Full-time report as Oxford lose to Leicester in a friendly
Oxford United pushed champions Leicester all the way tonight before finally losing 2-1 in an entertaining pre-season friendly. Ahead through a Chris Maguire free kick, United were beaten by goals from Demarai Gray and Jeffrey Schlupp as a bumper crowd packed the Kassam Stadium
On a fantastic, sweltering, sun-baked evening there was plenty of fast-flowing football and neat passing to enjoy, but not just from the national champions. United were certainly not afraid to play their own attacking style, zipping the ball around on the lush playing surface as they took to their home turf for the first time this summer.
New signings Dan Crowley and Joe Rothwell both showed good skills in the early stages on their home debuts but as you would expect it was the new-look back line that needed to impress most. Simon Eastwood looked calm while Christian Ribeiro, Chey Dunkley, Curtis Nelson and Joe Skarz all made good blocks or challenges in the first 15 minutes.
Leo Ulloa sent an early shot over but it was United who took the lead on 13 minutes as Maguire once again demonstrated what a dangerous player he is for the U’s. It’s not just his contribution from open play, it is also his set-piece delivery that is so effective and when Ryan Taylor was fouled by Wes Morgan on the edge of the box, the Scottish international stepped up to curl a superb free kick round the wall and inside the right-hand post of Kasper Schmeichel’s goal.
Leicester dominated possession and had a couple of half chances go well wide but the Yellows should have doubled their lead on 28 when Skarz got forward to nod a deep cross back and Wes Thomas nodded the chance over the top when unmarked.
They were made to pay for that miss a minute later when the excellent Demarai Gray - the best player on the pitch in the first half - found space in the centre of the penalty box, shifted his weight, and fired home the equalizer off the inside of the left-hand post with Eastwood helpless.
Ulloa sent another header over on 34 but otherwise the United back line were relatively untroubled against their illustrious opponents in the first half. They had to defend well after the break though. Shinji Okazaki tested Eastwood with a 49th-minute header but found the keeper equal to it with an excellent save, and sub Aaron Martin made an outstanding tackle as Jeff Schlupp looked certain to score for the Foxes.
United were far from overawed and on 66 had penalty claims waved away when Thomas ended a flowing move involving Jonny Giles and Ryan Taylor with a shot that seemed to strike an arm but, as in the first half, moments later Leicester demonstrated that the major difference between the levels the teams play at is often just the clinical finishing. Schlupp drove at the defence, went past two challenges and then drilled his shot past the sprawling Eastwood to make it 2-1 to the Foxes.
Michael Appleton's side continued to impress and Taylor had another shot saved after yet more good approach play, but they had been penned back for most of the second half and can have few arguments with the result, although their organisation and resolve had been amply demonstrated.
The result was largely immaterial but close to 10,000 fans enjoyed a good game of football on a splendid summer's evening. For Leicester it was a chance to ease themselves back into action, for Oxford it was a chance to test themselves against the very best. Both teams will be very pleased with their night's work.
Eastwood, Ribeiro (Long 75), Dunkley, Nelson (Martin 44), Skarz, Crowley (Ashby 64), Lundstram, Rothwell, Maguire (Giles 64), Taylor (Jeacock 84), Thomas (Roberts 84)
Buchel, Cundy, MacDonald, Stevens, Welch-Hayes
Att: 9487, away: 1109