A highly entertaining 2-1 victory over Premier League Leicester City gave Nigel Clough and his side a welcome filip ahead of the SkyBet Championship curtain raiser on Saturday. Hope Akpan and Lucas Akins netted first half goals for the Brewers only for substitute Harry Maguire to halve the deficit in the second half but Albion held on for the win.
There was a feeling of ‘no risks’ with the Albion line-up with Cardiff City due at the Pirelli in just five days time.
Tom Naylor partnered Ben Turner in central defence with John Mousinho and Damien McCrory operating as full backs. Five across midfield featured Matty Lund on the right and Lloyd Dyer, still immensely popular with the travelling Leicester City fans on the left, Luke Murphy, Matty Palmer and Hope Akpan offering providing strength and guile in the centre. Lucas Akins ploughed the lone furrow in attack.
An open game saw both sides attacking with some fluidity early on but it was young left back Ben Chilwell with the first real chance making a forward run to get onto an angled ball from Matty James, looping a header over Stephen Bywater in the Burton goal but ultimately guiding the ball onto the roof of the net.
Some excellent build up play from Albion gave them the lead on 17 minutes. Lovely sharp passing on the right between Mousinho, Palmer and Akins allowed the striker to deliver an excellent ball into the middle picked out the unmarked AKPAN who comprehensively beat Jukupovic from eight yards.
When a similar chance presented itself for the Foxes eight minutes later Leonardo Ulloa was unable to guide a pinpoint cross from Riyad Mahrez past a well-positioned Bywater.
On the half hour mark Albion found themselves two goals to the good. Murphy was encouraged to when in space but his effort was scuffed and struck AKINS inside the box. The ball fell kindly for the Brewers striker and he calmly slotted past the Leicester keeper.
Chilwell had another good chance to put the Foxes on the scoreboard when he picked up on a loose ball on the edge of the box on 34 minutes but his left foot shot was dragged wide of the post. Moments later Ulloa was guilty of a poor miss as well when he completely miscued a decent cross from Ahmed Musa, failing to even test Bywater.
Mahrez was handed an opportunity to do some damage with a trademark free kick on 40 minutes but on his trusty left foot his range was somewhat askew as he flighted a curling effort over the bar.
Half time: Burton Albion 2-0 Leicester City
Both sides made a double change for the second half. Dyer and Murphy were taken out of the action with Stephen Warnock and Kyle McFadzean taking over their respective duties. Leicester replaced keeper Jakupovic with Ben Hamer and skipper Wes Morgan made way for Harry Maguire.
The Foxes quickly had a chance to half their deficit when Mahrez showed quick feet to beat McCrory and send over a cross that picked out Andy King at the back post but his low shot was blocked by Mousinho.
More precise link up play involving Mahrez fashioned another chance for the Foxes on 52 minutes but when the ball came out for Musa just outside the box he ballooned his shot well over.
Bywater then came to Albion’s rescue twice in as many minutes. A towering header from Vincente Iborra was goalbound until the big keeper got something on it and a strong hand low to his left made sure that Musa’s header was kept out as the winger tried to steal in around the back.
Leicester’s onslaught continued and King’s deflected header from a corner bounced off the crossbar and away to safety.
Albion’s resistance was finally broken on 66 minutes when the ball deflected off a couple of Burton players to land at the feet of MAGUIRE who drilled through a crowded six yard box to finally get Leicester on the scoresheet.
Joe Sbarra and Ben Fox were introduced for the final quarter of an hour or so and Sbarra quickly had the ball in the back of the net from a Naylor cross but the assistant’s flag quickly ruled it out.
Referee Simon Hooper then forced Leicester to make another substitution when Yohan Benalouane went in with a wretched challenge on Warnock by the touchline, youngster Darnell Johnson having to be hurriedly readied to come on.
Chilwell squandered another excellent chance late on but slid a shot across the face of goal after being played in on the left and there were vociferous shouts for a penalty when Musa’s cross seemed to hit young substitute Jayden Cotterill on the arm.
Bywater excelled himself once again in the dying moments with an excellent full length save to push away a goalbound header from Ulloa and ensure that Albion finished their pre-season preparations on a winning note.