Leicester’s Okazaki and Maguire give Brighton harsh lesson in top-flight life

Shinji Okazaki of Leicester in action during the Premier League match between Leicester City and Brighton and Hove Albion at The King Power Stadium on August 19, 2017 in Leicester, England.

Buddhist monks blessed the King Power Stadium in the days before this match but, with respect, they really need not have bothered. All Leicester City needed to register their first win of the season were toothless opponents, and in that respect, Brighton fitted the bill nicely.

It helped, of course, that the Foxes were ahead within a minute. While Craig Shakespeare’s side were unchanged from that beaten 4-3 at Arsenal in their opening fixture, it was immediately apparent Shinji Okazaki would be playing in a more advanced role; too often last season the 31-year-old was peripheral, though in fairness it is not easy to get involved when you are sitting on the bench.

Having scored in the fifth minute at Arsenal, Okazaki wasted barely 60 seconds in making his case: Riyad Mahrez did not so much embarrass as humiliate Albion left-back Markus Suttner as he cut into the area from the right, and though the goalkeeper Mat Ryan blocked the low shot, Okazaki was on hand to tuck away the rebound.

With the visitors offering the square root of nothing going forward, the rest of the match was an absolute stroll for City. They created a few more chances in the first half, the best when Okazaki turned a Jamie Vardy cross just wide from close range, and made the game safe – as if it wasn’t already – early in the second period when centre-half Harry Maguire endeared himself to the Leicester faithful on his home debut by nodding in Mahrez’s corner. And other than Vardy limping off in injury time, that really was that.

With little to talk about regarding the game, the questions for Shakespeare concerned the future of Mahrez, one of a number of Leicester players who may be on the move before the transfer window closes. The Algeria international winger could not be accused of downing tools, as Shakespeare acknowledged.

“Riyad knows while he’s here he needs to be respectful of his team-mates and the club, and credit to him, he was today. He’s the type of player who enjoys his football – he’s that kid in the playground who wants to train and play all the time, and he set us off today,” said the Leicester manager.

Shakespeare then turned to his other absentees, several of whom, including Danny Drinkwater, Robert Huth and Nampalys Mendy, are expected to return to full training next week. The impending fitness of the new signing Kelechi Iheanacho is less clear, the former Manchester City striker having aggravated a toe injury, but assuming his return is not long delayed, the competition for places looks likely to be healthy, even if one or two depart the King Power.

How Chris Hughton would relish a similar problem. After having just 23% possession in their first match against Manchester City, Brighton had the ball more frequently against a Leicester side whose forte remains speedy thrusts but the visitors had little idea what to do in terms of creating chances.

“When you come here the last thing you need to do is go one-nil down so early but we certainly weren’t at the level we needed to be,” said Hughton.

Whether the new £13.5m signing José Izquierdo can make the sort of improvement Brighton need seems unlikely.

“I’m disappointed with the performance but we will have many of these this season, and it’s about staying in there and getting back into games like this,” said Hughton. “What we can’t afford to do is let our heads go down. I know our players can and will play better than they did today. Some teams, like Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea, are at a different level, but other teams are below that level, and that’s the group we have to get closer to.”

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