attacking, scoring and assisting. This engenders confidence and makes attackers feel good.
“Coming into the bottom of the group and now being in the lead, it’s obviously very close. It’s in our hands and we would prefer to be there.
“We won the FA Cup last year and we are hungry for trophies and success. We have a great game in Napoli and we are looking forward to it.
Leicester’s erratic season was reflected in a messy first half containing three goals in the middle quarter hour. They attacked with vigor and penetration but had little control over the game before half-time.
Daka became Leicester’s top scorer in European football with his fifth goal in this season’s competition.
He was lucky when the ball made its way, after Harvey Barnes cut inside the left flank, but Daka finished in style, firing low into the far corner with his left foot . After his four goals away from Spartak Moscow, Jamie Vardy’s assistant continues to seize his opportunities.
Maddison quickly made it 2-0. After loaning the ball to Ademola Lookman, Maddison received the short cross towards him, clipped the inside of his left foot and hammered the ball high into the top corner of the net.
Ndidi got his hands on Yuri Ribeiro’s cross for a penalty which Kasper Schmeichel saved from Mahir Emreli before Filip Mladenovic scored in stride, but Leicester quickly regained their two-goal advantage, with Ndidi atoning for his offense by heading in the corner of Maddison. Rodgers praised the fans for unleashing the energy that has seen his side play on the foot much more than recently, despite Legia not being Chelsea.
“The atmosphere was incredible; the supporters played a huge part in that,” the Leicester manager said. “I just go back to our football with our really intense pressing and counter-pressing, that won us the game.”
Rodgers has confirmed Evans should be fit for Sunday’s visit from Watford and Claudio Ranieri, the manager who led Leicester to the Premier League title five years ago.
“Claudio returning for the first time as manager will be a great opportunity after the incredible year here,” Rodgers said. “I’m sure the fans will show their appreciation.”