Nottingham Forest fell to their fifth consecutive Premier League defeat last night, this time at the hands of local rivals Leicester City with a humiliating 4-0 loss. George Edwards reports from the King Power Stadium
After a dress rehearsal in the FA Cup last season — which Forest flourished in — it was time for this East Midlands derby to be well and truly reignited. This was the first Premier League meeting between the sides since the final game of the 1998/99 season, with Forest winning 1-0 despite already being relegated.
Steve Cooper made three changes from his team’s defeat against Fulham 17 days earlier, with four at the back as Cheikhou Kouyaté, Lewis O’Brien and Jesse Lingard replaced Willy Boly, Remo Freuler and Ryan Yates. Brendan Rodgers, the bookies’ favourite to get the sack next pre-match, made one switch from his side’s 6-2 loss against Tottenham, as talisman Jamie Vardy came back into the Foxes’ side.
Coming into the game, both sides found themselves at the bottom of the table, with five points out of a possible 42 combined, and just the one victory — Forest’s win against West Ham. Leicester kicked things off and after 20 seconds had their first chance, as Keirnan Dewsbury-Hall shot well over the bar.
Five minutes in, James Maddison turned Renan Lodi inside out on the right wing, crossing towards Dewsbury-Hall who headed wide from six yards out. The Foxes’ early pressure continued, with James Justin scooping a shot just over the bar via a deflection from the edge of the box.
With 13 minutes played, Maddison swung in a free-kick from the left wing, where Vardy found himself wide open, but he couldn’t find the net with his head as he looked for his first goal of the season. Just a minute later, he beat the offside trap and was through on goal but some good positioning from Forest ‘keeper Dean Henderson kept him out once again.
If you haven’t already gathered, Leicester were by far the superior side in the opening exchanges, with the pitch just looking wider whenever they had the ball. And that bad start for Forest would only get worse.
They had a glorious chance to take the lead just after 22 minutes, as Morgan Gibbs-White slotted a through ball into the path of Taiwo Awoyini. Everyone in the King Power thought he’d scored his one on one, but his shot bruised the post as Forest couldn’t make their counter attack sting the Foxes.
And the Reds would rue that missed chance just three minutes later.
Forest seemed to have won possession back on the edge of their own box but a lack of concentration and awareness from Lingard meant the ball fell straight to danger man Maddison. From just inside the D, he whipped an effort goalwards that seemed to be going wide, but a cruel deflection off Scott McKenna saw it deflect away from Henderson and into the net.
Merely a minute later, Forest fell yet further behind. Harvey Barnes was picked out by Vardy on the left wing and had all the time in the world to cut inside and lash a majestic shot goalwards. No chance for Henderson again, as the King Power roared into life while their team took control.
The changes made by Cooper didn’t seem to have had an impact. Yet again, the midfield was non-existent, with O’Brien the only player linking defence and attack. Kouyaté, brought in to add backbone to the midfield, was ineffective while Renan Lodi was having a nightmare against his opponents down Forest’s left.
Leicester grabbed their third goal with 10 minutes until halftime through Maddison again. Kouyaté was chasing Dewsbury-Hall and had to bring him down as he was bearing down on goal. The resulting free-kick from 25 yards was converted with style by the Englishman, curling to Henderson’s side and into the bottom-right corner.
Forest replied three minutes later but Lingard fell short. A nice bit of footwork saw Johnson dart infield and find Lingard in space in the box. However, he took too long to get his shot away and the chance faded as his shot was blocked.
The Reds were relieved when the half-time whistle blew. They looked powerless and overwhelmed, with no answers to Leicester’s neat football.
Cooper made three half-time changes, giving Serge Aurier his debut replacing a struggling Neco Williams, and changing his midfield duo to Remo Freuler and Ryan Yates.
Awoyini fumbled in front of goal yet again as he was slipped in by McKenna, one on one with Danny Ward once more after 51 minutes. Ward did well to make himself big and keep out the Nigerian, with Brennan Johnson unable to convert the rebound, surrounded by blue shirts.
With their first win of the season within touching distance, the Foxes were always going to come out and try to protect their lead. Even so, Forest still failed to have any real impact on proceedings and failed to force Ward into any more meaningful saves.
You couldn’t fault the Reds’ support, as despite being three goals down they largely outsang their East Midlands equivalents. But unfortunately, this wasn’t reflected on the pitch.
With 23 minutes to play, Maddison twisted and turned on the edge of the box but sent his shot well over Henderson’s crossbar. Maddison was in acres of space all evening, and made Forest pay once again after 73 minutes. His cross from the right wing found substitute Patson Daka, who scored with a clever cute first-time flick into the near post from close range.
Five minutes later, Gibbs-White ball fizzed a ball from edge of box through to Johnson in space six yards out but he could only win a corner as Ward parried away. Gibbs-White then turned striker as he got on the end of substitute Emmanuel Dennis’s cross, sending a free header straight into the grasp of Ward with three minutes to play.
It would be Leicester who turned a corner in their season as they ended a six-match losing streak in style. They looked the better team all night, outnumbering their counterparts in every area of the pitch. As Forest ended the day with a five-match losing streak of their own, I hate to say it but they just don’t look like a Premier League side at the moment.
Cooper said: “We weren’t competitive enough in the game and when you give too much space away and not win enough duels you allow the opposition to progress up the pitch, which is when you concede chances and goals.
“We had a great opportunity to go 1-0 up and at this level you have to score those chances. There were critical moments in the game where as a team we weren’t at the level you need to be.
“I know results have been poor but we didn’t see a team that gave up. We looked a bit anxious and naive at times but we created some more really good chances in the second half.
“Our supporters never gave up on the team and I’m so grateful for that. This is a difficult challenge with the group being as fresh as it is and now it’s about being as together as we can be.
“We’re looking to build relationships on and off the pitch and you learn more about each other in difficult moments. We can’t hide or shy away, we have to stick together and continue to work on the team that we want to become.”