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Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall showed he is a blend of all Foxes’ best players and more



KING POWER STADIUM — Uefa may have its fair share of grubby or misguided ideas, but the Europa Conference League was not of them.

As PSV Eindhoven supporters taunted the King Power Stadium in English, after Brendan Rodgers and Roger Schmidt picked full-strength teams and while a sellout home crowd put its hands to its heads as one when chances were missed, try to tell them this competition is the runt of the litter.

A European quarter-final stirs something in the soul, whether or not it is the biggest or contains the best.

Not only does it feel almost identical to the Europa League; it also finds that sweet spot where fixtures mean enough but not too much.

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There is a determination from players and supporters to have a little fun given the unexpected pleasant surprise, like using an extra Bank Holiday to do nothing more than lazily in the sun with a cool drink at your side.

Of course there is a competitive edge – sport would not be sport without it. But it isn’t all-consuming, tightening the muscles and coercing risk aversion.

Instead, thoroughly enjoyable fare that leaves the tie open for the return leg in Eindhoven.

PSV are a side personified by their two wide forwards. While Eran Zahavi laboured in a centre forward role, too often failing to link play when given the chance, Cody Gakpo and Noni Madueke stepped in from their respective wings and looked to fuel counter-attacks.

It does not always work; in fact, it worked infrequently. But there is something about watching young players pass and move at pace on the counter that means your enjoyment is not wholly dependent on its success.

Madueke was far more effective and efficient than Gakpo. The former has four England Under-21 caps and the latter is being linked with Manchester United and Bayern Munich. More evidence of England’s remarkably deep player pool.

For Leicester, the season of Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall continues in full swing.

Realising that he hadn’t started a single league game for Leicester before 5 December is one of those statistics that you check on two different websites because you assume it’s an error.

It isn’t just that Dewsbury-Hall is technically excellent, runs himself into the ground to win back possession and was comfortably Leicester’s best player in their biggest home game of the season. It’s that, four months after his league debut, nobody is surprised.

Right now, it is always him. Harvey Barnes is slightly grasping for his best form, James Maddison still tends to take four touches when two might do and Marc Albrighton is a grafting rather than graceful winger.

Dewsbury-Hall is a blend of all three and, right now, the best of the four.

There will be regret if home draw turns into European exit. The noise that met the full-time whistle – applause and a sort of frustrated sigh – rather epitomised the night: a chance to put one foot in the semi-finals missed, but no reason to fear a trip to Eindhoven.

But mostly: make sure you enjoy nights like these; they pass by in the blink of an eye.

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