Wes Morgan, the former Jamaica skipper, was partly to blame for his Leicester City side being denied a return to the Champions League after giving a goal away against Manchester United on Sunday (26 July).
The bulky defender played the full 90 minutes against the rejuvenated Red Devils, when victory was absolutely necessary for the club to qualify for next season’s Champions League. But in Leicester’s final English Premier League (EPL) game of the campaign, they slipped up 2-0 at the King Power Stadium and as a result will be competing in the 2020-21 Europa League.
The popular ex-Reggae Boyz and fellow defender Jonny Evans sent Anthony Martial tumbling on 71 minutes, with Portuguese midfielder Bruno Fernandes slotting home the resultant penalty to gift the visitors an overdue breakthrough.
And Leicester, who were in a Champions League spot for so much of the season, were polished off in stoppage time. Evans was sent off for a late lunge on Scott McTominay and substitute Jesse Lingard scored on 98 minutes to confirm Manchester United’s place in the Champions League at the expense of Morgan and Leicester.
Defeat denied Leicester a top four finish, which would have earned them a Champions League berth for only the second time following their shock EPL title success in 2016. The difference between playing in the Champions League and the Europa League is estimated to be worth US$32m in prize money, sponsorship and TV rights to the club’s coffers.
The 36-year-old, who last month penned a one-year contract extension, will at least be involved in European football for only the second season of his long career after side finished in fifth place in the EPL.
Morgan, who signed for Leicester from his hometown club of Nottingham Forest eight years ago, has played a key role in the club’s most successful period including their historic 2015-16 EPL crown, reaching the Champions League quarter-finals the following season and now securing their Europa League slot for the 2020-21 campaign.
The veteran, who has played a bit part for Leicester this season despite being club captain, had been an uncertainty about remaining with the Foxes as his contract was set to expire at the end of June. Now he has another shot in Europe before he hangs up his boots.
Having been restricted to just 17 appearances in all competitions for Leicester this term, seemingly ousted out by the impressive partnership of Evans and Caglar Soyuncu, he finished this stop-start campaign by playing three games on the bounce. Morgan impressed enough in his recall to the starting line-up in their win over Sheffield United, but he was given the runaround in the defeat to Tottenham and was partly at fault for conceding the opening goal to Manchester United.
Although Morgan will no doubt be bitterly disappointed by missing out on playing again in the Champions League, which was probably his last opportunity, he has helped achieve Leicester’s return to European football and will hopefully bounce back to tackle next season’s Europa League with aplomb.
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