Victor Osimhen denied Leicester City the perfect start in the Europa League as Napoli hit back from 2-0 down to snatch a point. The striker struck twice in the second half for the visitors. They deservedly grabbed a 2-2 draw in Group C at the King Power Stadium. Ayoze Perez’s first goal came in March and Harvey Barnes’ second-half goal gave the Foxes a commanding lead. But Osimhen grabbed a classy lifeline for the visitors and then headed in a late leveller. Leicester’s frustrations compounded when Wilfred Ndidi was sent off in injury time.
Napoli controlled much of the game. They were almost left to rue several missed chances. Osimhen, Hirving Lozano, Piotr Zielinski and Kevin Malcuit all were wasteful in the first half. The Foxes introduced Jamie Vardy as a late substitute. He won at Spartak Moscow on Wednesday, in two weeks.
Leicester and Napoli started the tournament as favourites to grab the title in Seville in May. They went at each other all guns blazing as if to prove their credentials. Napoli started the proceedings. Kasper Schmeichel spilt Osimhen’s early drive from a distance before David Ospina came to the visitors’ rescue.
Leicester City and Napoli top contenders to win the Europa League title
The former Arsenal goalkeeper flung himself at Barnes’ feet to turn his close-range shot wide. Perez bullied his way through and Kelechi Iheanacho helped on the cross. Napoli responded well and the lively Osimhen slashed wide before teeing up Malcuit to shoot over after 29 minutes. Osimhen continuing to be a menace. When he beat Jonny Evans to cross, only a combination of Timothy Castagne and Schmeichel kept out Zielinski. Napoli has won all three Serie A games this season. They had slowly taken control and skipper Lorenzo Insigne drilled wide as the Foxes struggled to regain a rhythm.
The Foxes have living dangerously. They survived another warning when Malcuit’s cross found Lozano drifting into space and his header was parried by Schmeichel. Leicester, playing their first home European game with fans since their Champions League quarter-final with Atletico Madrid in 2017, needed a remedy. Club Manager Brendan Rodgers recognised it, replacing Perez and Jonny Evans with Youri Tielemans and Caglar Soyuncu at the break, but Leicester initially failed to stem the tide. Five minutes later, though, the Foxes did find their second goal. Iheanacho won the ball in midfield and his perfect pass found Barnes on the left for the winger to tease Malcuit and drill into the corner. Napoli had paid the price for their profligacy but they pulled a goal back in style with 21 minutes left.
A slick move on the edge of the box involving Insigne, Elif Elmas and Fabian Ruiz ended with Osimhen holding off Jannik Vestergaard and lifting the ball over Schmeichel from six yards. Unsurprisingly, Napoli pressed for the leveller and Schmeichel turned Elmas’ shot away but the Foxes could not hang on. Osimhen had been constantly threatening. He netting again with three minutes left to level, heading in Matteo Politano’s cross from eight yards.
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