Jordan Blackwell's Leicester City player ratings v Blackburn as season ends in tired defeat

Leicester City's Jamie Vardy shoots at goal
Not his beat... Jamie Vardy shoots at goal against Blackburn -Credit:PA

Leicester City’s Championship-winning campaign ended in defeat as Sammie Szmodics’ second-half double secured a survival-earning win for Blackburn Rovers.

City were aiming to sign off their successful season by reaching 100 points and becoming the first second-tier side to win 32 games since 1920. However, they produced a tired performance and were undone by two breakaway goals.

Szmodics ran through and finished his first with 20 minutes to go, and while that sparked City into life, with Harry Winks hitting the bar, they could not find an equaliser. Szmodics again streaked away in added time to seal it.

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It was still a day of celebration for City though as they lifted the trophy, commemorated Jamie Vardy’s goalscoring heroics with a pre-match tifo, and gave Marc Albrighton an emotional farewell. But there wasn’t the result to go with it.

There was no sense of City easing into the summer, with Enzo Maresca fielding the strongest team he had available. Four changes were made with Mads Hermansen, James Justin, Hamza Choudhury and Stephy Mavididi coming into the side, and Ricardo Pereira pushing into midfield with Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall sidelined through injury.

There was a new defensive shape though, with Choudhury playing in the centre of the back four when City were out of possession, with Justin on the right and Wout Faes on the left. Still, it was Choudhury who pushed into midfield when City did have the ball.

Teething problems with the defensive experiment and Blackburn’s fast start led to a flurry of chances for the visitors early on. Sam Gallagher struck low into the side-netting after Harry Winks was robbed of the ball, then Justin and Wilfred Ndidi were needed for vital interventions, denying Rovers excellent chances to score.

After the first five minutes, City settled. In doing so, an end-of-season feel washed over the first half. They only mustered two decent openings in the first period, with Abdul Fatawu’s bouncing shot shovelled away by Aynsley Pears, and then Vardy dinked into the side-netting from a tight angle when a misplaced Hayden Carter header put him one-on-one with the goalkeeper.

The second half was as drab as the first and needed a spark. Albrighton’s introduction to a huge ovation felt like it could be what City needed. But while it made a brief impact as the title-winner swung in some dangerous balls, it was the visitors who took the lead.

A high ball went up and, despite his size advantage, Jannik Vestergaard was outmuscled by Szmodics, the Dane forced to dangle a leg at the ball and inadvertently flicking it on. Szmodics ran onto it, sprinting off the left wing into the box and coolly slotting into the far corner before any City defenders could get back.

Going behind did give City some impetus and they pushed for an equaliser. Ricardo nearly forced the ball home with amid a goalmouth scramble, Stephy Mavididi fired over and then Ricardo planted a free header straight into Pears’ arms.

But the best chance fell to Harry Winks, Ricardo prodding the ball back to the midfielder to fire at goal first time from 10 yards. It was a clean hit, but Pears did tremendously to tip it onto the crossbar.

Into injury time and with City pushing, they left themselves exposed. Yunus Akgun went down cheaply and the referee wasn’t buying it, allowing Szmodics to streak away, rounding Mads Hermansen who had sprinted out of his goal, and celebrating before he tapped into the empty net. There were wild celebrations in the Rovers end as they lapped up their survival. For City, the season finishes on a whimper.

How the players rated...

Mads Hermansen: His defence’s blocks and interventions meant, despite Blackburn’s early pressure, he didn’t have much to do in the first half. In the second, he was left exposed for the first Szmodics goal but flew out of his goal for the second, failing to get to the ball and allowing the division’s top scorer a tap-in. 4

James Justin: He threw himself in the way of shots early on to keep Blackburn at bay. But despite being afforded greater freedom by his wide-right role, he didn’t make use of it. In the second half, he was fortunate to stay on the pitch after a crunching late tackle on Dolan. 5

Hamza Choudhury: He showed composure in spells, keeping the ball well, and had a greater confidence about his game at times to charge through the middle of the pitch. But he also lost the ball cheaply on occasion. 5

Jannik Vestergaard: He was completely outmuscled and outsmarted by Szmodics for the opening goal, and was never going to have the pace to get back and make amends. Otherwise, he was okay, with his passing good as usual. But mistakes like that are going to be punished, particularly in the Premier League. 4

Wout Faes: When he got forward, his crosses were poor, despite his dangerous deliveries of recent weeks. In spite of that, he defended with strength and speed and passed well. 6

Harry Winks: He was robbed of the ball for one threatening Blackburn attack early on and he frustrated Maresca by not turning out with the ball, instead going backwards. He was better in the second half and in control of the tempo. 5

Ricardo Pereira: There were a few sloppy moments, but he also showed great footwork, he found Fatawu regularly, and he made himself an attacking threat in the box, and looked most likely to score as he read crosses well to connect. His finishing was lacking though. 7

Wilfred Ndidi: He made an important interception to deny a goalscoring chance early on and was decent in tight areas when the ball came his way. But he was anonymous for long periods too. 5

Abdul Fatawu: He beat his man regularly, whether going left or right, but the end product wasn’t quite there. Still, he looked most likely to create chances before he was taken off. 6

Jamie Vardy: He wasn’t in the game for long periods and when his one chance came, he didn’t get the finish right. Not his best outing, despite the pre-match celebration for him. 4

Stephy Mavididi: He was shown on his left early on and he struggled to deliver with his weaker foot. But he improved and clipped in a few teasing crosses in the second half, even if showing frustration when the ball wasn’t passed his way. 5

Marc Albrighton: His introduction briefly sparked City into life and in his first action he bent in the cross of the match that was begging for a touch. An emotional afternoon for him as Vardy handed him the armband. 7

Yunus Akgun: If you're going to go down and look for a free-kick, you have to sell it better than that. The referee didn't buy it when Yunus went down and it cost City a second goal. There were some nice one-twos in attacking areas otherwise. 5

Callum Doyle: He didn't really get into the game. Tried to pass into dangerous areas. 5

Kasey McAteer: Made a difference. He was much more of a threat in his short time on the pitch than Mavididi, with two crosses with his weaker left foot leading to City's two biggest chances in search of an equaliser. 7

Kelechi Iheanacho: Tried to drop deep and hold the ball up, but didn't really get into the game as an attacking threat. 5

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