Leicester City fire the starting gun for new season by edging out the champions at Wembley
Community Shield 2021: Wembley Stadium
Leicester City (0) 1 (Iheanacho pen 89)
Manchester City (0) 0
Former Man City striker Kelechi Iheanacho came off the bench to earn and then convert the penalty kick which gave Leicester City the Community Shield at the expense of his old club.
It may not be the biggest bauble going, but fans of the winners were utterly delighted by it. This unfashionable but superbly run club has done it again, claiming silverware.
We had to wait until the 89th minute for the goal which divided the teams. Iheanacho was too quick for Nathan Ake as he darted onto a loose ball in the penalty area and the former Chelsea defender was panicked into a trip.
It concluded a decent enough match which somehow spoke of a significance beyond the result, however, for this was arguably an important staging-post in the recovery of a pandemic-stricken nation.
It is not quite all back to normal, any more than those strange Euros were, but this weekend seems to have represented something. Certainly, the Community Shield is an event that feels reassuringly familiar.
We have stadiums open to fans again. We have a league season taking place on the designated August to May dates. Double-vaccinated, lateral flow tested. Partially masked/unmasked. Whatever the protocols, we are back live, and in bigger numbers.
Fans across the country almost downed the social media sites with outpourings of emotions as they made their way back to old familiar stomping grounds today. For most, this has been a long wait of maybe 500 days or more.
Sure, there may have been opportunities to snatch some action in restricted-capacity matches last season and a few lucky souls came up in the Euros ticket ballots. Others got in to Wembley in the final even if they didn’t come up in that ballot. But this game – as well as all those other opening-day fixtures up and down the country this afternoon - is perhaps a more reliable signal of revived cherished routines...of a return to the familiar patterns and rhythms of pursuing our collective national obsession.
The annual curtain-raiser never amounts to a whole hill of beans – even if Jose Mourinho seemed determined to include it in every public pronouncement of his CV.
It seldom provides a pointer to how the teams will fare in the months ahead. But it is a pleasant final celebration for the participants of what was achieved last season.
Man City emerged as worthy champions in the compressed-season that ended not so long ago, even if the prize they and Pep Guardiola really craved was denied them by Chelsea in the all-English Champions League Final.
Leicester City, meanwhile, wrote another glorious chapter in that improbable story of theirs. Victory over Chelsea in the FA Cup final was a moment for neutrals to savour, as well as an amazing one for Foxes fans.
They were the more vociferous of the two sets of supporters and predictably relished jeering their former star Riyad Mahrez.
We knew a few more of those jibes would be reserved for the country’s most expensive player when he came off the bench just past the hour.
The champions will look more potent once Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden – both missing today – are back in the fold and £100m man Jack Grealish has bedded down. A certain striker at Spurs may yet add to that too.
Brendan Rodgers’ Foxes ought to have another good season ahead, if Harvey Barnes and James Maddison can maintain their progress and the blow of losing Wesley Fofana to a horrible pre-season leg break can be overcome.
Leicester came close to breaking the deadlock just before half-time when Jamie Vardy – on the six-yard line with the goal at his mercy – had a left-foot shot turned onto a post by keeper Zack Steffen.
In the second half, Mahrez was set free alone on halfway but skied over after being chased down by three Leicester defenders tracking back.
City, under strength perhaps, looked ordinary, while Leicester stayed hungry and probably deserved to edge it. In any event, we are all grateful to be on such familiar territory once more.
Leicester City (3-4-1-2): Schmeichel – Ndidi, Soyuncu, Amartey – Periera, Maddison (Dewsbury-Hall 72), Tielemans (Soumare 72), Bertrand (Thomas 78) – Barnes (Iheanacho 79) – Perez (Albrighton 72, Vardy (Daka 72). Subs not used: Ward, Choudhury, Benkovic
Man City (4-3-3): Steffen - Cancelo, Dias, Ake, Mendy – Palmer (Silva 74), Fernandinho, Gundogan (Rodrigo 65) – Mahrez, Torres (Knight 74), Edozie (Grealish 65). Subs not used: Carson, Sandler, Couto, Doyle, Gomes