Barnes and Iheanacho fail to take chances as Leicester are held by PSV | Europa Conference League

It was not the perfect evening for Leicester but it would be foolish to be too downbeat on a European night when they largely muted a free-scoring PSV team that have put four and five goals past opponents in recent weeks.

The again impressive Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall compared it to a chess match and Brendan Rodgers was rightly encouraged by his side’s vibrant display, even if they failed to find a priceless winner to take to the Netherlands. For supporters, this was a lively contest that served to further whet the appetite for their second-leg meeting in Eindhoven next week, when a semi-final berth in the inaugural Europa Conference League will be up for grabs.

This was Leicester’s first European quarter-final since they exited the Champions League against Atlético Madrid under Craig Shakespeare five years ago and while it would not be their competition of choice Rodgers had stressed that his side are in no position to turn their noses up at the prospect of a trophy. The reality is this tournament is Leicester’s best route into Europe next season, as well as their last chance of silverware this campaign. Kelechi Iheanacho scooped wide from close range after seizing on an André Ramalho lapse and Harvey Barnes rattled the upright a minute before half-time but Leicester were fortunate to survive a penalty scare when Cody Gakpo was caught in the box.

They almost got off to a disastrous start but Mario Götze, played onside by Ricardo Pereira, was thwarted by Kasper Schmeichel’s right hand after spying a delicious reverse pass by Joey Veerman. It was a game played at a frenetic pace, with crisp passes and neat triangles, but both sides were guilty of lacking poise in front of goal. Iheanacho had Rodgers cursing, the striker’s loose touch abruptly ending a Leicester break.

Rodgers required a gulp of water. PSV’s England Under-21 winger Noni Madueke, a player being tracked by Leicester, saw a shot deflected wide and the forward’s pace caused problems, at one point leaving four blue shirts lagging behind him. Jonny Evans made an important intervention in defence but Leicester had the better chances. Timothy Castagne saw a shot blocked inside the box after Ibrahim Sangaré’s poor clearance dropped kindly but Mvogo was quieter than Rodgers would have liked. For PSV, backed by a vociferous pocket of supporters, there were also plenty of positives.

Things were delicately balanced, the occasion seemingly ready to be determined by one false move and seven minutes into the second half Pereira appeared fortunate there was no VAR to take a second look at his brush with Gakpo. The PSV forward cut inside and Pereira made contact in the box but the appeals were turned away by the referee, Ivan Kruzliak. “I’ve seen it [again]. It was a clear penalty,” said the PSV head coach Roger Schmidt. “I think we played a really good game but we had to suffer sometimes.”

Wesley Fofana was imperious in defence, superbly raking the ball from Eran Zahavi but there were frustrations for Rodgers, who turned on the touchline and winced when Marc Albrighton’s aimless pass upfield was easily gobbled up by a PSV defender. Rodgers expects PSV, who trail Ajax by four points in the Eredivisie, to be more open in the return leg and if so his players may have space to prosper. “At times we showed our lack of experience, but that will come,” the Leicester manager said. “In particular in the first half too many times we were breaking through, three v five, and we were trying to force it. At times we played some really good football.”

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Leicester have now lost one of their past 13 matches here and, apart from Götze’s early chance, Schmeichel was rarely troubled. Another Madueke surge, this time from halfway, put Leicester on the back foot but the attack fizzled out and Castagne would have been pleased to see the former Tottenham youngster withdrawn with nine minutes to play. Rodgers introduced Patson Daka at the same time, in place of Albrighton, whose nutmeg on Philipp Max drew gasps from a sold-out home crowd. But an entertaining game was bereft of the all-important finishing touch.

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