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Leicester’s hopes stall against Spartak Moscow as Jamie Vardy misses penalty

Leicester still control their Europa League destiny but know they must improve to progress. They have to win their last two group games – against Legia Warsaw and Napoli – to be sure of advancing in a tournament where, so far, they have mixed patches of class with blotches of ineptitude. This match was a case in point.

Brendan Rodgers’ side dominated but sloppily fell behind to a goal by Victor Moses. Daniel Amartey drew them level before Jamie Vardy bungled a chance to claim victory by dabbing a weak penalty at Aleksandr Selikhov, who saved it to give Spartak a point that keeps all four teams in Group C in the hunt for the only automatic qualification spot. Leicester sit third.

“The game was there to be won,” said Kasper Schmeichel, who admitted his team need to sharpen up at both ends in order to regain the consistency that has eluded them this season. “[Spartak] had a couple of chances and they scored and at the moment that’s a problem for us, we’re conceding too many goals. [Defending] is something we’re working on every single day but it’s not working too well at the minute. But we have a track record that’s pretty good over the last few years so we’re confident it will come back.”

Rodgers was quick to identity the problem that led to Moses’s goal. It was, he acknowledged, a recurring one. “It was really poor from our perspective,” he said. It came from Spartak’s first serious attack, early in the second half, when Mikhail Ignatov was allowed to canter down the right and deliver a cross for Moses, who was free to guide a header beyond Schmeichel from 10 yards after Youri Tielemans and Boubakary Soumaré watched him dash into the box and find space between Amartey and Jonny Evans. “It’s about running, simple as that,” said Rodgers, pointing out that his team also failed to track back effectively against Arsenal last weekend. “It’s pretty straightforward: you have to run, you have to do the dirty side of the game.”

Rodgers was broadly satisfied with much of the other aspects of his team’s play. They began strongly and passed and moved cleverly – right up until the final touch, which was too often scruffy. “Performance-wise we played well against a team that sits deep. But we just never had the killer instinct to take our chances,” he said.

Slow starts have been a recurring problem for Leicester this season but they were quick out of the blocks this time, with Amartey firing off their first shot in the second minute. Kelechi Iheanacho and Ayoze Pérez then threatened and, whether by strategy or obligation, Spartak soon found themselves defending deep and en masse for prolonged periods.

Leicester had to be both fast and patient as they tried to prise the visitors open. Soumaré nearly blew them away in the 17th minute but his wonderful left-footed shot from 25 yards cannoned off the bar before the goalkeeper even saw it.

Leicester’s defensive fortitude was barely tested in the first half. When Roman Zobnin nicked the ball off Ryan Bertrand in the 34th minute, Caglar Soyuncu blocked the midfielder’s shot before Schmeichel had to think about making a save. The problem for Leicester was that, despite their control, Selikhov did not have to work very hard in the first half either. Patson Daka should have got him diving, at least, in the 42nd minute but the striker miskicked from 10 yards after a jagged run by Iheanacho.

Neither manager made changes during the interval and the second half looked to be settling into the pattern established in the first, with Leicester hogging the ball and Spartak hoping for a chance to counterattack while defending vigilantly. More vigilantly than Leicester, as it turned out: when Ignatov went on a run down the right in the 50th minute and produced an inviting cross, Moses was there to head his team into the lead.

Happily for the hosts, Amartey soon made his presence felt at the other end. Pérez flicked on a corner by Bertrand and the Ghanaian rose to plant an emphatic header into the net. That electrified Leicester. Now they chased the win, and Spartak dug in anew.

With 20 minutes left, Rodgers turned to an old reliable, introducing Vardy for Daka. Well, usually reliable. Five minutes after joining the action the striker missed a penalty, his weak effort leaving Selikhov with a straightforward save after Moses was judged to have fouled Ademola Lookman. Leicester still had time to produce a worse miss. Iheanacho inadvertently blocked a header by Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, then the striker blasted the rebound off a post from close range.