Leicester City 2, Brentford 2

A New Dawn?

As if it hadn’t been a bruising season that saw his squad finish an honourable thirteenth in their long-awaited return to football’s top tier, head coach Thomas Frank reminded them on the eve of the next challenge that, ‘Every team has top quality, tactically and technically.’

This in his programme note for the final friendly match, limbering up for the impending 2022/3 season, when a welcome Bryan Mbeumo goal sent the Spanish Copa del Ray winners, Real Betis, home to Seville with nothing to show for their trip other than a tourists’ view of the newly named Gtech Community Stadium.

As for the Bees, and their coach, they must have regarded the friendlies as satisfactory limbering up for the serious business due to commence on 7 August.

Which takes us to the King Power Stadium a week later and a sudden awakening to exactly what Frank had in mind when he issued his warning.

For forty-five minutes, plus added time and around thirty astonishing seconds – more about which later – Leicester time and again dismantled the Brentford defence and but for David Raya and the woodwork might well have had a goal or several.

Those who had travelled to the East Midlands and less devoted souls who found a television feed were glum. Aaron Hickey, filling the defensive role occupied by Kristopher Ajer when fit, looked capable, Ben Mee, central defender from Burnley, less so, but overall the team lacked the cohesion they had displayed against Manuel Pelegrini’s fifth-placed La Liga visitors.

Largely immaculate in defence, the Foxes – the only PL club not to have bought players during the recent transfer window – were weak up front, where Jamie Vardy was a now and then, but mostly then, force.

James Maddison, impressive in Leicester’s double over the Bees last season, was even more so here, and Timothy Castagne, scorer of the home side’s first goal with a glancing header following a Maddison corner, is getting to be a pest, having scored against the Bees in the second leg of the side’s double last March.

And so to the second half, which was less than half-a-minute long when Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, whose name suggests a stately home rather than the polished midfielder he is, drilled a shot from twenty-five yards or more that quite possibly whistled as it sped past a despairing David Raya.

Whether or not it was irritation, or simple do-or-die guts, that fuelled Brentford’s revival, we may never know, but from there on they began to command the pace and ingenuity of the play. Tactically and technically? That too.

Ivan Toney, relatively subdued until now, became the wandering hit man we love, so much so that when a charge down the left by Rico Henry ended with a cross that almost fell at his feet, the striker took a pace that lost the defence, half-turned and smacked the ball past goalkeeper Danny Ward, rather spoiling his first League game of the season in place of the departed Kasper Schmeichel.

Having supported the newly adopted five-substitutes rule, Frank was busy using up the entire allocation and it was one of these, the reborn Josh Dasilva after interminable recovery from injuries, who sealed the team’s remarkable recovery 14 minutes from the end.

Cutting into the centre of the pitch and dropping a shoulder familiar to regular students of his game, he thumped home a left-foot drive that made Ward feel even less happy with his afternoon.

Tony missed a late chance that he would normally snaffle without thought, but a draw was a fair result, I suggested to my mate Charlie. After all, it’s a triumph compared to how Christian Eriksen feels, being on the wrong end of a 1-2 loss at Brighton in his very first game for Manchester United.

‘Oh dear,’ said Charlie.

Leicester City: Ward; Forfana, Evans, Amartey; Castagne, Tielemans, Ndidi, Dewsbury-Hall (substitute Daka 73mins), Justin; Maddison; Vardy.

Brentford: Raya; Hickey, (sub Bech Sørensen 83), Jansson, Mee (sub Lewis-Potter), Henry; Janelt; Nørgaard (sub Baptiste 73), Jensen (sub Dasilva 59), Mbeumo, Toney, Wissa (sub Davutoglu 83).

Bill Hagerty is a contributing editor of the Bees United supporters’ group.

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