Senior Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE’S teenage football export Tawanda Maswanhise continues to mesmerise after he outshone his peers at English Premiership football club Leicester City in a pre-season friendly match against Burton Albion at the weekend.
The upcoming midfield sensation was among the group of 22 players that were thrown into the fray by Foxes first team manager, Brendan Rodgers, for City’s first match of pre-season preparations.
A report card by the Leicester Mercury at the weekend showed that Maswanhise had a good game. The Mercury reported that the 18-year old featured among some of Leicester City’s stars like Jamie Vardy, James Maddison, Kelechi Iheanacho and Wilfred Ndidi.
Maswanhise was one of the four players from the development squad that were included in Leicester City training squad as the side prepared for their first pre-season friendly.
The teenager was on top of his game and even eclipsed some of the club’s multi-million-dollar summer signings like Zambian Patrick Daka, Frenchman Boubakary Soumare and ex-England international Ryan Bertrand, who arrived as a free agent.
“Patson Daka, Boubakary Soumare and Ryan Bertrand all make their first appearances for Leicester City, but it’s 18-year-old Tawanda Maswanhise who stands out at Burton.
“Leicester City academy prospect Tawanda Maswanhise was the pick of the bunch as the club’s first pre-season friendly ended in a shoot-out defeat.
“The 18-year-old winger was bright and quick as Brendan Rodgers fielded 22 different players at the Pirelli Stadium,” reported the Leicester Mercury.
The Foxes carved out their maiden opportunity of the match on seven minutes, when a lovely pass from first-half captain Ricardo Pereira forced Burton stopper Ben Garratt into clearing into the pass of youngster Maswanhise.
However, his placed effort had too much on it, as the ball settled onto the top of the net.
An all-new XI started the second half, and that team included the introduction of a number of youngsters, as well as City’s all-time leading Premier League goalscorer, Vardy, who was handed the captain’s armband as Ricardo Pereira made way.
The match ended goalless after 90 minutes but the Foxes went on to lose 1-3 on spot kicks as Thanawat Suengchitthawon and Luke Thomas were both denied from the spot and Kelechi Iheanacho blasted his penalty over. Daniel Iversen saved one of the home side’s penalties.
Maswanhise was one of the three development players that took part in the friendly match along with Vontae Daley-Campbell and Suengchitthawon.
Aside from Maswanhise, Eldin Jakupovic and Thomas also impressed in front of a 3 925-strong crowd. Burton are coached by Chelsea legend, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.
Leicester Mercury columnist Jordan Blackwell delivered his verdict on all the 22 players that featured in the match as Rodgers gave a run to a second set of XI in the second half.
“Tawanda Maswanhise: Impressive. He may be slight, but he was keen and his bursts of acceleration allowed him to win plenty of free-kicks.
“He showed some nice interplay with Maddison, and nearly scored a cracking goal as he chipped the ball up and volleyed just over from 30 yards.”
The spotlight was also Leicester City’s new Zambian signing, Daka, who arrived amid a lot of expectations following his excellent form at Red Bull Salzburg.
City’s big summer arrival from RB Salzburg, played the first 45 minutes against Burton Albion and “did not see much of the ball, and City will have to learn how to get the most out of the 22-year-old, who bagged 34 goals last season.”
“We’ve not seen the qualities the £23m has been spent on yet. Daka barely touched the ball, so there was little to judge him on, the striker not picking up positions to receive the ball, and his team-mates not finding him.
“However, the threat of pace was evident when he caused panic stations at the back, leading to Maswanhise’s chance,” wrote Blackwell.
A bright prospect for Zimbabwe, Maswanhise was handed a breakthrough appearance, in the Leicester City first team squad, when he was named in the match day squad against Manchester United at Old Trafford towards the end of last season.
“He’s a young player I like,” Rodgers said then.
“I’ve seen him playing for the Under-18s. He’s quick, he’s direct. He’s got a lot of strengths and he’s got a lot of potential, but a lot of work to do.
“Bringing in young players, like we’ve done with Luke (Thomas) before, it gives them the experience.
“To feel the preparation, to sit on the bench, to see the quality of the players, it gives him a flavour of the level and preparation he needs to be here.
“That was the idea.”
The midfielder impressed Rodgers with his performances for the Foxes’ Under-18s, for whom he was among the top assist providers last season, primarily playing on the wing.
Maswanhise played his first game for the Foxes Under-23s in March, as a substitute, in their 3-1 defeat to West Ham.
He has been given opportunities to train with the first team since and in May he became the first Black Zimbabwean to receive a medal in English FA Cup after making the match-day squad for champions Leicester City in the final against Chelsea.
The midfielder is son to former sprinter, Jeffrey Maswanhise, who represented Zimbabwe in the 400m at the 1998 and 2002 Commonwealth Games.