Leicester 3-0 Zorya Luhansk: James Maddison bags goal on his European debut and Harvey Barnes and Kelechi Iheanacho also on target in winning Europa League Group G start for Brendan Rodgers’ men
- James Maddison fired home inside the six-yard box to give Leicester the lead
- Harvey Barnes doubled the Foxes’ lead with an impudent finish into the corner
- Kelechi Iheanacho then pounced on a Zorya Luhansk mistake to fire home
James Maddison delivered a huge boost to Leicester with a performance that hinted he is close to his best again after months of injury frustration.
The England midfielder was on target along with Harvey Barnes and Kelechi Iheanacho as the Foxes began their Europa League campaign with a routine win over Zorya Luhansk.
Maddison’s absence for much of the post-lockdown period, due to a hip problem, may have cost Leicester their place in the Champions League. Even though he scored a brilliant goal in the 5-2 win over Manchester City, this was the first time this term that Maddison has looked match sharp.
James Maddison scored on his European debut as Leicester easily beat Zorya Luhansk
Harvey Barnes was also on target with an impudent finish as Leicester cruised to victory
Zorya knew it, too, dishing out some heavy tackles and causing Maddison to complain frequently to referee Stephanie Frappart, who also took charge of the 2019 European Super Cup final between Liverpool and Chelsea.
Three-and-a-half years after reaching the Champions League quarter-finals, Leicester could not have imagined that their return to European football would be so low-key.
They started this match as favourites but could easily have fallen behind in the 22nd minute. Vladlen Yurchenko released Maksym Lunov on the right and his low cross found Vladyslav Kabayev at the far post, forcing Kasper Schmeichel to make a fine save with his feet.
Leicester made the most that escape by taking the lead seven minutes later. Barnes found space inside the box and curled against the post and Kelechi Iheanacho was quickest to the loose ball, slipping it back for Maddison to poke into the unguarded net.
Kelechi Iheanacho then finished off the scoring in a brilliant performance for the striker
Kasper Schmeichel was largely untroubled but did have to save well from Vladyslav Kabayev
Barnes was involved in all Leicester’s most dangerous moves. He headed Timothy Castagne’s cross over and then drew a good stop from Mykyta Shevchenko.
At the other end, Schmeichel survived a scare when his clearance rebounded off Yurchenko and fell for Dmytro Ivanisenia. With the Dane stranded, Ivanisenia’s chip from 25 yards dropped just wide.
Once again, Leicester took advantage. Iheanacho collected Christian Fuchs pass and, with his back to goal, produced an astute flick to send Barnes clear. Maddison’s run stopped Vitality Vernydub from reaching Barnes and the attacker dummied twice before chipping the ball calmly beyond Shevchenko.
Maddison and Barnes continued to cause problems after half-time. In the 49th minute, Barnes played a return pass for Maddison who cleverly found space on the edge of the box and produced a fierce effort that was blocked for a corner.
Soon after through Maddison had opened the scoring firing home from inside the six-yard box
Barnes then ran clear and with just the keeper to beat lofted the ball into the net for a second
Leicester were dominant at this stage and Barnes came close once again, before Wesley Fofana leapt impressively to direct Maddison’s corner fractionally wide of the far post.
Maddison was on the receiving end of some rough treatment from the Ukrainians and at one point threatened to boil over, barging Vladyslav Kochergin before referee Frappart intervened and Schmeichel yelled: ‘Madders, leave it!’ from his goal.
The playmaker was, however, enjoying his role at the top point of a midfield diamond after Rodgers changed his system to match Zorya’s, leaving Barnes alongside Iheanacho up front.
Another smart Maddison turn allowed to shoot powerfully from the edge of the area, though he was just off target. Though he was taken off after 65 minutes, the 23-year-old had made a powerful case to make his first Premier League start of the campaign at Arsenal on Sunday.
Moments later, Iheanacho made the game safe. A woeful pass from Ivanisenia presented the Nigerian with the ball and he made no mistake from close range.
Iheanacho then pounced on a mistake from Zorya to fire a powerful strike into the corner
Brendan Rodgers’ side therefore made a winning start to their Europa League campaign