Leicester City’s progression to the knockout stages of the Europa League is within sight but a victory secured through goals from Patson Daka, James Maddison and Wilfred Ndidi was blighted by crowd trouble between Legia Warsaw fans and police.
Brendan Rodgers’ team need one point away to Napoli next month to be sure of progressing through to the next round in February, while winning in Italy would ensure Leicester finish top of Group C and go directly into the last 16.
This victory over a Legia Warsaw side who have lost every league and European game since beating Leicester in September was overshadowed, however, as travelling fans fought with more than 100 police during the second half. “It’s not something you want to see at a football match,” Rodgers said. “I haven’t heard too many of the details. Hopefully no one’s been injured.”
In scenes reminiscent of Hungary’s World Cup qualifier at Wembley, the passion of the travelling supporters spilled over after the 65th minute when many of the 1,134 in the away corner of the stadium lit red flares.
A strong police and stewarding presence appeared to restrict the trouble to that vicinity as home fans prioritised cheering their team on to a first win in six games.
Maddison was at the forefront of Leicester’s front-foot first-half display and he is eager that the foundations of last season’s FA Cup win are built upon. Injuries have undermined Leicester’s fluency this season and Jonny Evans was lost to a thigh injury moments before kick-off here, Daniel Amartey stepping in to perform well alongside Caglar Soyuncu.
Successive niggles have robbed Maddison of the fluent form that had him competing for an England spot two years ago but, playing just behind a front three last night, he capitalised on Legia’s diffident start.
“I am really happy,” Maddison said. “It is confidence; when you are an attacking player goals and assists are what you want. That is what I am about. I am at my best when I am attacking, scoring and assisting. That breeds confidence and makes the attackers feel good.
“Going into the game bottom of the group and now being top, it is obviously very tight. It is in our hands and we would rather be there.
“We won the FA Cup last year and are hungry for trophies and success. We have a big game in Naples and we look forward to it.”
Leicester’s erratic season was mirrored in a helter-skelter first half containing three goals inside the middle quarter of an hour. They attacked with vigour and penetration but had little control over the game before half-time.
Daka became Leicester’s leading goalscorer in European football with his fifth goal in this season’s competition.
He was fortunate when the ball broke his way, after Harvey Barnes cut inside from the left flank, but Daka finished with style, shooting in low to the far corner with his left foot. Following his four-goal effort away to Spartak Moscow, Jamie Vardy’s deputy is continuing to take his opportunities.
Maddison soon made it 2-0. After lending the ball to Ademola Lookman, Maddison received the short cross back to him, cut inside on to his left foot and hammered the ball high into the top corner of the net.
Ndidi raised his hand to Yuri Ribeiro’s cross for a penalty that Kasper Schmeichel saved from Mahir Emreli before Filip Mladenovic scored on the follow-up but Leicester soon regained their two-goal advantage, Ndidi atoning for his misdemeanour by heading in Maddison’s corner. Rodgers praised the supporters for triggering the energy that enabled his team to play on the front foot much more than of late, though Legia are hardly Chelsea.
“The atmosphere was amazing; the supporters played a huge part in it,” the Leicester manager said. “Just returning to our football with our pressing and really intense counter-pressing, that won us the game.”
Rodgers confirmed that Evans should be fit for Sunday’s visit from Watford and Claudio Ranieri, the manager who led Leicester to the Premier League title five years ago.
“Claudio coming back for the first time as a manager will be a great occasion after the incredible year here,” Rodgers said. “I’m sure the supporters will show their appreciation.”