Saturday, 30 July 2011

Galacticos beat Foxes in front of record crowd

If any pre-season friendly was to be the subject of excessive hype, it would be the visit of Jose Mourinho's Galacticos to the King Power Stadium.

As it was, that build-up failed to disappoint, with a record crowd of 32,188 treated to a 'Fan Village' before kick-off, featuring real-life table football, live music and a Q&A with city legends past.

Crowd: A record 31,188 saw the Foxes take on Madrid
Unfortunately a game that promised so much failed to deliver on that expectation early on, failing to come alive until nearly twenty minutes was gone, a one-two with Sami Khedira falling for Karim Benzema, the French international firing just wide of Kasper Schmeichel's post. The Danish keeper was forced to show his best minutes later when he stifled a chance from Fabio Coentrao, saving superbly at the feet of the Portuguese international.

Matthew Mills was in the wars at both ends and required treatment when Madrid keeper Antonio Adan caught the former Reading man as he saved from a Paul Gallagher free kick. Mills was then at fault for Madrid's opener, back-pedalling away from a chipped pass by Marcelo. He is easily beaten to the ball by Benzema, who skilfully rounds Schmeichel and leaves for Callejon to tap home.

That was the last action for Mills, succumbing to his head injury, and he was replaced by Sean St Ledger who performed admirably for the remainder of the game.

With Los Blancos in the ascendancy, half-time came at an opportune moment for the home side who had hardly been outplayed but were beginning to suffer from their opponents' pure class.

Madrid came out late for the second period but resumed where they had left-off, pressuring City in their own half. Only the combined efforts of Sol Bamba and Schmeichel denied the visitors the chance to widen the gap,  something they eventually achieved after a quick break forward.

The ball fell to a sprinting Xabi Alonso who slid in Benzema, the Frenchman in turn passing to Coentrao. His deft flick gave Marcelo shooting space and, despite the efforts of St Ledger to close him down, he managed a shot on goal that rebounded off the post and fortuitously fell for Benzema who could not miss.

An array of changes from both managers took pace out of the game and the Foxes were able to claw their way back into the match, surging forward and beginning to trouble Iker Casillas in the Madrid net, Steve Howard's header saved at the last by the World Cup winning keeper.

Then, with a minute left, a surging run from Lloyd Dyer saw him beat his man and win a throw-in. Bamba touched-on a superb long delivery from Lee Peltier and Dyer thrashed a superb volley beyond Casillas to grab a goal back for Leicester. Long balls forward allowed City to apply pressure in added time, but the Madrid defence fended-off the Foxes' efforts and the final whistle blew to a standing ovation from a capacity crowd.

The Foxes were not undone by the Galacticos, who failed to break into the game and dominate in their typical possessive style. Sven Goran Eriksson will have been impressed to see his side apply pressure to one of the world's top sides and to see that they were not embarrassed by them. Indeed, this was a performance that galvanised a belief in winning that now exists within a strong Foxes camp: it must be noted that the home side's only goal came when apparently second eleven players made their appearance, evidence of the strength in depth Eriksson has built within his large squad.

Most importantly, 32,188 football fans were able to witness their idols' idols playing their team in their home town. A friendly fixture this may have been, but for those youngsters who lined the pitch at full time they will never forget that they saw Ronaldo, Kaka, Casillas, Ramos and Alonso play their Leicester City.
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