Leicester thwarted on day of emotion
ICity T was a day when Leicester City did almost everything perfectly. From the touching, dignified tributes to their late former chairman, to the respectful marking of remembrance weekend to a performance from their team of invention and stamina, Leicester ticked almost every box on an emotional afternoon at the King Power Stadium.
All that was missing was a goal to turn a moving memorial to Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha into a rip-roaring celebration of his life.
No matter. Leicester’s staff, supporters and players did their late owner proud in the first home game since his tragic death, even if their hopes of gilding the occasion with victory were frustrated by a durable, resilient Burnley side who fought their way to a point.
The best chances fell to Leicester — a Jamie Vardy shot cleared off the line and a Rachid Ghezzal header kept out by the crossbar — but this was one game in which the result was secondary to the choreography.
The latest chapter in the remarkable tale of a club and its tragic owner featured poignant images, stirring sounds, a haunting silence and popular cameos from some of its most enduring characters.
Two weeks after Srivaddhanaprabha and four others died when his helicopter crashed outside the stadium, shirts left in solidarity by fans of rivals clubs were laid down around the pitch, floral tributes were moved closer to the crash site and a wave of supporters queued before the game to add to the vast sea of mementos.
More than 20,000 fans walked from the city to the ground to honour the man whose backing had helped deliver the 2016 Premier League title, while former managers Claudio Ranieri, Nigel Pearson, Craig Shakespeare and Martin O’Neill were among those in attendance along with Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, the vice-chairman and son of the former owner.
After an emotionally charged fortnight and a brief funeral visit to Thailand for Leicester’s squad, a win would have been a fitting finale, but given the mental and emotional toil, it was perhaps asking a lot.
The subdued opening to the game that inevitably followed the pre-match ceremonies might have accounted for the muted appeals in the eighth minute when Leicester should have been awarded a penalty.
Burnley defender Charlie Taylor blocked a Marc Albrighton cross with a forearm that had been extended away from his body, but referee Mike Dean waved away the half-hearted complaints from Leicester players having declined to point to the spot.
There was a more excitable atmosphere by the time Leicester’s next chance arrived on 16 minutes as home supporters, in the throes of acclaiming Ranieri and Pearson, saw a loose ball drop to Vardy, only for the striker’s goalbound shot to be blocked on the line by Matt Lowton.
Chris Wood, Burnley’s former Leicester striker, seemed to have read the script moments later when he met a Lowton cross but failed to connect properly and gave Kasper Schmeichel an easy save.
Rachid Ghezzal should have sent the stadium into raptures when he met another teasing Abrighton cross but his diving header struck Joe Hart’s crossbar.
When Albrighton had a powerful shot blocked in front of goal and Hart saved smartly from Demarai Gray after a slick move, an opening goal for Leicester seemed inevitable.
Yet Johann Berg Gudmundsson almost flew in the face of the prevailing mood six minutes before the interval with a curling, left-footed free-kick that was heading for the top corner before Schmeichel made a good save.
Four minutes into the second half, a neat counter-attack from Leicester ended with Albrighton’s shot being parried by Hart with Vardy unable to latch onto the rebound.
Yet when Ben Mee’s glancing header drifted just wide for Burnley and Leicester captain Wes Morgan was booked harshly for upending Wood, Burnley appeared to be finding their feet.
As the home crowd rose to lift their scarves on 60 minutes, a nod to Srivaddhanaprabha’s age when he died, Vardy had another sight of goal but his effort was blocked by Lowton before Jonny Evans saw a header for Leicester deflected wide.
With 17 minutes remaining, Wood screwed a half-volley just over the crossbar as Leicester’s week of mourning and travelling finally looked to be taking its toll.
Leicester pushed to the end and Shinji Okazaki, a hero of the title-winning campaign, sent a stoppage time header inches wide.
It meant no final fairytale in memory of Srivaddhanaprabha but, for Leicester’s supporters, the former chairman had already delivered enough.