Goals change games. It’s a saying that, despite being obvious to anybody with even a slight understanding of how football works, is quoted by experts all around the world. However, not all goals change the game, or season for that matter, to the same extent. They’re not always the ‘wonder-goals’, but a single strike can be the difference between relegation and survival; title-winners or runners up; Champions League or Europa League. In short, the important goals can be the difference between glory and failure.
In this article, we take a look back at the goals that have shaped Leicester’s season so far – for better or for worse.
5: Leonardo Ulloa vs Stoke (A)
It’s the stereotypical ‘touch fixture’ in the Premier League; away at Stoke. They’re not the brutes that they used to be and it was a warm Saturday afternoon (not the often-quoted ‘rainy Tuesday night’) but nonetheless, Stoke battle hard and teams have to earn whatever they get.
Leicester defended resolutely for large periods of the game and debutant Ben Hamer made some classy saves to keep his side in the game. Then, in the 64th minute, Paul Konchesky found himself in possession on the left and pulled the ball across the Stoke six-yard-line.
Step up Leonardo Ulloa. The big Argentine came running towards the far post to meet the ball but, to the despair of City fans, appeared to have overrun the ball as it rolled behind his body. Then, in a moment of quick-thinking skill, Ulloa stabbed his leg backwards and magnificently pulled the ball from a difficult position into the corner of the net. Cue the celebrations.
Why was it so important? It showed Leicester could battle and had a physical side, something which they’ve been criticised for lacking in the past. It proved to the league, and the players themselves, that they had the ability to take points from the teams around them in the league and win games that they were the poorer side in. It undoubtedly raised morale and belief within the squad and also showcased the fact that Ulloa was not just an arial threat but also possesses considerable skill along the floor.
4: Chris Wood vs Everton (H)
The moment every Leicester City fan had been waiting a decade for: the first game back in the top flight. Everton were the visitors to the King Power Stadium and Roberto Martinez’s side opened the scoring with a fine strike into the top corner after Leicester failed to successfully clear a corner. However, they then made the same mistake, leading to Ulloa opening his City account by lashing home from short range. On the stroke of half time, though, Everton replied through Steven Naismith to take the lead once again.
By the 86th minute, fans could be forgiven for accepting defeat and simply being happy that their team had given a good account of themselves. There was no such thoughts present in the players’ minds, however, as demonstrated by Chris Wood’s late equaliser.
The New Zealand international found himself on the left-side of the penalty box with the ball rolling invitingly towards him. When it came to applying the finish, Wood showed composure and skill that belied his position as now fifth-choice at the club. A confident hit flew past the despairing Tim Howard and nestled into the net, earning Pearson’s side a point from their first fixture.
Why was it so important? There were doubts that, with a lack of summer signings, Leicester had enough belief and experience in this league to cope with the demands it presents. Right from the outset, this goal showed City had the potential to cause issues for even the bigger teams in the league. Everton were trying to close out the game by this point and Leicester showed ambition and desire to create the opportunity to take a draw. Even with injury issues, City showed themselves and others they had the ability to take this league on, something that contributed towards further good performances against big teams.
3: Leonardo Ulloa vs Manchester United (H) (1st goal of the game)
It’s difficult to name any positive Leicester City top five that wouldn’t feature this match somewhere in it. Without doubt City’s most impressive result of the season and, some may say, the best match of the season so far league-wide. Each of the five goals scored by Nigel Pearson’s team was important for its own reasons and could’ve been named above but the goal selected is Leicester’s opener from that game.
Following Robin Van Persie’s opener, Leicester’s players could have allowed their heads to drop when they they fell to 2-0 down thanks to an incredible run and finish from Angel Di Maria. However, the team once again demonstrated their incredible resilience and went on to score just minutes after United’s second. Going in at the break only one down and with the knowledge that they were capable of scoring was crucial to the second half comeback.
There is still debate as to whether the ball crossed the byline before Jamie Vardy connected with a fantastic cross. There was no doubt about the finish though. Ulloa rose high to thump a header past David De Gea before wheeling away in celebration. Credit must be given to Vardy for tenacious work on the right wing, seemingly chasing a lost cause.
Why was it so important? This goal was part of an incredible comeback that drew the eyes of the footballing world to Leicester City. Fans, pundits and players alike sat up and took notice of the East Midlands outfit. Ulloa’s first goal was the one that showed the players that the dream of beating Manchester United was still very possible.
2: Riyad Mahrez vs Hull (A)
Leicester’s terrible run of mid-season form was finally halted with a somewhat fortunate win over Hull at the KC Stadium.
The 1-0 win came courtesy of an impressive strike from Riyad Mahrez. The Algerian international cut inside and curled a left-footed shot into the far corner from twenty yards out. Mahrez’s effort proved to be the decisive moment as Leicester rode their luck late on to keep hold of the three points. Hull struck the woodwork on multiple occasions and Ben Hamer was often called into action.
City will have to do without Mahrez for part of their campaign; he is away on international duty. They are likely to miss the right-winger, who has shown his class and technical ability many times this season. Nigel Pearson may expect to receive offers for the player in the summer.
Why was it important? Leicester needed something to happen for them to stop their bad run (more on that later). Another footballing cliché dictates that some games are decided on a ‘moment of magic or an individual mistake’. City needed one of the two to come around, and Mahrez’s goal was certainly the former. It helped the team regain their early season form, which has now seen them take points from Liverpool and Aston Villa as well as FA Cup victories over Newcastle and Tottenham Hotspur. Without that moment, it is impossible to predict how much longer the poor run would have extended for.
1: Ross Wallace vs Leicester (H) (Scored for Burnley at the King Power Stadium)
2-1 up at half time and looking comfortable, Leicester City must have been confident another three points was on the cards. For reasons that remain unknown, though, The Foxes came out for the second half appearing nervous and unsure of their own ability. They sat deep and invited pressure from a Burnley side buoyed by their first goal in 565 Premier League minutes. Come the 96th minute, that pressure proved too much as Ross Wallace converted a dangerous free kick to earn Burnley the latest of late points.
Kasper Schmeichel received a lot of criticism for his role in the free kick being conceded. He appeared to position himself poorly, leaving his left hand side exposed. Wallace admitted as much in his post-match interview, expressing his surprise at the area he was given to aim at. He cannot shoulder all of the blame as most will argue that Burnley never should have been in a position to get back into the game. Had City come out for the second half playing with the same intensity and confidence as they had in the first, they could have had much more than the solitary goal advantage into injury time.
Why was it so important? Simply, it triggered one of the worst runs of form in living memory for Leicester City fans. They went on to pick up just one point from eleven games – coming from a goalless draw at home to Sunderland – and plunged to the bottom of the table. As of writing, they still sit at the foot of the league and were fortunate to not find themselves cut further adrift after the terrible succession of results. It topped off a baffling and poor second half performance and, some say, caused a crisis of confidence that led to the losses that were to follow.