Ipswich rescue dramatic point against Leicester after Vestergaard’s own goal

Photograph: Joe Toth/Shutterstock

At the end of a thrilling match that displayed the best the Championship has to offer, the division’s two standout teams could not be separated.

The gap to the chasing pack might have narrowed slightly, but on this evidence it would be no surprise if there are record points tallies for the division’s champions and runners-up come the end of the season. These are no ordinary second-tier sides.

Of course, whether Ipswich were deserving of their point snatched at the last depends on which hue of blue you prefer on your blinkers. Home fans will argue that Jannik Vestergaard’s unfortunate stoppage-time own goal was the natural result of countless Ipswich attacking waves that would have seen off almost any other Championship side. Kieran McKenna insisted his side were “at least fair value for the point”.

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But the visitors will point to the huge deflection that turned Sam Morsy’s speculative long-range effort into the Leicester net, not to mention a strong penalty shout ignored when Cameron Burgess’s clumsy last-man bundle on Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall went unpunished.

For so long it looked as though Stephy Mavididi’s wonderful first-half strike would prove decisive in this breathtaking encounter, but perhaps a share of spoils was fair. Neither side’s performance really warranted defeat.

However you opt to view the result, it will take a special team to steal one of the automatic promotion places off either of these two clubs. Only a serious implosion will see Leicester’s 11-point cushion overhauled, while Ipswich will gain confidence from bouncing back impressively after their unexpected humbling at Leeds just before Christmas.

“I thought we deserved that,” said McKenna. “We had a really good game against a really strong team. Even if we hadn’t scored the goal, I was proud of the performance. I really like the character that we showed. Against the best team in the league it’s another good reinforcement of the identity of the team that we’re building.”

The two managers’ ardent devotion to possession-based, slow build-up yielded a pleasingly watchable encounter that meant neither set of fans were ever able to truly rid themselves of an ever-present sense of trepidation that the opposition might produce a moment of magic.

Nonetheless, Mavididi’s strike in the 24th minute was the game’s first shot on target. Gifted space on the left, he was picked out by Patson Daka and calmly selected his spot, clinically curling into the far corner from 20 yards out.

Despite some customary neat flowing moves of their own, Ipswich frequently rode their luck at the back, indebted to last-ditch tackles from Burgess and Harry Clarke in a first half in which their front man George Hirst was forced off against his former club with a suspected hamstring strain.

As the game wore on, the home side began to dictate, with Conor Chaplin going close three times in succession entering the final half-hour.

Eventually, after the substitutes Nathan Broadhead and Freddie Ladapo had also tried their luck, the pressure told. Morsy’s shot from distance deflected first off Ricardo Pereira’s leg and then Vestergaard’s head, before looping into the Leicester net.

Whether the visitors should have been awarded a penalty that might have doubled their lead prior to Ipswich’s equaliser was a source of some contention. McKenna suggested Burgess had “used his body well”.

Enzo Maresca saw things rather differently: “It was so clear the penalty. There are moments during the game that are crucial – that was one. But the referee is there and decides no penalty so we continue.”

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Ipswich’s late goal ended Leicester’s five-game winning streak, but the visiting manager was content to extend their unbeaten run to eight games.

“It’s a shame because we were so close to winning one more game,” he said. “But at the same time we expected during the game to drop a little bit.

The last 10, 15 minutes we conceded a bit of control but playing every few days and against a team that is doing fantastic is normal.

“There are moments during the game where we could have been a little bit more clinical. But I’m happy.”


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