AEK Athens 1-2 Leicester: Jamie Vardy and Hamza Choudhury give Foxes third straight win

Jamie Vardy and Hamza Choudhury's first-half goals prove decisive despite second-half scare in Greek capital; Leicester have three wins in eight days and take control at top of their Europa League Group G alongside Braga

Leicester City players celebrate a goal against AEK Athens
Image: Leicester celebrate Jamie Vardy's opener

First-half goals from Jamie Vardy and Hamza Choudhury gave Leicester a 2-1 win away at AEK Athens to maintain their winning start to Europa League Group G.

Vardy's penalty, won by the striker himself, gave Leicester the lead (18) before Choudhury's low half volley from a corner put the Foxes in control in Athens (39).

Sub Muamer Tankovic halved the deficit for AEK with a low finish under Kasper Schmeichel (49) after the break, and missed a fine chance to equalise just minutes later as Leicester threatened to fall apart.

But the Foxes tightened up, and held on to win their third game in eight days after disappointing defeats by Aston Villa and West Ham.

Player ratings

AEK Athens: Tsintotas (5), Bakakis (5), Svarnas (6), Nedelcearu (5), Insua (5), Shakhov (5), Krsticic (5), Livaja (5), Mantalos (6), Helder Lopes (5), Ansarifard (4)

Subs: Tankovic (7), Oliveira (5)

Leicester: Schmeichel (6), Albrighton (6), Fofana (6), Morgan (8), Fuchs (6), Justin (6), Choudhury (7), Tielemans (6), Under (7), Maddison (7), Vardy (7)

Subs: Thomas (7), Mendy (6), Praet (6), Iheanacho (6), Barnes (6)

Man of the match: Wes Morgan

How Leicester's first-half show proved decisive

Brendan Rodgers picked a strong side in Athens - but confirmed before kick-off that both Timothy Castagne and Jonny Evans had suffered knocks in the week as the Foxes' injury issues continue.

But on the pitch it was all going according to plan; after resisting some early AEK pressure, Leicester took the lead as Rodgers' calls from the touchline to "get in behind!" were answered.

James Maddison played in Vardy, and the striker invited a touch from goalkeeper Panagiotis Tsintotas, going down to win a penalty. Vardy duly smashed the spot-kick home, despite Tsintotas getting two hands to the ball.

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The goal means Vardy has now scored in every competition he has played in with Leicester, alongside the Premier League, Championship, League Cup, FA Cup, Community Shield, and Champions League.

Cengiz Under, starting his first Leicester game, saw a low shot blocked by Tsintotas shortly after, but AEK missed two fine chances of their own to equalise as Marko Livaja's header was wonderfully tipped over Schmeichel, before Livaja again lashed wide after capitalising on Wes Morgan and Christian Fuchs' mix-up.

But Leicester doubled their lead before the break as Maddison's corner was flicked on by Vardy for the unmarked Choudhury at the far post, and his hooked half volley beat Tsintotas at his near post from 10 yards.

Hamza Choudhury celebrates scoring Leicester's second
Image: Hamza Choudhury celebrates scoring Leicester's second

Tankovic came on at half-time and made an instant impact for the hosts, meeting Pedros Matalos' through ball to smash under Schmeichel from a slight angle on the left of the box.

And he should have made it 2-2 just a minute later, turning over the bar from 12 yards out from another Mantalos ball as Leicester just held on.

Team news

James Maddison and Jamie Vardy started in a surprisingly strong Leicester XI in Athens.

Schmeichel, Fofana, Fuchs, Justin and Tielemans also kept their place from the 1-0 win over Arsenal on Sunday. Wes Morgan came in to captain the side.

Brendan Rodgers confirmed before the game that Timothy Castagne and Jonny Evans were out with knocks.

Leicester then settled and nearly extended their lead in wonderful fashion as Under curled a beauty for the top corner from the right of the box, only to see the ball crash off the outside of the post.

Rodgers' side eventually ran down the clock and came away with another victory, and going by the side he picked in the Greek capital, progress in this competition looks to be a priority for Leicester.

What the manager said...

It is 20 years since Leicester last operated in what is now known as the Europa League 0:29
Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers says he was pleased with his side's performance on an 'awful' pitch

Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers to BT Sport: "Delighted with the result, it was a very professional performance. The pitch is really poor, we didn't want to make that an excuse before the game, but it's a poor pitch in terms of quality and speed of the game.

"They had a little bit of momentum second half, and we had to dig deep and stay strong, and we did that very well.
I thought we saw the game through very well, and I'm delighted with the three points.

"So many excellent performances from guys who have come into the team. I thought there was a great mentality and great effort for the team."

Opta stats

  • Leicester are just the third English side to kick off their very first UEFA Europa League campaign with back-to-back wins in the group stages, after Everton in 2009-10 and Arsenal in 2017-18.
  • AEK Athens are winless in their last 13 home matches in major European competitions (D5 L8 - excluding qualifiers), losing each of the last four in a row.
  • Leicester's Jamie Vardy has both won (4) and scored (5) more penalties in all competitions than any other player for a top five European league side this season.
  • Hamza Choudhury scored only his second ever goal for Leicester City and his first since January 2020 versus Newcastle.

What's next?

Leicester now go to Leeds on Monday Night Football, live on Sky Sports Premier League at 8pm, before hosting Braga in the Europa League on Thursday at 8pm.

Live MNF

AEK Athens go to Zorya Luhansk in the Europa League on Thursday at 8pm.

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