Leicester and PSV played out an entertaining goalless draw at the King Power Stadium to leave their Europa Conference League quarter-final finely poised ahead of next week’s second leg.
Harvey Barnes hit the bar with a thunderous drive in the first half in what was Leicester’s best opportunity of the match, but Brendan Rodgers’ side could not find the breakthrough ahead of Thursday’s return trip to the Netherlands.
PSV, featuring 2014 World Cup winner Mario Gotze, started brightly and went closest when the German was played through on goal after beating the offside trap in just the second minute, only to see his effort thwarted by the outstretched Kasper Schmeichel.
Leicester: Schmeichel (6), Pereira (6), Fofana (7), Evans (7), Castagne (7), Maddison (7), Tielemans (6), Dewsbury-Hall (7), Albrighton (6), Barnes (6 ), Iheanacho (6).
Subs: Justin (6), Lookman (6), Daka (n/a).
PSV: Mvogo (7), Mauro (6), Ramalho (7), Boscagli (6), Max (6), Sangare (6), Gotze (6), Veerman (7), Madueke (7), Gakpo (6), Zahavi (5).
Subs: Doan (6), Bruma (n/a), Van Ginkel (n/a), Teze (n/a).
Man of the match: Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall.
Leicester then grew into the game and had a guilt-edged chance of their own to go in front, but Kelechi Iheanacho chipped the ball wide in the 20th minute with only PSV goalkeeper Yvon Mvogo to beat.
Barnes then struck the woodwork for the hosts just before the interval when he played a quick one-two with Iheanacho in the penalty area before seeing his powerful strike cannon back off the crossbar.
Five minutes into the second half, huge appeals from PSV supporters were ignored by referee Ivan Kruzliak when Cody Gakpo appeared to have been caught by Ricardo Pereira but with no VAR in operation, the game remained goalless.
Leicester struggled to create any clear-cut opportunities after the break and the match fizzled out, with both sides perhaps wary of staying in the tie ahead of next Thursday’s second leg at the Philips Stadion. The winner will face Roma or Bodo/Glimt in the last four, with the Norwegian side leading that tie 2-1.
Leicester team news
Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers made two changes to the side that began the 1-1 draw with Manchester United in the Premier League last weekend.
Ricardo Pereira and Marc Albrighton replaced James Justin and Nampalys Mendy in the starting line-up.
Rodgers: We can win in Holland
leicester-manager Brendan Rodgers: “We have shown enough and seen enough to know we can go there and win.
“However it was going to be, it was always going to be tight. You’d love to win it, but it wasn’t to be.
“We showed our resilience defensively and we’ll go there with enough hope that they’ll probably open up a bit more, which will give us a bit more space.
“It’s finely balanced, I thought it was a good game. PSV were a little bit more closed than normal, so the space was limited, but apart from their chance early on we defended quite well.
“We had the two best chances in the game. There weren’t too many chances but it’s what you expect at this time in the competition.
“With a little bit more finesse and precision in our passing then we might have been able to open the scoring. We’re still in a good place.”
Schmidt: It was a clear penalty
PSV wanted a penalty when Pereira slipped and clipped Gakpo early in the second half but, without VAR, their protests were waved away.
psv boss roger schmidt said: “I’ve seen it, it was a clear penalty. I’m not a big fan of the VAR so I can’t complain. It was a penalty, but it’s part of football where referees make wrong decisions.
“We accept it and we have to focus on next week. We played a really good game. We had to suffer sometimes, but we played against a really good opponent.
“In total, I’m very happy with the performance. In the first half we had good ball wins, but in the transitions we weren’t quick enough to be available for forward passes.”
Leicester three games from first European final
Sky Sports’ Dan Sansom:
“Brendan Rodgers admitted he did not even know what the Europa Conference League was when Leicester dropped into the competition in December, but with his side now just three games away from their first European final, he’s taking it seriously.
“He named the strongest line-up he possibly could with talisman Jamie Vardy still absent through injury, and Thursday night’s impressive performance against a dangerous PSV outfit highlighted Leicester’s recent upturn in form.
“Despite remaining in 10th place in the Premier League in what has been an underwhelming season domestically, the Foxes have recorded six wins and two draws from 11 games in all competitions. They are now unbeaten in seven matches at the King Power Stadium, with their last loss coming against Tottenham on January 19.
“They were up against a PSV team who are now unbeaten in 14 games and just four points behind Erik ten Hag’s Ajax in the Eredivisie title race. The Dutch giants, who won the UEFA Cup in 1978 and the European Cup 10 years later, are competing in Europe for the 48th consecutive campaign.This is Leicester’s sixth season playing continental football.
“Leicester’s last European quarter-final was the 2017 Champions League tie with Atletico Madrid. Despite competing with Europe’s elite five years ago and bowing out early from the Europa League this campaign, a first European final in the club’s history is now firmly in sight.
“If they can get past what will undoubtedly be a tricky test in the Netherlands next week, they will face either Bodo/Glimt or Jose Mourinho’s Roma in the semi-final. With Marseille, PAOK Salonika, Feyenoord or Slavia Prague the competition’s other remaining teams, last season’s FA Cup winners will be confident of going all the way.”
Opta stats: Leicester keep another European clean sheet
- Leicester City have lost just one of their last 16 matches in European competition (W10 D5), keeping eight clean sheets in the process.
- PSV are winless in their last four European matches against English sides (D3 L1), with three of these coming away from home, and the Dutch side scoring just once across these three games.
- Leicester have failed to score in European competition for the first time in nine games. The Foxes averaged 2.5 goals per game in their previous eight such fixtures, netting 20 in total.
- PSV haven’t won any of their last 23 matches at the quarter-final stage of a major UEFA European competition (D12 L11) since a 4-2 win over 1. FC Magdeburg in March 1978. Their last first-leg win at this stage came back in March 1971 versus Vorwärts Berlin in the Cup Winners’ Cup.
- Despite coming off in the 67th minute, Leicester’s Kelechi Iheanacho attempted twice as many shots (4) as any other player in the match, with only Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall (3) creating more chances than the Nigerian (2).
- Leicester had 24 touches in the opposition box against PSV, their most in a single European home match (excluding qualifiers) without scoring since their Champions League debut in 2016-17.
What’s next for Leicester?
Leicester return to Premier League action on Sunday when they host Crystal Palace; kick-off at 2pm. The Europa Conference League quarter-final second leg against PSV takes place on April 14; kick-off at 5.45pm.
Brendan Rodgers’ side then travel to Newcastle three days later on Super Sundaylive on Sky Sports Premier League; kick-off at 2.15pm.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.