Super Eagles’ striker, Kelechi Iheanacho, has suddenly become one of the most important players in Leicester City’s history. The club is currently battling to remain in the English Premier League, and according to their supporters; they need all the help they can get.
But in Iheanacho, they have a willing warrior, who is ready to sacrifice all to save his club. In an editorial on the club’s fight for survival, leicestermercury.co.uk, in its editorial yesterday, highlighted Iheanacho’s importance to the club and prayed that he recovers quickly from the injury that forced him off the game against Leeds.
It said: “Putting bodies on the line is a saying that’s heard a lot in football, especially when a team is fighting against relegation. It’s usually used in a defensive term, for example throwing your body in front of a shot. But Kelechi Iheanacho proved that it could happen in other areas of the pitch too.
“With Leicester City losing a crucial relegation clash versus Leeds United 1-0 heading into the last 10 minutes, Dean Smith’s men were in desperate search for an equalising goal.
James Maddison and Iheanacho had seen efforts saved by goalkeeper Illan Meslier, both Patson Daka and Jamie Vardy entered the pitch in the second half to help City find that goal.
“It is one that eventually came via Vardy, supplied by Maddison – who else? But it was the role of Iheanacho that cannot be underestimated.
“The Nigerian received the ball in the Leeds half and started travelling with it. After riding a challenge, a grimace appeared on his face and there was an instant realisation that he had injured his groin.
But instead of stopping and falling to the floor, which would have been his natural instinct, he continued with the ball for three or four more steps on one leg before playing what was a perfect pass to Maddison with his other leg. The striker then fell to the ground to receive the necessary treatment.
“After his pass to Maddison, the England man found Vardy in the box, with the striker stroking past Meslier for what was his first Premier League goal since October. The celebrations with the away crowd ensued, but while receiving treatment, it wasn’t something Iheanacho was able to join in with at the time.
“He was helped off the field by members of the club’s medical team, but despite being in some pain, still took the opportunity to gee up the travelling fans. The striker waved his arms and encouraged the continued celebration and support for his teammates for the final 10 minutes of the game.
“The game eventually finished 1-1 with both teams spurning chances to win the game in the final 10 minutes. The point keeps City within one of their opponents and could be a crucial one in the goal of survival.
“But they might not have got that all-important equaliser if it wasn’t for the courage and determination shown by Iheanacho in continuing for just those few vital seconds. He wouldn’t have been blamed if he had just instantly pulled up, like a lot of players around the league probably would have done.”
It noted that had Iheanacho elected to fall on the ground, instead of hobbling to lay the pass to Madisson, the ball would most likely have gone dead and Vardy would not have gotten the equaliser.
The extent of Iheanacho’s injury was to be discovered yesterday, although Smith did admit that it ‘didn’t look great.’ The City manager is expected to reveal the prognosis in his pre-match press conference tomorrow.
City fans are praying that Iheanacho’s injury is not as bad as first feared and that he will be back sooner rather than later. The team has five big matches as it aims to move further away from the bottom three.