England internationals James Maddison and Harvey Barnes scored their first European goals as Leicester marked their return to continental action with a comfortable home win.
The Foxes had looked set to secure Champions League football for the majority of last season but set about their task in the second-tier competition with zest after a sticky start.
Ukrainian visitors Zorya had their moments in the opening stages and Kasper Schmeichel was called into serious action with the score at 0-0.
But even without the injured Jamie Vardy, Brendan Rodgers’ side ultimately had too much.
Barnes, the standout performer on the night, curled a shot against the post and when Kelechi Iheanacho flicked the loose ball out, Maddison had a simple finish.
Barnes then ran through the heart of the Zorya defence to clip in a second and Iheanacho took advantage of a defensive lapse to score the third.
The match was also notable as Stephanie Frappart – who became the first female referee to officiate a major men’s European match when she took charge of last year’s Uefa Super Cup – made an immaculate Europa League debut.
Barnes offers cutting edge
With Vardy in the stands because of a calf injury, there was concern over where the Leicester goal threat may come from.
But, with replacement Iheanacho tending to drop deeper and get involved in some great link-up play, it was the pace of Barnes running in behind who stretched the game.
A constant threat throughout, Barnes ended the night with five shots on goal and created two chances, while his individual goal was sublimely taken.
At the other end, Schmeichel was one of just two starters who played in Leicester’s last game in Europe – the Champions League quarter-final of 2017 – and his early save from Vladyslav Kabaev was key.
Barnes and Maddison then took charge of the game as Leicester showed enough to suggest they could go deep in this marathon competition.
‘We can be better’
Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers on BT Sport: “It was a very good win, it’s nice to get the points on the board and a clean sheet. We had to work hard, there’s areas where we can get better.
“They play a diamond and it’s a system where they can hurt you on the inside. When they had the ball they were a threat but we killed the game in the second half.
“The players deserve a huge amount of credit. They can be better, we need more movement at the top end of the pitch because we could have got in more.”
Maiden win for Foxes – the stats
- Leicester have picked up their first victory in the Uefa Cup/Europa League at the fifth attempt (D1 L3).
- English sides remain unbeaten against Ukrainian teams on home soil in European competition (P33 W26 D7).
- James Maddison has scored twice in his last three appearances in all competitions, as many as in his previous 25 games for Leicester City.
- Leicester’s Kelechi Iheanacho became the first Nigerian to assist two goals in a single Europa League game.
- Leicester’s Jonny Evans made his first appearance in major European competition since December 2013, for Manchester United against Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League.
- 27CastagneSubstituted forJustinat 82′minutes
- 6EvansSubstituted forMorganat 82′minutes
- 8TielemansBooked at 12minsSubstituted forChoudhuryat 71′minutes
- 10MaddisonSubstituted forÜnderat 65′minutes
- 14IheanachoSubstituted forPérezat 71′minutes
- 45FavorovSubstituted forRufatiat 76′minutes
- 15VernydubBooked at 77mins
- 10KhomchenovskyiSubstituted forCiganiksat 76′minutes
- 7KocherginSubstituted forGrynat 85′minutes
- 22KabaevBooked at 26minsSubstituted forPerovicat 64′minutes
- 8LunevSubstituted forGladkiyat 65′minutes
- 20Abu Hanna
- Stéphanie Frappart
Match ends, Leicester City 3, Zorya Luhansk 0.
Second Half ends, Leicester City 3, Zorya Luhansk 0.
Attempt missed. Cengiz Ünder (Leicester City) left footed shot from outside the box is too high from a direct free kick.
Foul by Dmytro Ivanisenya (Zorya Luhansk).
Nampalys Mendy (Leicester City) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Yehor Nazaryna (Zorya Luhansk).
James Justin (Leicester City) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Mihailo Perovic (Zorya Luhansk).
Wesley Fofana (Leicester City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Yehor Nazaryna (Zorya Luhansk) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Hamza Choudhury (Leicester City).
Substitution, Zorya Luhansk. Sergiy Gryn replaces Vladyslav Kochergin.
Corner, Zorya Luhansk. Conceded by Wesley Fofana.
Attempt blocked. Vladlen Yurchenko (Zorya Luhansk) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Mihailo Perovic.
Substitution, Leicester City. James Justin replaces Timothy Castagne.
Substitution, Leicester City. Wes Morgan replaces Jonny Evans.
Foul by Mihailo Perovic (Zorya Luhansk).
Timothy Castagne (Leicester City) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Vitalii Vernydub (Zorya Luhansk) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Vitalii Vernydub (Zorya Luhansk).