Braga 3-3 Leicester: Supersubs get Foxes out of jail

Jamie Vardy, James Maddison of Leicester City (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)
Jamie Vardy, James Maddison of Leicester City (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images) /
Leicester City
Jamie Vardy, James Maddison of Leicester City (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images) /

Leicester City had to rely on their substitutes as they came back from behind three times in a pulsating 3-3 draw against Braga, a result which seals their qualification from the Europa League group phase.

Brendan Rodgers made five change from the 3-0 defeat to Liverpool on Sunday and it showed as Leicester City struggled to leave first gear for much of the first period. In the 4th minute Braga capitalised after a couple of good blocks fell to Al Musrati outside the box and he smashed in a wonderful long-range effort to give Carlos Carvahal’s the lead over the Foxes.

The goal was the first effort of the game, and Leicester equalised from the second one five minutes later as a mistake from the goal scorer gave Kelechi Iheanacho the ball from outside the area. As he drove towards the goal, the ball ricocheted and fell to Harvey Barnes. With the goalkeeper out position, the youngster slotted expertly home.

Carvalhal said in the week that this was the most important match of the season so far for his side who sit second in the Portuguese top tier, and he got a response after that setback. Braga controlled the game for a while, and got their just rewards shortly before the half hour.

Ricardo Horta was slipped through, and when he went around Kasper Schmeichel, the angle was too acute for the shot, so he pulled it back for the excellent Paulinho to end off an excellent move. The replays showed that the initial through ball for Horta was slightly offside, but with no VAR at this stage in the competition, the goal stood.

The lack of concentration and awareness from City for that goal epitomised their performance, but despite that they really should have equalised when Iheanacho pressurised 36 into giving the ball to Cengiz Under inside the area, but when faced with the chance to score his first Leicester City goal, he hit his shot straight at the keeper who knew very little about it.

Leicester City qualify for knockout rounds

Brendan Rodgers‘ men were lucky to stay in the game thanks to Schmeichel. Where a succession of brilliant saves in a 10 minute period towards the end of the first half meant that the Foxes were going in at the break one behind, rather than two or three.

After the break, Youri Tielemans and Wesley Fofana came on for Dennis Praet and Christian Fuchs to try to inject some much-needed energy into this side.

A little bit more possession came from those changes but no real chances to report apart from a long range Under chance.

Rodgers then introduced Jamie Vardy, James Maddison and Ayoze Perez in am attempt to seal qualification from the group. Meanwhile AEK Athens were battered by Zorya Luhansk – meaning the Foxes only needed a point for progression.

And thanks to the supersubs, it looked like they had done just that when Luke Thomas scored his first Leicester City goal after brilliant work from James Maddison.

Rodgers thought his substitutions got his side out of jail but a wonderful counter attack – and some poor play by Fofana – put Braga back in front. Replacement for the Portuguese, Fransergio, poked his shot past Schmeichel’s front post.

It was only what Braga deserved. They were excellent throughout, as they looked to rectify their 4-0 defeat in the reverse fixture three weeks earlier. Probably then thinking that they had, with the allotted four minutes injury time expiring. But Vardy was played in down the left-hand side and laid it off to the excellent Maddison. After beating two players, the playmaker slid in Marc Albrighton who rolled back the years with a great low cross to the saviour Jamie Vardy.

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It was cruel on Braga, but they are still favourites to go through behind the Premier League side. As far Leicester, they were sluggish, slow, and had to rely on the first team stars to get them out of trouble. They didn’t deserve the draw in a pulsating game – but thank God they did.