MOSCOW – Patson Daka has done more than reinvigorate Leicester’s Europa League ambitions. With four Europa league goals in Moscow, the Zambian international has set himself up as a striker who could inspire Leicester for years to come.
If he gave any indication of his talent when he scored his first Premier League goal against Manchester United on Saturday, then on Wednesday, with Jamie Vardy watching from the bench, the 23-year-old signed for £23million in the summer last and one. a bright future at Leicester.
By the time Daka netted a hat-trick in nine minutes at the Otkritie Bank Arena, Leicester’s Europa League ambitions were in tatters.
Trailing 2-0, they seemed on course for a result that would have given them a single point from three games.
They hadn’t played badly this time, but the outbursts of neglect were costing them dearly; Daka saved her with a display of precision that will long be remembered.
Aleksandr Sobolev struck late to ensure Leicester couldn’t be knocked out full time, but Brendan Rodgers’ side held on to a win that will give them hope of a top spot in a tough Group C.
The inclusion of Daka from the start was one of two changes his manager made to the starting line-up against United, the other being Luke Thomas for Timothy Castagne.
Leicester started with the same zeal and purpose that blighted United. Kelechi Iheanacho could have opened the scoring from the first minute if he had reacted more quickly to a cross from Daka, who was already a thorn in the side of the home defense with his clever movement.
But the Zambian’s finish was initially poor as he cut wide from the edge of the box in the 10th minute after a clean serve from James Maddison.
Spartak quickly showed that they too could be elusive players. Zelimkhan Bakaev proved particularly troublesome, always finding space between the lines to replenish the home side’s quick counterattacks.
When Spartak took the lead in the 11th minute, it was no surprise that Bakaev was heavily involved, but there was an air of oddity in the way the ball hit the net.
Leicester looked relatively safe when a blocked shot from the 25-year-old bounced off Sobolev in the left corner of the box.
Trying to dig in a forward cross but the ball was deflected by Boubakary Soumaré and bounced past Kasper Schmeichel quite slowly, whose reaction was unusually slow.
Leicester’s immediate reaction to being behind was impressive, with Maddison threatening an immediate equalizer with a clean shot from long range.
Jonny Evans came from six yards following a cross from Ricardo Pereira and in the 15th minute Maddison fired a shot over the goal after home goalkeeper Aleksandr Maksimenko fired a shot at him from Youri Tielemans.
Then the threat to the visitors faded as the energetic and well-organized hosts learned how to neutralize them. The visitors reeled to ruin when Spartak took advantage of a weak defense in the 44th minute.
A sloppy pass from Thomas and diligent pressure from Victor Moses forced Caglar Soyuncu into a mistake at left-back before Daniel Amartey fell trying to cut Moses’ cross, which Jordan Larsson put in the net for the first time at eight meters.
Spartak’s last encounter with a Premier League side ended in a record loss – 7-0 to Liverpool in 2017 – but now the home crowd was beginning to believe in a famous triumph.
However, Daka was close to becoming the top scorer. Just over a minute later, he cut Leicester’s deficit by running behind the centre-backs again to collect a deflected ball from Iheanacho and fired a low shot into the net.
Halftime brought the hosts only a short break. Daka equalized the sides within three minutes of the restart. This time, Iheanacho got past the right centre-back to receive a pass from Maddison, then dodged the keeper and put the ball into the penalty area where Daka again showed his sharpness and hit Georgi Dzhikiya to push him into the net.
Daka completed his hat trick with another smart run and an emphatic finish, rushing towards Tielemans’ delivery before whipping a clean low shot past the keeper. He was equally nervous in the 78th minute when he rushed a pass from Maddison and shot wide again.