Nottingham Forest 2 Leicester 0: Brennan Johnson scores brilliant double as hosts leapfrog Foxes in table
JUST like his team, Brennan Johnson was a slow burner in the Premier League.
But both Johnson and Nottingham Forest are properly looking at home in the top flight of English football and the season, maybe, could go beyond everyone’s expectations at the club.
With a little help from the outstanding Morgan Gibbs-White, Johnson helped destroy Leicester with two goals and so doubling his tally for the season.
Forest, who are also through to the Carabao Cup semi-finals against Manchester United, have lost just twice in nine games in all competitions and are now playing as though they have been at this level for years.
Meanwhile, the campaign remains a struggle for Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers whose side have found themselves in another hole although the injury situation has not exactly helped..
Had Harvey Barnes scored one of two excellent chances, it would have been very different but even so, Forest deserved this win.
Welsh international Johnson, who causes so many problems with his pace, has been at his best since returning from the World Cup.
Little wonder half the Premier League wanted Johnson last summer before he signed a new contract with Forest.
There was a feeling among some officials at other clubs that Johnson was worth signing as his value after one season in the Premier League would be £50m.
While that may not be the case just yet, he is an exciting talent who still has a lot to learn and will prove to be a big player for Forest over these remaining few months.
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This run of form in 2023 has also been terrific news for boss Steve Cooper who was on the verge of getting the sack in October after five successive Premier League defeats yet was handed a new contract.
Finally, after buying so many players last summer, Cooper knows which players he can trust against teams like Leicester, who despite missing the likes of James Maddison, still have plenty of quality.
Equally, you would have expected Barnes, on another day, to score twice for Leicester who have now lost four successive League games.
Following a brilliant cross from Marc Albrighton, an unmarked Barnes stabbed a first-time shot wide.
Barnes had a look of disbelief that he missed and on the touchline, Rodgers shouted at his player and applauded after getting himself into such a good position.
The Leicester winger was once again in the right place at the start of the second half but this time, he wasted a terrific pass from Youri Tielemans, rushed his shot and steered an awful effort wide.
This was the turning point. In contrast to Barnes, Johnson was a lot more composed at the crucial moment and took the ball around keeper Danny Ward to score, even though it seemed his strike had been ruled out for offside.
But after a wait for a VAR check, it became clear that Johnson timed his run to meet Morgan Gibbs-White pass beyond Wout Faes to perfection.
Because while Johnson rightly got the praise, Gibbs-White delivered the killer pass.
At first, it looked as though Forest had overpaid when signing Gibbs-White from Wolves for £25m but now, he looks a bargain.
He also played a major part in the second, showing incredible strength by turning Wilfred Ndidi inside out. He then produced a stunning pass to unleash Johnson who took a couple of touches before burying his shot past Ward.
Earlier, at 1-0 down, Rodgers had tried to change the game by bringing on subs Kelechi Iheanacho, Dennis Praet and Brunt but they failed to make the difference.
Equally, Rodgers was lucky not to lose Daniel Amartey who was only given a yellow card for sinking his studs into the stomach of Lewis O-Brien.
Yet Forest, including left- back Renan Lodi, defended extremely well and if they keep playing like this, Cooper’s team will not be worrying about a relegation scrap.
Beat United in the Cup and they will also be heading to Wembley.
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